ENSLAVED — Vertebrae (review)

ENSLAVED — Vertebrae album cover Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
UMUR
"Vertebrae" is the 10th full-length studio album by Norwegian black metal/ progressive metal act Enslaved. The album was released in September 2008 by Indie Recordings. Enslaved have gradually, over the course of now many albums, incorporated more and more 70s influenced progressive rock elements into their basic black metal sound and the outcome have been refined with each new release. The inevitable consequence of this, has been that many of their original black metal fans have slowly left the fan ranks. Enslaved need not to worry though as they are succeeded in building a dedicated fanbase who are waiting for each new progressive black metal release with great anticipation.

While Enslaved have always stayed somewhat true to their black metal roots on all preceeding releases, "Vertebrae" is sure to test even the most loyal fan though, as just about the only feature that is related to black metal on this album, is the raspy raw vocal delivery by lead vocalist/ bassist Grutle Kjellson. The rest of the music can loosely be called progressive metal. We are of course not talking progressive metal in the conventional sense and "Vertebrae" is focused on atmosphere rather than technical playing. In addition to the extreme vocals by Grutle Kjellson, keyboard player Herbrand Larsen delivers clean vocals and the combination of the two vocal styles generally work very well. The music is dynamic and shifts between mid-paced heavy sections and more mellow slower sections. The influence from 70s progressive rock is mostly heard in the mellow atmospheric sections and it´s artists like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Rush and Hawkwind I´m reminded of when I listen to the music. Enslaved are a unique act though and there´s nothing here that sounds like it´s blantantly ripped-off or anything like that, I just pick up a sound or an idea here and there that is greatly influenced by some of the great progressive acts from the 70s. All influences are seamlessly combined into a sound that is unmistakably the sound of Enslaved though. The use of organ and mellotron gives the music a warm laidback feel, that I again associate with 70s progressive rock.

The 49:07 minute long album contains 8 tracks. Like all earlier releases by the band, "Vertebrae" has taken a while for me to absorb. It´s not that the music is especially complicated or technically challenging, but the melodies and hooks took me a while to appreciate. That´s a personal experience though and others might pick up on the music much faster than I did. One of the things I´ve noticed about the album is that it continuously grows on me and new details and layers in the music reveal themselves with each listen. It´s one of the features I´m always searching for in music and "Vertebrae" more than delivers in that respect. Instantly likeable albums have a tendency to become tiring after few listens, so an album like "Vertebrae", which offers new details with every listen, is right down my alley. The albums starts with three fantastic tracks in "Clouds", "To the Coast" and "Ground", but also the epic "Reflection" and the post-metal tinged "Center" deserve a special mention. Actually all songs deserve a special mention because the album is through and through a strong release. A great dark and melancholic ( and at times slightly uplifting) atmospheric journey.

I´ve been very impressed by other Enslaved albums in the past but "Vertebrae" is probably the album by the band that so far has impressed me the most. A strong love for 70s progressive rock probably helps on the fact that I like this album so much, but the album isn´t all mellow and progressive. There are plenty of metal riffing here too, so don´t worry that the band have gone too soft to make your head bang. The aggression is of course a bit more reserved than on earlier releases but this is still extreme metal ( albeit mostly because of the raspy vocal delivery). "Vertebrae" is to my ears a complete release with very few flaws. Excellent organic production, great musicianship and intriguing clever compositions paves the way for a 5 star rating.
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