Getting Into: Enslaved

Written by: Baz Anderson
Published: 01.10.2012
With these "Getting Into" articles I present fair and full descriptions of a band's discography of studio albums. Each has a clear rating out of five as a way of aiding people that want to get into such bands but do not know where to start. This is a clear guide of how to get into the band in question.

Enslaved
Black metal / Progressive metal
Norway

Perhaps unlike any other extreme metal band in the world; Enslaved have evolved spectacularly from their raw beginnings. Through two decades the Bergen-based band have meandered down the black metal path dabbling with Viking and progressive elements, arriving today as the rounded progressive extreme metal band we see now. In the early nineties Norway produced a surge of bands all playing a similar take on the same black metal formula. As the years have passed these bands evolved in their separate directions; Emperor, Darkthrone, Mayhem, Immortal, Burzum, Enslaved - all completely different bands to each other today. From the very beginning however, Enslaved were that bit different.


Vikingligr Veldi (1994)

A very important year for black metal; Emperor were releasing In The Nightside Eclipse, Mayhem were finally releasing De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and Enslaved released two albums both very different from each other. The first, Vikingligr Veldi, was different to anything their cohorts were releasing in that four of the five tracks on the album clocked in at over ten minutes. This is an epic album of icy black metal, not afraid to use the keyboards and add extra layers in the back, Vikingligr Veldi was far ahead of its time. The influence this album gave, with songs such as "Heimdallr" especially is particularly evident in such bands as Windir and Moonsorrow.

Recommended songs: "Midgards Elder", "Heimdallr"

Frost (1994)

In the same year and the last release with future Emperor drummer Trym behind the kit, Frost gave the opposite side of the coin to the debut album. This album is much more raw and typically black metal, although songs such as "Yggdrasil" clearly show the Vikings influences becoming slightly more prominent in their music. Even compared to the couple of albums standard-bearers Immortal had released at the time, Frost showed much more diversity in their song structures. Even so, this album remains a raw and savage assault of cold black metal with, much like their counterparts Emperor at the time, a little unique twist.

Recommended songs: "Loke", "Svarte Vidder"





Eld (1997)

With the third album Enslaved took their first big risk. Opening the album with the longest song the band have to their name, Eld marks the moment major Viking influence found its way so explicitly into their music. Infrequent clean vocals, a few appearances by an acoustic guitar, epic layers; Eld pushed the boundaries of what black metal was. By all means still a cutting black metal album above anything else, Enslaved were showing signs of evolving and a refusal to stick to a typical musical formula. Eld is not as punishing as the albums either side to it, but it does have much more depth.

Recommended songs: "Hordalendingen", "Glemt"

Blodhemn (1998)

Just one year later and Enslaved present the other side of the coin once more. Blodhemn is the most savage and brutal the band has been. The band still brought forward a few of the aspects of the previous album, but Blodhemn is largely more of a throwback to the raw style of the Frost album. This is Enslaved's fastest and most unrelenting release, perhaps as a knee-jerk reaction to the potential backlash the band received with the direction of the previous album. Blodhemn is much more one-directional in its approach, but it is certainly very effective at what it does. The subtle epic Viking influences brought forward from Eld combined with the primitive black metal style makes this album a real blast to listen to, and also the last Enslaved album so black metal-driven.

Recommended songs: "Nidingaslakt", "Eit Auga Til Mimir"





Mardraum - Beyond The Within (2000)

At the turn of the millennium, Enslaved were also undergoing a transformation themselves. As if the shackles had been removed, Mardraum - Beyond The Within marks the most significant change the band have made. While still maintaining their black metal core the band developed their Viking sound with this bold and epic release, but also introduced a significant progressive aspect to their music. After the ten-minute pounding introduction, "Daudningekvida" illustrates this change wonderfully with the magnificent spontaneous guitar solo mid-way through while chaos ensues in the background, followed by "Entrance - Escape" - a remarkable, steady-paced progressive piece like nothing the band had given before. Mardraum - Beyond The Within is the centre of the Enslaved universe; equally raw as it is progressive. Such an underrated and overlooked album, the balance here is spot on.

Recommended songs: "Dandningekvida", "Stjerneheimen"

Monumension (2001)

The first album using the English language, Monumension also marks the point where Enslaved begin to dramatically lose their traditional black metal side and delve deeper into the progressive and slightly experimental world. Certainly the most progressive the band had been up to this point, almost too indulgently so. The album is not an easy one to follow, but does have a lot of depth and some extremely interesting moments. For the first time Enslaved showed glimpses of the band they would become, but Monumension is not the complete package.

Recommended songs: "The Voices", "Hollow Inside"





Below The Lights (2003)

With Below The Lights, Enslaved really started to hone their skills. The band no longer resembled black metal as previously known, but this album birthed the progressive extreme metal style the band play to this day. While not as out-of-the-box-thinking as the previous album, this one is still original and perhaps more accessible. The opening track "As Fire Swept Clean The Earth" is the star of the album, but other great tracks can also be found. Below The Lights only lacks an addictive element, it isn't as bold or memorable as other Enslaved albums, and although the band were still evolving and progressing with their sound, they were yet to find the magic formula.

Recommended songs: "As Fire Swept Clean The Earth", "A Darker Place"

Isa (2004)

Just one year later and the band released an album that turned the heads of the metal world. Building on the style of the previous album, Isa boasted a much clearer production and a much more competent and complete band. Isa is the first Enslaved album as a five-piece and the change is remarkable. Such progressive song structures and a great atmosphere, Enslaved let their creative juices flow like never before with this album, resulting in a phenomenal album that consumes the listener and keeps them guessing what will come next. Isa is the first Enslaved album in this style where everything clicked into place; the album still has extreme moments, but these compliment the softer sections and vice-versa. The evolved Enslaved had finally blossomed.

Recommended songs: "Bounded By Allegiance", "Neogenesis"





Ruun (2006)

In the spotlight now, and with a greater appreciation and a wider audience Ruun followed on where the previous album left off. A similar cover, a similar style, Ruun is the Enslaved album where the least progression was made from previous to current album. This was not a problem however, as the universe aligned and everything worked when Isa was being created. Ruun then perhaps lives in the shadow of its predecessor, but that is not to take away from the consistent brilliantness of the band to create another album of such immense quality.

Recommended songs: "Entroper", "Essence"

Vertebrae (2008)

Moving forwards, Enslaved subtly changed their sound once more. While still very much in the same vein as the last few albums, Vertebrae was somehow softer with a slightly less polished production. While still a great album, the enjoyable harsh edge is absent here and the equilibrium that had made Enslaved so enjoyable in previous years was somewhat lacking. Vertebrae is the softest album the band have put out over the years, but it does still have some great moments that shouldn't be forgotten.

Recommended songs: "Clouds", "New Dawn"





Axioma Ethica Odini (2010)

Two years later and Enslaved were about to stamp their authority in the most impressive way yet. The universe once again aligned for Axioma Ethica Odini as the band's evolution took them to greatness with this masterpiece of progressive extreme metal. Soaring guitars, clean vocals, an amazing atmosphere; Axioma Ethica Odini is an album like none other. Enslaved knew what they wanted with this enchanting release; although it is progressive, it doesn't deviate or experiment for the sake of it. This album is pure bliss, especially the second half from the titanic "Giants" through to the end. Not many albums can unite so many people in unanimous awe, but Axioma Ethica Odini is one of those precious and rare cases.

Recommended songs: "Ethica Odini", "Lightening"

RIITIIR (2012)

Up to the current time and Enslaved were keen to prove once more they have the skill, quality and experience to create yet another album of the quality now expected of them. RIITIIR continues the evolution of the band manifesting itself in the form of more dynamic songs with even more depth and detail in them. Enslaved are absolutely at the top of their game in every aspect there is. RIITIIR may be intimidatingly complex or challenging to connect with at first, unlike the previous album, but the quality is there and an amazing experience is waiting once the layers do come back. Enslaved have done it again.

Recommended songs: "Death In The Eyes Of Dawn", "Roots Of The Mountain"



-

Overview

Enslaved have changed so much over the years that the most ideal place to delve into the discography will change from person to person. This band have provided one of the most impressive stories of extreme metal; from their beginnings in church-burning, black metal Norway to the hugely impressive progressive and awe-inspiring extreme metal albums in recent years. Through their discography the band have so much to offer, be it unrelenting and raw black metal, Viking-clad epic black metal, progressive metal mixed with all of the previous, or the later incantations of progressive extreme metal. Enslaved was formed by Ivar and Grutle when they were teenagers, it is amazing to see how far this musical experience has come so far. Let's hope for a few more years yet.


 



Written on 01.10.2012 by
Baz Anderson
Member of Staff since 2006.
More articles by Baz Anderson ››




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Alex Fenger - 01.10.2012 at 20:41  
Enslaved certainly have one of the most impressive discographies of any band out there. For me, Vertabrae is better than Ruun, and Monumension is probably my second favorite (behind Isa) of theirs.
Enigma - 01.10.2012 at 21:26  
Although i don't agree with the entire article (especially Monumension's rating), it's a very good idea and i hope that this kind of articles continues with another bands.
About Enslaved, one of the best discographies out there.\m/
Bad English - 01.10.2012 at 21:30  
Good job Baz. and I prefere Enslaved 1th 2 albums but till isa was OK, after Isa band turn to mainstream and are more prog how black I like when they were true orvegians, use norvegian languadge in their lyrics, even I can get only news and some ppl in streets whe talk norvegian, its pretty unposible when Im listening get what they sing, I liie old band when they use norvegian, it was epic, band try not aim to mainstream, try stay in underworld
advent - 01.10.2012 at 21:39  
Written by Alex Fenger on 01.10.2012 at 20:41

Enslaved certainly have one of the most impressive discographies of any band out there. For me, Vertabrae is better than Ruun, and Monumension is probably my second favorite (behind Isa) of theirs.

Totally agree, Isa and Ruun where there climax point, after that they become like Opeth after Damnation . Very good musicianship , production and a lot of layers and depth but they become less creative , less aggressive and generic songwriting they do.
Enigma - 01.10.2012 at 22:00  
And i don't agree either with the low rating that Vikingligr Veldi got. Love that album!
!J.O.O.E.! - 01.10.2012 at 22:40  
Written by Alex Fenger on 01.10.2012 at 20:41

Monumension is probably my second favorite (behind Isa) of theirs.

Probably the same with me, though AEO might nudge out Monumension. Monumension is definitely Enslaved's underrated gem.
Apothecary - 01.10.2012 at 22:42  
Fantastic article, it really is amazing to see how much they've changed over the years. The most "ideal place to delve into their discography" for me would be Below the Lights and onward, because, as you noted, that's where they really started to hone their skills and begin developing into the extreme progressive powerhouse they are today.
Thumbs up!
Marcel Hubregtse - 01.10.2012 at 22:57  
Written by !J.O.O.E.! on 01.10.2012 at 22:40

Monumension is definitely Enslaved's underrated gem.


Absolutely, it's a frigging great album. For the casual listener it will be their worst or among thier worst. But not for someone who takes the time to listen to it properly.
Enigma - 02.10.2012 at 02:05  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 01.10.2012 at 22:57

Written by !J.O.O.E.! on 01.10.2012 at 22:40

Monumension is definitely Enslaved's underrated gem.


Absolutely, it's a frigging great album. For the casual listener it will be their worst or among thier worst. But not for someone who takes the time to listen to it properly.


I agree completely. I just add the same thought about Vikingligr Veldi. It's such an amazing album, and seems not to be so well recognized.
Amatsu Mikaboshi - 02.10.2012 at 02:27  
Frost was always my favourite. Should had been full mark.
strade - 02.10.2012 at 04:05  
Best band on the face of the earth. The amount of immaculate material they have created is simply incredible, and their last three efforts have all been flawless in my estimation. I also have to show some love for Below the Lights, which has a bevy of excellent melodies and some of the most beautiful cover art I've ever seen.
EW - 02.10.2012 at 07:15  
Thanks for this. i am just getting into them and it will help me out a lot.
Daniell - 02.10.2012 at 09:20  
I disagree so much about Monumension. And I disagree even more about Below the Lights!
Marcel Hubregtse - 02.10.2012 at 09:23  
Written by Daniell on 02.10.2012 at 09:20

I disagree so much about Monumension. And I disagree even more about Below the Lights!


I agree with you on Below The Lights as well, a truly great and espeecially memorable album
Ace Frawley - 02.10.2012 at 15:21  
Thanks for the article. Like EW, I'm also just getting into Enslaved, after recently discovering Axioma Ethica Odini, which is simply brilliant. Looking forward to delving into their back-catalogue more and excited that they have a new release out now.
R'Vannith - 02.10.2012 at 18:02  
This will be helpful, I have yet to venture into their discography prior to Isa. Surprised to see Vertebrae get a 3, that's one of my preferences, though I would agree that it doesn't have that same harsh edge. Maybe it's because it's the one I started with so I've kind of got attached to it.
BitterCOld - 02.10.2012 at 19:04  
Written by R'Vannith on 02.10.2012 at 18:02

This will be helpful, I have yet to venture into their discography prior to Isa. Surprised to see Vertebrae get a 3, that's one of my preferences, though I would agree that it doesn't have that same harsh edge. Maybe it's because it's the one I started with so I've kind of got attached to it.


i really like Vertebrae as well, preferring it to both Ruun and Isa. IMO that, Below The Lights (each song with it's own quirks and identity, the album that really helped them arrive) and Monumension were perhaps underrated/scored.

amusingly 5 years ago i did a "Enslaved For Dummies" playlist to get folks like Baz and Lucas and other staff at the time to try to get them into the band. (By 2007 they had already exploded, but shortly after i joined the site, none of their back catalog behind ISA had more than 50 votes... )

perhaps i should have gotten off my ass, updated it, and posted it as an article incorporating Vertebrae, AEO, and the new one (well, at some point after we get it here next week and i've had a chance to digest it) ... but he beat me to it.
R'Vannith - 02.10.2012 at 19:20  
Written by BitterCOld on 02.10.2012 at 19:04

i really like Vertebrae as well, preferring it to both Ruun and Isa. IMO that, Below The Lights (each song with it's own quirks and identity, the album that really helped them arrive) and Monumension were perhaps underrated/scored.

amusingly 5 years ago i did a "Enslaved For Dummies" playlist to get folks like Baz and Lucas and other staff at the time to try to get them into the band. (By 2007 they had already exploded, but shortly after i joined the site, none of their back catalog behind ISA had more than 50 votes... )

perhaps i should have gotten off my ass, updated it, and posted it as an article incorporating Vertebrae, AEO, and the new one (well, at some point after we get it here next week and i've had a chance to digest it) ... but he beat me to it.


Something I've learnt listening to this band is that no two albums are the same (well from what I've heard at least) and I would say that is especially the case with Vertebrae . It also sounds the "proggiest" to me, so I guess that's another reason why I dig it so much.

Though I haven't collected my thoughts on the new one yet I will say that each of the tracks sounds more distinctive than is the case on some of the other albums I've heard.
Fredd - 02.10.2012 at 20:23  
Written by R'Vannith on 02.10.2012 at 19:20

Something I've learnt listening to this band is that no two albums are the same (well from what I've heard at least) and I would say that is especially the case with Vertebrae . It also sounds the "proggiest" to me, so I guess that's another reason why I dig it so much.

Though I haven't collected my thoughts on the new one yet I will say that each of the tracks sounds more distinctive than is the case on some of the other albums I've heard.

Vertebrae is their proggiest and I love it for that, too. And no two albums are the same, yes, though ISA-to-Ruun and AEO-to-Riitiir are somewhat similar; like 2 faces of a coin.
R'Vannith - 02.10.2012 at 20:31  
Written by Fredd on 02.10.2012 at 20:23

Vertebrae is their proggiest and I love it for that, too. And no two albums are the same, yes, though ISA-to-Ruun and AEO-to-Riitiir are somewhat similar; like 2 faces of a coin.


That's an interesting way of looking at it. I'd agree about the first coin, Isa and Ruun, but I'm not so sure about the second comparison yet.
Fredd - 02.10.2012 at 20:37  
Written by R'Vannith on 02.10.2012 at 20:31

That's an interesting way of looking at it. I'd agree about the first coin, Isa and Ruun, but I'm not so sure about the second comparison yet.

With that in mind, try listening to both of them back to back now, and tell me what you think.
-DC-002- - 03.10.2012 at 05:43  
Those later albums are rated a bit too high for me I think, but good work. Monumension all through Vertabrae are timeless to me and represent a really awesome zenith for the band. Those are 5 albums that consecutively carved their mark the right way. Axioma and Ruiittirrrriririr.. are good but I'd say they may have plateaued with those and we might see more of the same in the future, that's not necessarily a bad thing at all though.
tea[m]ster - 04.10.2012 at 18:46  
I got on board with Vertebrae. I've said this a thousand times: I am not a black metal fan but Enslaved does a superb job of blending in my other favorite metal genres into the music that the actual black metal itself is hardly noticeable. Terrific stuff. Thanks for the article.
Verdun_sc - 05.10.2012 at 01:53  
Their best are clearly Eld and Below the Lights. Frost and VV are the next best, probably, with Mardraum and Monumension not too far behind those. So I disagree. Blodhemn is like a lesser Frost.

And Riitiir is right behind BtL and Eld right now. Better than Ruun, more consistent/memorable as a whole than Isa, less predictable than AOE, and just better at everything than Vertebrae.
Longships - 06.10.2012 at 21:06  
Quite simply the greatest metal band on the planet right now (imo)
Hawkk44 - 07.10.2012 at 05:44  
This is really well-written article. I've been interested in Enslaved for a while, and this did exactly what it was supposed to do for me. Thanks.
DelightfulJim - 07.10.2012 at 17:14  
I like these articles, you guys should do more of them.

I would myself but I'm not bothered.
LICH - 01.12.2012 at 03:55  
Thanks for showing me the discography here , i heard thoughts like hammers and was blown away thank you !!!

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