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  • Should you hear the words “best metal band out there,” Enslaved probably isn’t the first band that comes to mind. But pause and reflect. Enslaved has a reputation for always pushing for something new and interesting. The amount of output alone is impressive–since their famous split EP with Emperor (on which they blew Emperor away, I might add), they’ve done ten full-lengths in total, releasing pathbreaking albums almost yearly since 1999. The quality, even more remarkable–from the epic, deft, assaultive Viking metal of the early years to the ever more progressive, strange, and psychedelic albums of recent times, there is probably no metal band whose discography matches that of Enslaved. Just when you think they finally _have_ to release a `bleh’ album, they blow you away again.

    Where _Ruun_ ultimately stands in relation to the rest of the catalogue is uncertain, but it any case it is an exhilarating, progressive, and powerful. There are only peripheral features that tie the band to its former days or black metal in general. It otherwise an extension of _Isa_ the way _Isa_ was an extension of _Below the Lights_ and so on — each album is a step that feels natural and reaches tremendous heights (_Maudraum_ and _Blodhemn_ was the most profound change of style, probably). On _Isa_, it seemed the band have reached its immanent end and perfected itself. _Ruun_ just keeps running with the concept. The paradox of the reviewer is that one can describe _Ruun_ mostly with reference to _Isa_, and yet it is difficult to articulate the abstract changes that have taken place, so one might lose sight of the progression at play. Same sorta qualities, really: wall-of-sound metal, tight choppy riffs, complex songwriting, phantasmagoric arrangements, prog-like rhythmic labyrinths, and album flow orientation. The album starts with the driving “Entroper” with driving metal chording and subtle melodic grace. About two minutes into “Fusion of Sense and Earth”, Enslaved channels what sounds like a lost passage from Opeth’s “The Amen Corner” – vox too! “Tides of Chaos” culminates in a _Larks_-era King Crimson-esque slog, highly metallized. As much as I hear sounds evoking other bands, this is purely Enslaved’s album – I haven’t heard any metal band write a heavy, shimmering song like “Essence” or pull off such a bizarre, vertigo-inducing guitar solo in the climax of “Heir to the Cosmic Seed”. That last song is also amazing with its slow galloping riffs, chanting, and drifting guitar notes. Brilliant moments of metal riffage, instrumental interplay, and atmospheric weirdness abound. Yes.

    Posted on November 10, 2009