Enslaved's career can be distributed in five different eras:
The first era consists of the first three albums, namely Vikingligr Veldi (1994), Frost (1994) and Eld (1997). All these albums are important releases in Viking Metal's history and they have defined some musical aspects for the whole genre.
The second era is the era of development. It consists of fourth and fifth albums Blodhemn (1998) and Mardraum: Beyond The Within (2000). Enslaved's sound is now cleaner but still raw and fast-forward. These albums are some of their fastest and most aggressive.
The third era includes even more developed and experimental sound on Enslaved's two of the almost useless albums. First, Monumension (2001) hits the bottom and then another album seems to be lost, namely Below The Lights (2003) which anyway shows that there's light in the end of the tunnel.
The fourth era is possibly the most interesting one. Now Enslaved's reformation is complete and albums Isa (2004) and Ruun (2006) complete the circle. The sound is in its cleanest and full of progressive elements, but not without a reason. Both albums are filled with catchy riffs, melodies, excellent musicianship but still they haven't forgot the rawness and epic viking feeling which always have been there for Enslaved. Perfect combination of progressive and epic metal.
The fifth and last era includes latest full-length albums so far, namely Vertebrae (2008) and Axioma Ethica Odini (2010). In these albums, the band seems to utilize the experience they've gained through their whole career. They don't offer so much new and mainly fail in composing, which makes Vertebrae quite pointless release. On Axioma Ethica Odini they seem to have succeeded a lot better, which makes it an average Enslaved-release and generally speaking, a great piece of Metal.
Of course opinions vary, and it's not easy to list any albums in ranking order, at least when there's eleven of them. Anyway, this is my opinion today, and it seems to change a bit every time when listening to some of the albums. Also this list doesn't include any EP's, demos or rehearsal tapes, which would make the work even harder. All three EP's, Hordanes Land (1993), The Sleeping Gods (2011) and Thorn (2011) are very good releases and add even more value to the band's high standard, as it already is.
It's also impossible to raise any of the albums above others. Still, Monumension seems to be the only total disappointment, with Vertebrae as the second lowest performance. My first Enslaved-experience back in the day was Frost, which appears to be their most epic, original and famous release. Then I introduced myself to Vikingligr Veldi and soon Eld came out. These three albums together with bands like Hades, Helheim and Einherjer created the base for Norwegian Viking Metal, but Enslaved was for more. Soon they began developing and progressiveness came along. It's possible to hear that already on some parts of Eld, which otherwise is a super epic and timeless album.
One thing which is recognizable for all albums, is rawness. Somehow they manage to combine the beauty with the cruelty, which comes out quite clearly as clean and raw vocals, as well as highly variable tempo changes. All in all, their career has been very productive yet of high quality. Whatever we're getting on next album, I hope it's something new again, and the victorius march may continue!
"Blodhemn eg svergar, Blodhemn har eg alltid sverga!"