Release date: May 22nd 2006
Target (Denmark)
Progressive Metal

Rating: 90/100
Reviewed by: Gregory Whalen
Date: May 10th 2006

Around 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.  

Now, 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.  

Superficially, 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”).  

This 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!