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Album Reviews : Enslaved – Axioma Ethica Odini

By on October 7, 2010

Norway’s Enslaved have never been one to stick to a formula. Over the years, the band has evolved from a relatively raw black metal act through to one of those at the forefront of the whole progressive black metal movement. While the dramatic change in style has divided a chunk of their fans, Axioma Ethica Odini sees the band, for the first time, aim for a blend of old and new.

Over their career each release has been more prog oriented than its predecessor, with the last couple only just teetering into black metal territory. If the trend continued, it was only a matter of time before they ended up with about as much of a black metal influence as Tool. Instead, Axioma Ethica Odini combines what they have learnt through RUUN and Vertebrae with the subdued aggression of Frost; the outcome being their most refined release to date.

While their past releases have seen the band occasionally lose themselves in their musical explorations, here they pull everything together creating a consistent atmosphere that actually contains some of their heaviest material in a long time, but also some of their proggiest moments to date. Opener “Ethica Odini” is a prime example of what to expect from much of the release; high on pace with a subtle sense of hostility, and some truly gorgeous clean vocals and lead guitars mixed in. “Giants” begins at doom pace with truly haunting, choir-esque cleans before kicking into several of the darkest four minutes Enslaved have performed. Whether intentional or not, the progressive elements come back to the forefront for the final three tracks in spectacular form with a phenomenal use of contrast and some spectacular build-ups. Closer “Lightening” is truly cinematic in its grandeur and breathtaking climax.

While the album is an improvement as a whole, Grutle’s vocals are a real standout, with some of his most interesting lines to date. His clean vocals have never been anything to scoff at, but here he seems to have truly grasped how to use them to complement his surroundings. The other noticeable change is the much thicker, warmer production. While fans of ye ol’ black metal days may cringe at the idea, it actually works in their favour as far as creating passages that sound infinitely heavier without need for the band to fall back on genre standards.

To be quite blunt, Axioma Ethica Odini eclipses the rest of their career by a long shot. Not only have they grasped the balance that their other recent releases have lacked, they have created the most consistent sixty minutes of music I have heard this year. Where they will go from here is anybody’s guess. 9.5/10

Band: Enslaved
Album: Axioma Ethica Odini
Year: 2010
Genre: Progressive black metal
Origin: Norway
Label: Indie Recordings/Riot

Track listing:
1. Ethica Odini
2. Raidho
3. Waruun
4. The Beacon
5. Axioma
6. Giants
7. Singular
8. Night Sight
9. Lightening <- Reviewers choice


Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.