Enslaved’s new album conquers the music world

Enslaved emerged from the cold forests of Norway in the early ‘90s to fight in the blackest trenches of extreme heavy metal alongside their countrymen Immortal, Emperor, and Mayhem.

Pushing their vicious new breed of metal out of Scandinavia and into the rest of the world, the Norwegian groups awed some and terrified others with their animalistic howls, thundering battle drums and trebly, adrenaline-fueled guitar playing. However, around the new millennium, Enslaved changed its tactics slightly, entering the strange and wildly experimental realm of progressive metal without sacrificing their rough edges, an approach that pinnacled on 2008’s “Vertebrae,” which was famously compared to Pink Floyd.

Clearly that remark had some effect on the band‘s mindset, as their new record, “Axioma Ethica Odini” (The Ethical Principles of Odin), is their heaviest yet, and the title sparks memories of the Viking mythology and history that ran throughout their first few albums until 1998’s “Blodhemn.”

From the beginning, “Axioma Ethica Odini” pounds into your brain with all the force of Thor’s mighty hammer, only allowing a few seconds of respite before the sonic brutality and cryptic chanting begins anew.

“Waruun” and “Giants” have stomping, powerful riffs steeped in Black Sabbath’s mighty brew, while the former breaks into a Maiden-style galloping rhythm in the middle section. “The Beacon” transitions flawlessly from double-speed black metal to an arena-ready chorus, and “Axioma” serves as an effective, moody intermission, splitting the album into equal halves. And “Axioma Ethica Odini” has a wild card: the Opeth-esque ballad “Night Sight,” a first from Enslaved

Vocalist/keyboardist Herbrand Larsen shines on this record, contributing more clean vocals than on previous Enslaved records. He sounds in top form, contrasting well with bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson’s punishing snarls. Guitarists Ivar Bjornson and Ice Dale lay down solid rhythms and interchange between wild shredding (“Singular”) and beautiful smooth leads (“Ethica Odini”), while drummer Cato Bekkevold keeps everything moving at tempos that would tax even veteran skinsmen over time.

Enslaved’s new album is music to conquer the world to, and it would make pop fans run screaming in terror at the first blast beat. Those traits alone would qualify “Axioma Ethica Odini”as a triumph, but none can forget that Enslaved are killer musicians who have been fighting the good metal fight with their cult following for almost 20 years. Punch play and prepare to have your world change radically forever.