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Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Thorn' - Enslaved (8/10)

To be honest, I often don't pay that much attention to EPs, much less care about them. To me, the majority of bands use them either to tease their listeners into wanting a full-length more, or- worse yet- it's where the half-baked material goes, the songs that weren't quite good enough to be seen on a real album. That being said, the concept of a shorter musical listening experience has been gaining some momentum lately in the modern music industry. Especially now with the advent of widespread downloading, a shorter record is now feasible, both for the artist and the listeners themselves. While I do hope that the true album form is never toppled, it's great to hear something new in between longer albums that keeps me excited about what a band is doing, and Norway's Enslaved is doing just that. Earlier this year, they released 'The Sleeping Gods', a five song mini-album that was released freely and was quite impressive, especially from the fact that it was produced only months after their big opus 'Axioma Ethica Odini'. Now, a few months later, Enslaved follows up 'The Sleeping Gods' with a second EP, this time a two-song deal called 'Thorn'. While a release that is scarcely over ten minutes long would rarely stir anything in me, I have found myself very attracted to the new sounds that Enslaved are dabbling with here; this is something that an Enslaved fan should not miss out on.

While their trademark sound was pretty much intact on 'The Sleeping Gods', 'Thorn' takes things in a fairly different direction. Enslaved are still playing black metal, but this a very atmospheric breed of it that is closer to Drudkh or even tourmates Alcest than anything they have done before. The tracks are both similar, but distinguishable from each other. 'Disintegrator' is a mid-tempo nature worshiping piece that could have been plucked right from Drudkh's 'Autumn Aurora' record. The guitars are scarcely technical anymore, but instead aiming to create a sort of hypnotizing trance, while the vocals are generally loose and more for the sake of adding ambiance than leading the band. 'Striker' sounds a little closer to the Enslaved we already know, although the trends that started with 'Disintegrator' have not been left behind. The songs are each a side of the same coin; repetitive, dense, and above all else, atmospheric. I can certainly see some feeling disenchanted with this move that Enslaved have made, but I think they do it wonderfully. Could I see the band doing an entire album like this? It's still hard to tell, but I do feel that they have done about as much as they can with their current progressive metal sound, and perhaps 'Thorn' is a way for them to test the waters and try out something before making the full investment. As far as I'm concerned, I am now much more excited to hear what Enslaved will do in the future, knowing that there is this question as to whether they will evolve their sound, and as far as this sample goes, I think it could be a very good thing.

Report this review (#549855)
Posted Thursday, October 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Surprising single from Enslaved that moves away entirely from the progressive black metal that they were so kind to bring to perfection on 'Axioma Ethica Odini'. Also the earlier 2011 release "The Sleeping Gods" didn't prepare for the direction Enslaved takes on the two songs here. The approach is much simplified and minimal, a stark midpaced 4/4 beat drives both songs forward while thick layers of keyboards, organs and distant guitars go through slow changing chords. It's all rather abstract and bleak while the vocals are persistently harsh and black.

I'm not sure yet where this is going to but it sounds like Enslaved is experimenting with type of minimalistic symphonic black drone metal that might announce a drastic shift in style. We'll see. Kudos to the guys for letting go of what they had perfected and bringing us something else instead. If they want to do an entire album of this they will need to work on adding more distinguishable elements into the songwriting though, but as a 2-track single this is quite satisfying.

Report this review (#568048)
Posted Tuesday, November 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Thorn" is a 7" vinyl EP release by Norwegian black/progressive metal act Enslaved. The two track EP was released through Soulseller Records in August 2011 and is limited to 1000 copies. Enslaved have been really productive in recent years and "Thorn" is their second 2011 EP.

Fortunately being productive doesn't always mean that you don't release high quality material and that is certainly the case when speaking of Enslaved. The two tracks on "Thorn" might not quite reach the hights of their best material but we're still talking intriguing and unique sounding black metal. Actually by now it's probably wrong to call Enslaved a black metal act, as they have long ago transcended that genre term. Progressive extreme metal sounds better to my ears. The two tracks on "Thorn" are in a more ambient/atmospheric extreme metal style than usual for the band, but it's still unmistakably the sound of Enslaved. The raspy vocals by Grutle Kjellson are in place and as always the intrumental performances are also of high quality. Not that much actually happens in the two tracks on the EP in terms of powerful riffing or rythmic variation. Both tracks are pretty repetitive and feature epic ambient keyboards as one of the main elements. There are plently of dark atmosphere too keep "Thorn" an interesting release though. even though I prefer Enslaved's more "regular" music style more than the ambient style they present on "Thorn", they are still skilled enough to pull this off with ease and conviction and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#766699)
Posted Friday, June 8, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm not a black metal fan generally, or its sibling subgenre death metal. The black metal label attached to a band would not be incentive enough for me to seek out their music. What makes Enslaved one of my favorite bands, along with Leprous and My Dying Bride to name two black metal-influenced bands, is how they've added other elements. They've adapted a very limited form of music into something interesting. I can't think of a better definition of "progressive." That being said, I wouldn't pick Thorn as a starting point for this band. I agree with the general consensus that The Sleeping Gods is a better release. The two songs here are a little too repetitive and ambient. Of the two, I like "Striker" more. I don't want to be unnecessarily harsh; Enslaved's music is always interesting. This is just isn't on the same level as much of their material; it doesn't exhibit the same creativity and progress as their other releases. Therefore, I'm going to give it three stars.
Report this review (#1294412)
Posted Monday, October 20, 2014 | Review Permalink

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