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Enslaved Vertebrae album cover
4.07 | 114 ratings | 10 reviews | 37% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Clouds (6:09)
2. To the Coast (6:27)
3. Ground (6:38)
4. Vertebrae (5:01)
5. New Dawn (5:23)
6. Relections (7:45)
7. Center (7:33)
8. The Watcher (4:11)

Total time: 49:07


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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Ivar Bjørnson / guitars, keyboards
- Grutle Kjellson / vocals, bass
- Arve Isdal ( Ice Dale) / guitar
- Herbrand Larsen / keyboards, vocals
- Cato Bekkevold / drums

Releases information

Label: Indie Recordings
Released: September 29th, 2008 ( Europe)
Released: October 28th, 2008 (US)
Produced by: Ivar Bjørnson, Herbrand Larsen and Grutle
Mixed by: Joe Barresi
mastered by: George Marino in Sterling Sound

Thanks to UMUR for the addition
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$11.30 (used)
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Vertebrae - Limited 2 CD Box Set by Enslaved (2009-05-11)Vertebrae - Limited 2 CD Box Set by Enslaved (2009-05-11)
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Audio CD$74.28
Enslaved Vertebrae (Vinyl Double Album)Enslaved Vertebrae (Vinyl Double Album)

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ENSLAVED Vertebrae ratings distribution

(114 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(37%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

ENSLAVED Vertebrae reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Dim
3 stars I hate to be the devils advocate, and I love how this album has really gained some appreciation on the site, thus furthering the bands popularity here, but I cant help but say that this is a very flawed album. Isa and Ruun are both very good albums, almost masterpieces. Dynamic, fast, aggressive, everything you'd expect from a black metal band, but with a progressive edge that plays a huge role in the bands music. A larger progressive edge then the other other "progressive" black bands I've heard have accomplished. I don't know what happened, but Grutle and the gang really dropped the ball on this one though.

One reason I love this band so much is because they helped keep alive the progressive spark that sounds so fresh and original, and when compared to the "progressive" artists of today, I almost gag with how utterly cheesy and unoriginal almost all the retro artists are (if not all of them). On Vertebrae though, Enslaved almost joins the "regressive" band wagon sadly. The tempos are slowed down, and almost every song seems to be going at the same pace. Even the songs that seem to start off fast and heavy, such as New Dawn and The watcher lost my attention less then half way through the song. The energy seems almost completely sucked from the band, the riffs aren't as fun, the drums not nearly as busy, and the vocals just sound straight up board, which leads me to my next biggest problem; the vocals. For some reason the group decided it was a good idea to over mix the vocals to the point where when Grutle is singing his harsh vocals, you can hear the spittle, and nastyness that's going on in his throat, and it's the same situation for the growling vocals too. Not only does it make the vocals sound real bad, but really bored as well, compared to their previous two albums, it sounds like they're barely trying.

While there are redeeming qualities, such as the few guitar solo's, the the particularly good track "To the Coast", Vertebrae was a serious disappointment, especially when matched up to the ever more flourishing progressive/atmospheric black metal scene. I honestly don't know what to expect from this band next. Should I pursue the next album with excitement, or should I wait to see what the fan base says, or here a sample before I invest? We'll just have to see in a year or so, but I doubt it would be a stretch to say that this band has reached their peak... I can only pray that that's not the case. 2 Stars.

Review by Bonnek
Bonnek avatar
3 stars Another dense and difficult album from Enslaved. It is particularly frustrating because it constantly hints at an enormous potential of the music. Unfortunately this potential gets realized only very sparsely. The blame is largely on the vocals. First of all, I've really had it with these black metal rasps. They were very effective on Blodhemn and Mardraum, but they sound awkward and do not fit the more laidback style of music that Enslaved has adapted since. Now, I hear you say "but they use a lot of clean vocals as well now". Well that's true, but those are even less satisfying. The melodies are underdeveloped and the singer's voice is monotonous and emotionless. My conclusion is that even though 21st century Enslaved has the potential to be another Opeth, they will never live up to it.
Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A flawed album that still manages to capture some of the magic of 2004's near- perfect "Isa".

In "Vertebrae", ENSLAVED all but eliminate all traces of black metal sound from their music. Sure, the vocals are still high-pitched guttural growls in the style of the most evil of metal genres, but that's about the only element that regularly reminds us of the ENSLAVED of "Frost" or "Vikingligr Veldi". The music, in general, has taken a more contemporary- melodic-extreme-metal approach, with slower songs, less emphasis in blast beats and tremolo riffs, a little bit less of that dark atmosphere typical of the genre, and a crystal-clear production (that the band had started adopting long ago anyway). The violence is still there, but now it is much more tamed, much less in-your-face.

ENSLAVED, though, has learned to really rock. The Norwegian band, in their best moments in "Vertebrae", delivers powerfull riffs with a lot of groove and kinetic energy in a way that they weren't used to in the past. Mixing that with their typical progressive elements, like the use of keyboards and special structures, makes for a very interesting kind of metal, less black, less menacing, but also a little bit more contagious.

The songs are a little simpler than in the previous albums, with a stronger emphasis put on melody and actually sung vocals, bringing the band closer to Swedish-style death metal than to the Norwegian black-metal roots of their past. Clean vocals are used much more frequently now, and it's common for choruses to be doubled in a style somewhat reminiscent of the machine-like voices of CYNIC's "Focus", though in a much more natural, human-sounding way. This creates a nice balance of chaos and melody, and brings the music of the quintet a step closer to more experimental, post-metal-like styles of extreme music.

There are a few less-than great songs in the album but also there's a few that really stand out. My two favorites are two of the most "rocking" ones, "Clouds", with its fantastic quasi- electronic intro, and "Relections", with an amazing riff that moves forward with the energy of thunder, balanced with short slower-tempo sections with a fantastic use of the cymbals by the drummer.

All in all, a very good album that comes highly recommended. Still not in the same league as "Isa", but then again, very few extreme-metal albums are.

Review by Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Vertebrae' - Enslaved (9/10)

In the traditionally frostbitten, 'kvlt' world of black metal, there are few groups that opt to go beyond the call of duty and offer something truly fresh to the scene. With legions of tunic garbed, corpse paint-caked kids out there trying to respark the glory of classic black metal legends in the vein of Burzum and Immortal, it is all the more of a system shock when a band like Enslaved comes along. With the courage to spite the 'tr00' fans of the genre and approach black metal with a 'no holds barred' mentality, these Norweigian metallers have fashioned 'Vertebrae,' only among the latest of a long string of albums that distinguish themselves from what can be considered one of metal's most inconsistent genres.

Enslaved uses black metal as the foundation for 'Vertebrae,' but approaches it much differently than most BM oriented groups. Over the course of the album, sounds ranging from that of psychedelia to classic rock and post rock are mixed into the stirring pot. While Enslaved certainly doesn't hide the fact they are influenced by a multitude of 70's rock groups (a rare trend for a black metal band,) they use the inspiration to create something that is unique and fresh. It is not a shocking occurence on 'Vertebrae' for rapidfire guitar riffage and black metal shrieks to casually give way for some laid back psychedelic ambience and a cool tenor voice. It's this seamless combination of dynamic and contrast in the songwriting that makes 'Vertebrae' one of the most powerful black metal records I have ever heard.

Contrary to most black metal, the production here is crystal clear; every instrument and note can be heard in all of it's glory. To that effect, it can sound a bit awkward to hear typical black metal screams over an otherwise clean and polished metal soundscape. For all of it's vibrance, compositional intelligence and emotional resonance, something concerning the transition between a few tracks also feels a bit unsettled. While the music itself flows properly and agreeably, a few songs feel like they were spliced out of a larger track and thrown into the middle of an album; although I'm sure many people could listen through the course of 'Vertebrae' and not even notice the origin of the complaint.

One thing that 'Vertebrae' does share with the rest of black metal however, is the concentration on atmosphere. The quality of any and all black metal can be considered based on the level and intensity of the atmosphere it evokes. To that end, 'Vertebrae' proves that it's possible to give a beautiful and all-the-more haunting vibe in music with a beautiful layer of production. A real masterpiece, and if you have never listened to black metal before, this is a perfect place to start your journey.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Vertebrae" is the 10th full-length studio album by Norwegian black metal/ progressive metal act Enslaved. The album was released in September 2008 by Indie Recordings. Enslaved have gradually, over the course of now many albums, incorporated more and more 70s influenced progressive rock elements into their basic black metal sound and the outcome have been refined with each new release. The inevitable consequence of this, has been that many of their original black metal fans have slowly left the fan ranks. Enslaved need not to worry though as they are succeeded in building a dedicated fanbase who are waiting for each new progressive black metal release with great anticipation.

While Enslaved have always stayed somewhat true to their black metal roots on all preceeding releases, "Vertebrae" is sure to test even the most loyal fan though, as just about the only feature that is related to black metal on this album, is the raspy raw vocal delivery by lead vocalist/ bassist Grutle Kjellson. The rest of the music can loosely be called progressive metal. We are of course not talking progressive metal in the conventional sense and "Vertebrae" is focused on atmosphere rather than technical playing. In addition to the extreme vocals by Grutle Kjellson, keyboard player Herbrand Larsen delivers clean vocals and the combination of the two vocal styles generally work very well. The music is dynamic and shifts between mid-paced heavy sections and more mellow slower sections. The influence from 70s progressive rock is mostly heard in the mellow atmospheric sections and it´s artists like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Rush and Hawkwind I´m reminded of when I listen to the music. Enslaved are a unique act though and there´s nothing here that sounds like it´s blantantly ripped-off or anything like that, I just pick up a sound or an idea here and there that is greatly influenced by some of the great progressive acts from the 70s. All influences are seamlessly combined into a sound that is unmistakably the sound of Enslaved though. The use of organ and mellotron gives the music a warm laidback feel, that I again associate with 70s progressive rock.

The 49:07 minute long album contains 8 tracks. Like all earlier releases by the band, "Vertebrae" has taken a while for me to absorb. It´s not that the music is especially complicated or technically challenging, but the melodies and hooks took me a while to appreciate. That´s a personal experience though and others might pick up on the music much faster than I did. One of the things I´ve noticed about the album is that it continuously grows on me and new details and layers in the music reveal themselves with each listen. It´s one of the features I´m always searching for in music and "Vertebrae" more than delivers in that respect. Instantly likeable albums have a tendency to become tiring after few listens, so an album like "Vertebrae", which offers new details with every listen, is right down my alley. The albums starts with three fantastic tracks in "Clouds", "To the Coast" and "Ground", but also the epic "Reflection" and the post-metal tinged "Center" deserve a special mention. Actually all songs deserve a special mention because the album is through and through a strong release. A great dark and melancholic ( and at times slightly uplifting) atmospheric journey.

I´ve been very impressed by other Enslaved albums in the past but "Vertebrae" is probably the album by the band that so far has impressed me the most. A strong love for 70s progressive rock probably helps on the fact that I like this album so much, but the album isn´t all mellow and progressive. There are plenty of metal riffing here too, so don´t worry that the band have gone too soft to make your head bang. The aggression is of course a bit more reserved than on earlier releases but this is still extreme metal ( albeit mostly because of the raspy vocal delivery). "Vertebrae" is to my ears a complete release with very few flaws. Excellent organic production, great musicianship and intriguing clever compositions paves the way for a 5 star rating.

Review by Warthur
4 stars For the first moment or so of album opener Clouds it almost sounds as though Enslaved have gone full-blown New Age with this release, with gently tinkling keyboards suggesting an ambient trip through gentle, relaxing soundscapes. The album offers nothing of the sort, of course: within seconds, the ugly, raw guitar assault bubbling under the surface has burst forth. A little more diversified in sound than the preceding Ruun, there's points where Enslaved unashamedly rock out, throwing in traditional heavy metal riffs to their now-expected amalgam of spacey progressive metal and frosty viking black metal. On the whole, it's another success from one of the most enduringly interesting bands of the Norwegian scene.

Latest members reviews

4 stars A more raw approach with this album, and while not as strong as Ruun this album is still a great piece in the puzzle that is Enslaved. The first 2 songs CLOUDS and TO THE COAST start this album of fantasticly, i think it goes a wee bit downhill from there though with the songs sounding to much t ... (read more)

Report this review (#285159) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Saturday, June 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Vertebrae" is an excellent album by a great band. It may take a few listenings for the brilliant moments of the album to shine out, but once you know the album, there is no escaping the fact that it's great. People unaccustomed to the rough black metal vocals may have a hard time, since that is ... (read more)

Report this review (#217968) | Posted by topofsm | Sunday, May 24, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Enslaved's Vertebrae is a masterpiece of extreme progressive music in my opinion. In NO way is it a step in the wrong direction for this incredible band hailing from the dreary village of Bergen. I see it as a natural step, utilizing phenomenal attention to details and harmony throughout the entire ... (read more)

Report this review (#199563) | Posted by johan15 | Saturday, January 17, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars With the release of their tenth studio album Vertebrae, Enslaved continue to demonstrate their ability as innovators within the realm of progressive black metal. Ivar Bjørnson & crew's songwriting seems to get better with each album, and Vertebrae is no exception. The record starts off with th ... (read more)

Report this review (#199250) | Posted by Altair | Thursday, January 15, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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