"Axioma Ethica Odini"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Enslaved have come up with their masterpiece in "Axioma Ethica Odini". Their last effort "Vertebrae" was mighty fuzzy minded and kind of "meh", leaving me to wonder if the band had peaked and was starting to slide. In the immortal words of Conan's wizard: "HAH!" That impression is TOTALLY reversed with "Axioma..."

The making of classic albums where each song fits perfectly into a total listening experience is becoming rarer and rarer these days, but Enslaved understand every bit of what goes into that process. A record (yes, I insist on using the archaic term) should be a journey through all kinds of terrain. "A.E.O." is just such a journey and a breath-taking one at that. The album is hyped up and way more energetic than the phlegmatic "Vertebrae", crashing through your stereo with the hard-charging and metallic "Ethica Odini". This is the most direct and straightforward tune Enslaved have written in more than ten years. And it's not an exception, but rather the rule here. "Raidho", "Waruun" and "The Beacon" are all furious and totally jacked up. The prog elements which typify Enslaved are still here, but they've receded to make way for sheer black metal power. Herbrand's deep and vital keyboard work meshes perfectly with the guitars of Ivar and Icedale while his crooning clean vocals demonstrate an equally perfect ability to mix with Grutle's harsh raven croaks and roars. Every song is laid out with precision and an admirable directness lacking in some of Enslaved's more recent works.

After the relaxing ambience of "Axioma", the second half of the album shows the more complex, moody and proggy side of Enslaved, but still with lots of drive and dynamics. "Singular" is a real standout of constantly shifting tempos and riffs...a highlight of progressive metal. Only the rather subdued "Night Sight" lowers the heat on the album.

I'm not gonna be ambiguous about "Axioma Ethica Odini". It's my favorite record of 2010 so far and I don't see anything with the possible exception of Melechesh's new one knocking it off. It is an absolute must-have!