Enslaved - _Ruun_
(Candlelight, 2006)
by: T. DePalma (5.5 out of 10)
When reinventing themselves as psychedelic heathens in the later half of their career, Enslaved continued their familiar explorations of Norse heritage within the aesthetics of Sixties and Seventies proto-metal (the first heir of its symbolism), blending technical prog-rock with touches of folk melody and black metal ferality, elegantly looping through each other like an Urnes carving. For all that's been made of the band's "weirdness" since _Monumension_, I've generally found their music too deliberate to be truly weird, with exceptional coherence in finding common ground among their influences. However, in _Ruun_ these ideas wither into more obvious and uncomplicated sound-bites, underlined by the usual nostalgic ornaments --some inconsequential, others a protruding vice.

The rock element is exploded without pretense as _Ruun_ announces itself through the urgent climb and pounding guitar rhythm of "Entroper" (the very antithesis of _Isa_'s "Lunar Force"). Scratchy staccato breakdowns and bouncing metal riffs usher in Grutle Kjellson's vocal grit, and then return to the main riff as a chorus sung in refulgent delivery. It's also the first time the bass guitar is made as prominent on any Enslaved record. There is an immediate sense of liberation through such simplicity; an uplifting verve that seems both alien and infectious, and much of the album continues with this sentiment: charting quasi-epic moods that are technically stainless in execution, but retrograde and dispensable after their initial strength and novelty gives birth to no deeper channel than complacent reverence for Hammond organs, bluesy guitar solos and touches of Opethian soft-rock.

Lyrically, the band has referred to this album as portraying a conflict of chaotic versus constructive forces (represented on both sides by the Norse Gods), and musically this is what every Enslaved record eventually adds up to, though in the past done with more passion and flair. For _Ruun_ that synopsis is a sad metaphor for the uncertainty and outright submission towards elements that work to divest the group of authenticity. Indeed, most of the album's relevance is in imitation alone (including flirts with tired metalcore angst on "Tides of Chaos") artistically shattered between these and obligatory black metal cliché ("Fusion of Sense and Earth") or play like cast-offs from less inconsistent records ("Api-Vat", "Heir to the Cosmic Seed") and feel no less uninspired -- the lone exception being "Essence", which Metal Maniacs had the prescience to remark as a "soon-to-be-classic", where subtle throwbacks work to create an atmosphere wholly befitting its title. If only this represented something more than the best of the worst.

Contact: http://www.enslaved.no

(article published 2/5/2006)

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