Norway's Enslaved have long been one of the most important band's on the extreme metal scene. Since the early 90's and with their debut Vikingligr Veldi, the band has continued to release stunning examples of progressive tinged black/Viking metal, brimming with power, ferocity, melody, and atmosphere. Through the years, the band has continued to broaden their progressive nature, injecting an almost Pink Floyd type element into their music, most evident in recent releases Isa and Ruun. With Vertebrae, their vision is fully relealized, the prog-rock and the black metal meeting head-on and forming into something extremely powerful.
You can hear this right from the opening track "Clouds", where Grutle Kjellson's raging black metal shrieks meets up with the soaring Mellotron and soothing Roger Waters inspired backing vocals from keyboard player Herbrand Larsen. Though they take a step directly into bombastic Viking metal fury on "To the Coast", complete with manic drum blasts and crushing guitar work, it's back to the 'Dark Side of the Moon' so to speak on the gorgeous "Ground", this one featuring tasty Gilmour-ish guitar work from Ice Dale & Ivar Bjornson, a mix of melodic vocals & growls, and atmospheric keys. The title track is a real proggy number, raging riffs at the outset alongside tricky drum fills are sprinkled with synths before Grutle's gargled vocals come into play, turning this into a symphonic black metal treat. Full bore extreme metal is what you get on the manic "New Dawn", Cato Baekkevoid's jackhammer blast beats taking this one to new heights, while tremelo picked guitar riffs and Mellotron round out the mix. Check out the ominous chorus here, sung in clean vocals supported by creepy Mellotron, for a real spooky early 70's prog element.
I hear a touch of Opeth on "Reflection", more so from the guitar riffs and rhythms than anything else, which is not a bad thing by any means. Essentially it's a tasty & moody progressive metal rocker, featuring one of Grutle's most evil vocal performances on the CD. It's back to epic prog rock on "Center", a real majestic number that has a certain doomy feel as well, with menacing, almost spoken word type vocals, keyboards, and heavy riffing. The middle acoustic guitar/synth interlude is quite cool, which then gives way to a uptempo symphonic ending. The CD ends with the scorching black metal number "The Watcher", a real old-school styled number that is perhaps the most aggressive piece on the CD but still quite symphonic.
Chances are if you really dug Isa and Ruun you are going to fall head over heels in love with Vertebrae. No doubt this one will be on many Best of 2008 lists come the end of the year-it's that damn good, and proof that Enslaved are quite simply one of progressive metal's most important acts.
2. To The Coast
5. New Dawn
8. The Watcher