By Martin Popoff
Heaps of praise as of late for this forward-thinking original Norse black metal “Viking” band, Enslaved, now with at least three beloved, multi-dimensional albums in a row, joins the rarified ranks of Mayhem and Immortal as think-tanks that retain the cackle and drone of the instigated premise while expanding rock ‘n’ rollsy. But that’s not to say Enslaved are flawless. The production on Isa is, for lack of a better word, timid, and the black vocals are cawing, mixed way back, a bit of a chore. But there’s magic in those arcane, vaguely psychedelic and/or proggy riffs, riffs which insinuate their way into your being with brainwashing repetition. And the clean vocals haunt these songs, making them more special and alien. There’s something early ’90s Voivodian about this process (see “Bounded by Allegiance” and “Violet Dawning”), which, again, is all wrapped up in the detached, stringy production. A distinct, memorable, seductively malevolent landscape is achieved, a successful self-stated linking of black metal with spooky ’70s prog albums that nobody’s ever heard of.