the time of 2000’s “Mardraum” Enslaved made the brave decision to
sever the ties to the black metal scene they’d always reluctantly been
alligned with and venture into uncharted waters. It wasn’t always a
tranquil voyage, and the band had to weather the departures of guitarist
Roy Kronheim, after 2001’s “Monumension”, and drummer Dirge Rep,
who defected to the decidely more orthodox Gorgoroth following the
band’s final album for Osmose “Below the Lights”. However,
masterminds Grutle Kjellson and Ivar Bjørnson soon regrouped and in
2004 delivered the Grammy-winning “Isa”, an album that felt like the
completion of the journey they had begun four years earlier.
barely eighteen months later, the Norwegians have returned with “RUUN”.
It’s an impressive work-rate, which puts many of their contemporaries
to shame, and yet nothing here feels rushed or incomplete. On the
contrary, this is the sound of a band that is supremely confident in its
abilities. The new line-up, which is completed by lead guitarist Arve
Isdal, drummer Cato Bekkevold and keyboardist Herbrand Larsen, has grown
together well. Isdal in particular shines, his solos adding colour to Bjørnson’s
confident rhythm work, while Larsen’s vintage melotron has had the
same invigorating effect on the Enslaved sound as Per Wiberg’s work on
the last Opeth album.
you could almost compare the two bands. Opeth is more obviously indebted
to ‘70s prog-rock than Enslaved, though there are several nods to King
Crimson on tracks like “Entroper” or the creepy “Tides of Chaos”.
But the songwriting here is much more concise, and at eight songs and 45
minutes the album doesn’t outstay its welcome. “RUUN” is thirteen
years and a million miles away from the youthful exuberance of the
“Hordane’s Land” mini-LP, but for all its progressive grandeur
there are still moments when the space rockin’ atmospherics are
jettisoned in favour of a righteous Viking metal gallop (“Fusion of
Sense and Earth”).
is less of a quantum leap than “Isa” was, but it’s just as good.
It’s amazing to see a band this talented truly hitting their creative
stride on their ninth album. Long may their journey continue!