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Enslaved - Isa CD (album) cover

ISA

Enslaved

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.19 | 165 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars When I reviewed IHSAHN's first album, a few weeks ago, I said that it was my first experience with true progressive-black metal. Now, after listening to ENSLAVED, I have to clarify some points.

IHSAHN's music was black metal, sure, but what made it progressive, for me, was the usual elements of the genre like odd time signatures, virtuosic instrumental passages, great variation between songs and within songs, the addition of more instruments, unusual structures and use of clean vocals. The recording was crystal clear. In a few words, IHSAHN sounded like a mix of black metal with bands like SYMPHONY X or DREAM THEATER.

What has astounded me about ENSLAVED is that this band, unlike IHSAHN, still sounds like black metal, only a progressed version of the genre. In Isa we don't find that many odd time signatures, we don't find too many virtuosic solos, sudden tempo changes or abrupt displays of technical prowess; in this record most of the songs share the same spirit, the instruments are pretty much the standard for black metal, as are the structures, a little chaotic and difficult to figure out at times. There are clean vocals here, but 75 percent of the time we have honest-to-god (or Satan should I say) high-pitched guttural devilish vocals. Even the recording is not entirely pristine, though million times better than the typical for the Norwegian founders (MAYHEM, DARKTHRONE, IMMORTAL, EMPEROR). In a word: this is still black metal!

But progressive-black metal. And I don't have a doubt about that. This is the real thing. Not that IHSAHN isn't as good (I gave it 5 stars after all), but whereas that felt like the genre being mixed with another, ENSLAVED plays the music as it has always been, but has progressed and progressed their music in a way that's new for me.

The songs, as I said, are a little chaotic in structure, but in this case this is not a problem, it only adds to the effect, the dark, desolating effect of this music. Most of the times it's played at middle tempos, in what may be the main divergence between this music and traditional Norwegian black-metal. But we have some tremolo-picking here and there, though, as I said, it's in the speed and in the atmosphere where ENSLAVED really takes the genre a step further.

"Isa" is full of atmosphere. It's a dark, evil album, but most of all a lonely, desolate, hopeless experience. In a way, at times it sounds very close to post-metal, to bands like AGALLOCH (coincidentally, that band tends to use black-metal-style vocals in their albums). The climate is one of pessimism, of defeat, which is a norm in nihilist black-metal, but now, with this extremely grey, slow, pensive music, it acquires a different, more real meaning.

The songs are of varied length and quality, but all of them at least manage to impress. Without a question, the highlights in the album are the title-track, probably the more accessible song; "Neogenesis", the longest one and the most full of surprises; and the absolute best, the magnificent "Bounded by Allegiance", which grabbed me from the very first time I heard it.

Small details are so important in music, and ENSLAVED pay a lot of attention to them, something quite radical in such a raw genre. Solos, scales, keyboards touches, arpeggios, all collide to create a fantastic voyage through the ice-cold seas of Scandinavia into the Maelstrom of Hell.

A masterpiece of extreme-progressive music. I'm surprised it's not mentioned more often in talks about the best the genre has to offer. But it certainly is a shining example.

The T | 5/5 |

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