I can no longer count the number of masterpieces in Enslaved’s voluminous output. _Vertebrae_ may or may not be this band’s finest work, but in either case it is a soul-stirring journey through a band unique vision of metal. As much as each album changes in subtle ways, the “Enslaved sound” that has been tempered since the stylistic shift of _Mardraum_ is still there and powerful as ever. It works the same way with other metal bands that are REALLY special, like the Opeth sound, the Meshuggah sound, etc. As a reference point, I’d say this is like the sonic explorations of _Monumension_ (many albums ago) with the tighter metal of _Ruun_, the previous disc. The heaviness is perhaps…softened?… because the purpose seems not to rock hard so much as elevate through ingenius riffs and machine-guns drums and fastidiously placed sound effects and synthesizers to something between simple Floydian trippiness and profound mystical experience. And even so, it remains awesome exciting from a metal standpoint as well, so the “softening” is only relative. How many metal bands can accomplish all that at once? There probably isn’t a single metal band with so much darn great productivity.