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Enslaved Isa album cover
4.14 | 238 ratings | 14 reviews | 41% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2004

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Intro: Green Reflection (0:51)
2. Lunar Force (7:03)
3. Isa (3:46)
4. Ascension (6:45)
5. Bounded by Allegiance (6:38)
6. Violet Dawning (3:49)
7. Return to Yggdrasil (5:39)
8. Secrets of the Flesh (3:36)
9. Neogenesis (11:58)
10. Outro: Communion (0:56)

Total Time 51:01

Line-up / Musicians

- Grutle Kjellson / vocals, bass
- Ivar Bjørnson / guitar
- Arve Isdal / lead guitar
- Herbrand Larsen / keyboards, Hammond, piano, vocals
- Cato Bekkevold / drums

- Olve Eikemo ("Abbath") / vocals (2)
- Ted Arvid Skjellum ("Nocturno Culto") / vocals (3,5)
- Ofu Kahn / vocals (4)
- Stig Sandbakk / vocals (4,7)
- Are Mundal / performer (1,10)
- Dennis Reksten / synth (8)

Releases information

Artwork: Truls Espedal

CD Tabu Recordings ‎- TABU 007 (2004, Europe)

2xLP Back On Black ‎- BoBV001LP (2004, UK)

Thanks to ivansfr0st for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy ENSLAVED Isa Music

ENSLAVED Isa ratings distribution

(238 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(41%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(32%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

ENSLAVED Isa reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars ISA is the first album from Enslaved that I really like. I have listened the Below the lights and Monumensum but never found the charm. But I must say that I am awestrucken when listening to ISA. This is so beautiful in a cold and brutal way, just the way I like it. Enslaved mix death/ black metal with seventies prog rock ( Vintage keyboards) not unlike Opeth.

Enslaved uses both growling and clean vocals on ISA and it works perfectly. The growling vocals are too low in the mix for my taste but it´s nothing that overshadows the fact that ISA is a revelation for Enslaved. What a development from Below the Lights.

ISA is so perfect and balanced in any way possible ( except for the the low mix on the growling vocal), that this is a true masterpiece. Listen to songs like ISA, Bounded By Allegiance and the great epic Neogenesis. These songs are perfect examples of Enslaved´s brilliance. The songs are very atmospheric and the use of synth and keyboard in the songs makes the pretty simple metal riffing exciting. Enslaved is not a complex band by any means. They play pretty simple stuff, but spice it up with the aforementioned vintage synth/ Keyboard sounds and great atmospheric/ melodic singing.

This album deserves the masterpiece stamp, because the compositions are flawless and listening to this album from beginning to end gives me great pleasure every time. I´m sure that in 20 years this album will still be a classic in the Death metal/ Prog rock genre.

All hail Enslaved ( My nordic brothers)

Review by 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.

Review by Isa
5 stars |A| THE progressive black metal album for the ages. Period.

First, since this is my first masterpiece rating, I'm going to go ahead and clarify what I really mean when I award an album with such a title. There is a lot I expect out of a progressive album, and it's almost impossible for one to meet my expectations for deserving a golden masterpiece rating, a rating I reserve for only the best of the best. It must be an album that falls within my top 10%. Every track must be stunning, each having individual qualities that distinguish it from the others, yet at the same time altogether forming a cohesiveness rarely found in any albums out there (usually in concept albums). There must be few, if any, weak moments in the entire album. To me, there are three types of masterpieces. The first are the type that transcend beyond music itself to present an abstract concept relating to the human psyche, especially the subconscious, such as enlightenment (Close to the Edge), savagery (First Utterance), ect., obviously my favorite type. The second are those that are so perfectly written that they represent the best that a style of music can possibly sound, examples Selling England by the Pound and Miles Davis' Kind of Blue coming to mind. The third are the albums that do something so radically different than anything that's been done before that it reshaped and influenced music as we know it, such as ItCotCK or Hot Rats. Many of what I think of as masterpiece albums are two of these three combined. So as you can imagine, it's not too often I'll reward an album with such a rating.

Enslaved's eighth album, ISA, is easily the second type, and it meet's every bit of my expectations for a five star rating, possibly the greatest that black metal has and will ever sound, at these to these ears.

Enslaved is a black metal band from Norway (as many of them are), and one of the original pioneers of the second wave of the genre, before they even began adopting strong progressive influences into their music. From what I've gathered so far, the main song-writer for the band Ivar Bjørnson and bassist/guttural vocalist Kjellson (not coincidentally, the band's original founders) began listening to prog during the nineties, and started to gradually incorporate the style into their music just before the turn of the millennium, especially with Monumension, and increased the elements with each following album, similar to Opeth's discography. We find a greater use of keyboard, which is mostly used for atmosphere, more varied and flowing song structures, and more creative composition techniques, all while staying true to the style of music to which they first began. The lyrics are still in the vain of viking metal, though that's about all the band to do with viking metal, luckily. The music overall, the guitar work especially, has progressed to become much in the vain of Rush, King Crimson, and Pink Floyd, and perhaps even Tool, Porcupine Tree, and Anekdoten, bands that they site as primary influences in change of sound today. In a sense I've gotten an added personal bias for this band after recently seeing an interview of the bassists Grutle Kjellson's favorite album was MY favorite album of all time as well, Rush's Hemispheres. That caught me off guard, to say the least, and in his top five he mentioned Red and Dark Side of the Moon. I'm quite sure that I hear those albums in the band's music. Black metal influenced by those bands? What could be better than that?

They're a band that takes a bit of growing on you, or at least they were for me. I first had to get used to gutteral vocal styles, and extreme prog overall. My first experience with the band came from their 2008 release Vertebrae, which was the perfect album for me to be introduced to their music, as it is the most seventies prog sounding of their albums; I wasn't particularly awed, but still thoroughly impressed with the band's composition style. So I did a search on the band, and read a couple collaborator's 5/5 reviews on this album, praising it as a metal masterpiece. So I bought it, one of the few blind purchases I have and will ever make, and a first I was very skeptical that this album was better than Vertebrae, and was almost expecting to be disappointed. Upon the very first listen... WOW. The album, from the very first listen, was absolutely stunning. But I was still full of skepticism, as first impressions aren't always the most reliable. But lo and behold, each listen afterward it actually grew on me even more, now to the point where I regard it as having a special place in my top ten, maybe even five, depending on my mood, out of the hundreds of albums I've heard so far in my lifetime.

This is the NOT the type of progressive metal that utilizes all of the more cliche elements of prog that we all know and love, such as lengthy tracks, odd meter everywhere, and complicated instrumental arrangements. I love those cliches and I'm never afraid to admit it, but this is a different sort of beast, this is truly artistic, progressive black metal. The black metal component is true to the style, with gargling and scratching growls and heavily distorted guitar that works less as a melodic riff as more as rhythmic harmonic support for the texture of the music, but in itself is catchy enough to sound full and pleasing without a melody above it. All of the musicianship is more than competent, and proof of this is how well they play their music live. Progressive elements are similar to those of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, relying mostly on sound-scapes and atmospheric nuances to create a canvas of sound, rather than a melody that grabs your attention and "stuff" supporting it. This is probably the way black metal ought to progress since it is more sound-scape oriented in itself. It really is a wonderful combination, especially with the excellent use of keyboard in the album.

Everything in this album is borderline perfection, aside from a couple mixing flaws with the vocals and guitars here and there, something incredibly minor and not even very noticeable in most cases. It starts and ends with haunting keyboard sound-scapes, flowing right into the powerful Lunar Force, and the rest of the album escalates and rests between black metal heaviness and an atmospheric keyboard driven moment to breathe. The composition itself, the way the instruments' parts meld together, the chord changes, the riffs, the lyrics, the use of repetition... just about everything is perfectly in place for a meaningful purpose. There isn't a single moment listening to this album, not one, that I do not feel intoxicated by the brilliance and level of musical understanding that drips from this album.

Hell, I could go on for hours about this album, so I guess I'll end it with this concluding paragraph. This will forever hold a place in my special collection of the highest caliber of music for me to have heard in my life. Enslaved has become by far my favorite metal band in a matter of a few weeks, for there isn't an album I haven't heard of theirs (even their produced-quite-below-par debut album) in which I don't find great enjoyment. It's a wonder and a down right shame that this band isn't considered one of the prog metal giants up there with Dream Theater and Opeth, for I consider their music superior to that of those bands, and I do enjoy those bands. They've definitely gained great ground in the black metal community, but oddly enough, unlike Opeth, not the prog community. As a said before, this is a band that grows on you with some time, but I never expected them to top all the other metal bands of which I'd consider myself a big fan. And the album after this, Ruun, is certainly a great follow up to this amazing album. Usually when a band produces their best work, the next doesn't even compare, but Enslaved continues to release a solid album with every release. So, recommendations... who would I recommend this album to? Well certainly not the symphonic elitists, you guys STAY FAR AWAY from this album, you simply wouldn't understand it. However, if you're a fan of the heavier psychedelic music like Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Riverside, Tool, etc., listen to Vertebrae first, then move backwards, as I did. This album is absolutely essential in every sense of the word, except to those who consider music that isn't full of classical and jazz influences to be inferior. This will be one of the most proud masterpiece ratings I will ever give, for this is a band that gets so little attention when they deserve more than almost any metal band on this site. I have my tickets for the Opeth/Enslaved concert in May 16, and look forward to soaking in every moment of the performances of my two current favorite metal bands. Isa is a black metal masterpiece for the ages, and one of my favorite albums of all time.


Review by Dim
4 stars Isa is Norwegian black metal outfit Enlaved's eigth album, and while I do not own any of their earlier albums, I understand this is considered a huge breakthrough in their discography, and shows a huge progression towards a more cleaner and "progressive" sound. I'll start by saying that I dont consider myself a progressive rock fan, at least not the one I was two years ago. It seems every band (especially in the symphonic and classic prog metal genres) is trying to out cliche each other making double albums with no songs under five minutes long with the constant display of technical skill, and over used, over done, and overrated lyrics. With the acception of only a few bands, I dont listen to prog rock anymore, plain and simple, but one of those bands is this one.

Enslaved started as a seminal second wave black metal band, for those of you who do not know what that means, they developed their sound from thrash and death metal bands like Venom and Bathory, and created the more stereotypical black metal sound with Emperor, Darkthrone, Immortal, and Mayhem. After this period, they quickly distinguished themselves from the rest of the groups by adding viking metal lyrics, and progressive rock elements. Then came Isa, what many consider the perfect blend of black metal and prog rock. Creating dense atmospheres with keyboards/synths, combined with tremolo guitars that harmonize to make thick texturing, while also playing with a certain virtuosic skill that raised the bar high above the otherwise simple genre of music. Every song except the opener and closer is very uptempo'd and heavy. Distorted guitars, and Grutle's troll vocals dominate the soundscapes while the drumming is absolutely furious throughout the album, while synths set a cleansing backround.

You're probably asking now, what makes this album any different than one of Opeths or Agallochs? It's the black metal. Opeth concentratees on technical skill, and loud-soft passages, Agalloch on depressing neo-folk atmospheres, but Enslaved does not deviate from their genre, and instead of making prog rock with Black metal influences, they're a black metal group incorporating prog rock influences. Every song is solid. Lunar force starts the album out powerfully, Bounded by allegiance shows off their more progressive skill with excellent clean vocal harmonies, return to yggadisis has one of the better ambient soundscape sections this side of black metal, and NeoGenesis is simply one of the most monumntal songs I've ever heard. There is no weak track, but at the same time, there is that experimental quality that was in Ruun that seems missing in this one, while Isa as an album definately flows ten fold better than Ruun, their next album definately does seem to harmonize the more calmed and collected sound better than Isa.

This album is not a masterpiece to me, neither is Ruun, and vertebrae was actually a pretty big letdown for me, nonetheless this groups is so exciting, and seems to be my breath of fresh air in this ever more blanding and cliche'd genre. I just wish they had a little more exposure on the site, cause I know there are a lot more people that would like this group if they were to actively seek them out. Anyways, Isa gets a respectable four stars.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There's 2 types of Black Metal. Type one is ridiculously aggressive and boasts the worst possible production values in rock history. Type two is ridiculously orchestrated pomposity that is at the same time mostly blatantly commercial. A common feature of both manifestations would be the goofy corps paint!

There's a good chance you think like that and judging from what you've probably got in touch with you're entirely right. But did you know there was a third kind?

Yes indeed there is, hidden in the darkest corners of this vast legion of bands with unreadable logos there are a few bands, mostly the pioneers, that have lived up to the philosophy of black metal and managed to purge some excellent music out of it. You will hardly be surprised to hear that those bands gradually embraced progressive influences into their black muck. By means of a reference I would suggest 'Nemesis Divina' by Satyricon, 'At The Heart of Winter' by Immortal and the album under dissection here: Enslaved's Isa.

Isa finds Enslaved 9 albums into their career and concludes 6 consecutive years of awesome Enslaved creativity. By then most of the black metal roots had been wrought into something more digestible. By avoiding the typical blast beats and murky production and by adding decent clean singing, Enslaved serves an album of beautiful songs varying between catchy grooves, an occasional melody and laid-back atmospheric sections. Think Voivod mixed with Opeth doing black metal.

This is still very harsh and aggressive music so don't go in if you're not into some darker prog already. But if you like Voivod or Opeth and you can overcome your initial repulsion at the black metal rasps; you're in for a treat.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I've never been much of a Black Metal fan even though I not only live in the 'right' region but also am in the right generational age gap to fit in as the genre's follower. Most of the so called 'classic' Black Metal material from bands like Immortal and Mayhem are barely listenable due to the terrible production. Maybe I'm just not that big fan of music if I let small things like production get in the way of things? Then again, others could claim the complete opposite! Either way, the whole combination of high-pitched guitar tones and a great deal of distortion together with poor vocals and inaudible bass, makes me shiver whenever I think about it.

Having said that, I've still been drawn to this odd genre, on a number of occasions, only to immediately retract in shivering horror. The same thing happened when I initially listened to Enslaved; a Black Metal/Viking Metal band with somewhat of a following and even some critical praise. I listened to their five track - 50 minute debut album(!), Vikingligr Veldi, and it was pretty bad to say the least. Naturally, when a friend of mine recommended me Isa, I became highly critical of the whole idea of revisiting Enslaved. But after receiving an offer that I couldn't refuse, I came home with a borrowed copy of Isa in my hands!

My first reaction to what I heard was a confusing one since there was very little traditional Black Metal to be found on this entire album. Instead it was a highly pleasant combination of Extreme Metal mixed with some Progressive Metal elements. If my memory serves me right, there was even a Mellotron(!) listed among Herbrand Larsen's arsenal in the liner notes, even though it must have been barely audible. The songs are quite lovely and very memorable, which is something that I can't say about any of the other Black Metal music that I've heard up to that point. Neogenesis was obviously the highlight of the set, a 12 minute epic that sounds almost as if it was performed by Mikael Åkerfeldt and his band. When you think about it, the man pictured on the album cover of Eld does resemble Åkerfeldt a lot! I'm talking about the way Micke looks in person when you meet him on the street on a Sunday stroll through town.

It's been a pleasure revisiting Isa on Spotify and I hope that many more will follow my example here. An excellent piece of music, well worth your attention!

***** star songs: Isa (3:46) Neogenesis (11:58)

**** star songs: Intro: Green Reflection (0:51) Lunar Force (7:03) Ascension (6:45) Bounded By Allegiance (6:38) Violet Dawning (3:49) Return To Yggdrasill (5:39) Secrets Of The Flesh (3:36) Outro: Communion (Excerpt) (0:56)

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Isa' - Enslaved (71/100)

On paper at least, Enslaved would appear like a dream come true to me. Unlike a lot of others, who got their start in black metal through Darkthrone and Bathory, I initially became interested in the genre because a fervent obsession with progressive rock ultimately led me there. Keeping in mind this is going back almost a decade ago, I may have expected a band like Enslaved to bridge the gap between sounds for me.

Strangely enough, where it was actually more abstract black metal acts like Deathspell Omega and Blut aus Nord that finally sold me, there are stretches of Enslaved's extensive career that have always left me cold for one reason or another - at least colder than the popular opinion would tend to indicate is normal. Of these, Isa's possibly the most frustrating. I know black metal fans and proggers alike that rank it among the best of the new millennium. Is there something I'm missing here? Isa is as crisp and refined an album as they come, but for its many strengths, it missed out on the essential blackened atmosphere I'd hope to have heard on it.

Isa unfortunately represents one of those albums where I'm usually quick to criticize whenever it comes up. Very few things about it actually strike me as being weak, but in light of the lavish praise fans heap upon it, I usually feel like the odd one out. Although the proggy influence was apparent as early on as Vikingligr veldi, Isa (released a decade after the debut) finally brought Enslaved to the point where the lines between genres were blurred. Compared to the Floydian homages in Mardraum and Monumension, Isa embraces the complete fusion of those elements. With it came an extremely modern-sounding production sheen. The comparisons I could make between this and Blackwater Park are many. For Enslaved and Opeth alike, these albums represented the point where their maturation came full-force. The progressive draw ceased to be experimental, instead coming off as a second nature derived from what they'd grown up listening to. This ultimate maturation isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the integration of these elements doesn't sound as daring as it did on their less polished efforts.

This wasn't a one-way street for Enslaved. My favourite albums from Enslaved lie on both chronological sides of Isa. The polished sophistication would lead them to masterpieces with Vertebrae and Axioma Ethica Odini. In a way, Isa may have represented a more daring risk towards alienating the blackened sector of their fanbase, but the potential of progressive rock was put to far better use later on. For the sake of Isa, you can tell the prog influences run deep and heavy here, but the wild potential of their sound is kept on a very tight leash. I've joked a few times that Enslaved are the AC/DC of progressive black metal. The comparison has nothing to do with the latter's waning quality so much as the incredibly clean way their otherwise heavy music is executed. Whether Isa may be seen as black, Viking, progressive, whatever, there's an overwhelming sense that Isa was recorded with too much emphasis on refinement and clarity. The guitars sound ridiculously controlled for a black metal album, and the dominant mid-pace of the music serves to intensify the issue. On the other hand, in spite of this overly refined sound, Isa surprisingly manages to nail an organic, warm-sounding production.

I remember being bored to tears of Isa when I first heard it in high school. As years have gone on, my appreciation has grown in some ways, stagnated in others. In particular, the songwriting has stood out to me more on more recent listens. Although "Lunar Force" and "Isa" strike me as overplayed by this point, the album's deep cuts have plenty to offer. "Ascension", "Violet Dawning" and the twelve minute "Neogenesis" have become some of my favourite Enslaved songs. The tendency for slower songs doesn't interest me on average as much as the biting early material, but Isa has more going on for it than I first gave it credit for. Even so, my lasting impression of Isa is as the overgrown "middle child" of Enslaved's canon. It may have brought new maturity to their sound, but it would be a couple of albums still before they finally became masters of it.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Isa sees the mighty Enslaved longslip sailing further into progressive metal territory whilst still managing to keep the black metal flag flying high. I get the impression listening to it that the band had been listening to Porcupine Tree's In Absentia a lot during the recording process, because they take a similar approach to incorporating extended spacey but still recognisably metallic instrumental interludes into their compositions; either way, the band find no need to compromise their aggressive roots, with frenzied vocals and devastating walls of guitar reminding us that this is very much still a black metal band we are dealing with. Is it still progressive black metal, or have they crossed the line into blackened progressive metal? That's down for the listener to judge, but for my part I think they walk the tightrope pretty damn well.
Review by CCVP
4 stars Crossing the Rubicon: Enslaved's point of no return towards excellence

I do not like black metal, never did. Black metal as a genre, for me, ever sounded like a bunch of people trying too hard to be something they are not, or a desperate way for sociopaths to find some sort of meaning in their lives or even a mere mean to get money using the genre's shock value. I am not alone here; many people think the same way I do. Some of those people, however, have much stronger feelings towards black metal and defend the idea that this genre of music should be wiped out of popular music, an opinion I definitively do not share with them because I know that, in rock music, there will be eventually someone who will be able to cross that line, someone or somebody who will be able to trample the commonplace and the shallow aspects of a genre, inspiring for greatness and wishing to break away from the cliches and the overdone stuff.

Enslaved is this somebody.

Yes, in spite of having rather strong feelings against black metal, Enslaved managed to find a place within my heart because of their will to strive for becoming better and better in each passing release, they try and out do themselves every time they release an album, either slightly changing their musical direction or harnessing in one single record their best possible compositions. In fact, they ONLY release an album if they feel that whatever they wrote is good enough, if it is well developed enough to make into a record. That is what first captured my attention about them.

Indeed, this band's wish for being better is what, in fact, makes it progressive. That is the same spirit as the guys from the 1970's had: make rock (or in this case, black metal) better. The many influences from moody, psychedelic and space progressive rock artists also help a lot in that regard, but even so the influences aren't apparent, they mainly serve as a mean to find a direction to their music, where to take it, how to make it twist and turn, how to develop their melodies and musical ideas in general. For that, in spite of having clear musical references, it is possible to note that Enslaved's music evolves as does the music of Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Klaus Schultze, Hawkwind and Nektar.

Starting as a normal and rather generic, I would say, black metal act, they slowly evolved into something else and their 2004 album, Isa, is the point where they leave for good normal black metal territory. The two albums that came before, Monumension and Below the Lights, already showed or preceded that this would be the direction the band would eventually would take, although both were not so pronounced in the progressive territory, specially with songs such as The Crossing (from Below the Lights) and The Sleep: Floating Diversity - A Monument Part III (from Monumension).

Isa, however, is from start to finish a wave of moody emotions, an ever changing pallet spacial sonic blasts. Every song sets a melodic mood and develops it to the best it can (with the exceptions of the Intro and the Outro), having one song evolving into another. In fact, the album seems to have different chapters, where a series of songs evolves into one another, being divided into three parts: the first would be formed by Lunar Force - Isa - Ascension - Bounded by Allegiance; the second, by Violet Dawning and Return to Yggdrasil; the last by Secrets of the Flesh and Neogenesis. In the last part's case, Secrets of the Flesh serves almost as an introduction to the epic Neogenesis, where all the albums amounts to, where it spectacularly culminates to: an intergalactic metal voyage though the stars and planes of existence, much like the in space rock; as mentioned, however, I cannot hear any clear influences from this genre of music, but the idea is clearly there. The interesting use of both clean and harsh vocals helps to stress this as a whole.

Although the album has many positive qualities, I must say that it isn't all perfect. The only thing I would put as not being quite good is the mastering, which the band maintained as the usual dirty and raw black metal production is; that I definitively do not like. The other down thing are the compositions. Yes, they are very good, as a whole, but they aren't quite as strong as they are in future albums, such as Vertebrae and RIITIIR, my two favorites from Enslaved and the band's high-water marks. Here in Isa, despite being clearly directed at the progressive side of it, the band's music still retains too much of its black metal roots what, at times, keeps them from developing more some of their songs, as is the case with Lunar Force and Violet Dawning. That does not mean the songs are bad, but I think they had the potential to be much better. Obviously, the best songs are those of which who Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson managed to develop their ideas the best, like Isa, Ascension, Bounded by Allegiance and Neogenesis.

Rating and Final Thoughts

Isa is Enslaved's most beloved album by its fans and admirers for being the point in which the band fuses both its previous and future sounds the best: it has the visceral black metal from their earlier albums, but also has the technical as well as the well developed and written parts from their future progressive(r) releases. For me, however great this combination might be for the more eager fans of the blacker half of of Enslaved, feel that some of this album's magic is lost though the black metal repetitive relentlessness, that keeps this from being a perfect album. For this, I firmly believe that the most appropriate rating for this album is four stars.

Latest members reviews

5 stars On "Isa", Enslaved reached the new artistic peak in terms of combining extreme metal (black/death) with progressive rock and metal elements. I would even say that black metal ingredients are quite limited here with the exception of raspy vocals. Musicianship is refined, with attention to deta ... (read more)

Report this review (#2438952) | Posted by sgtpepper | Tuesday, August 18, 2020 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Oddly I find that this album does not live up to the same standards of the other Enslaved albums from Monumension onward. In my opinion there is one stellar track - Bounded by Allegiance and one good track - Return to Yggdrasil. In fact these together are good enough to warrant this as necessary lis ... (read more)

Report this review (#1468704) | Posted by EMLonergan | Tuesday, September 22, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I first discovered Enslaved a few years ago, I had only been able to acquire their album Monumension, which slowly grew on me, but at which time I had read many good things of Isa but never found an opportunity to actually listen to the whole thing. Until one day I found it in a record store in L ... (read more)

Report this review (#226921) | Posted by Waldo | Wednesday, July 15, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is an amazing album by one of the leading 2nd Wave Norwegian Back Metal band. Enslaved built a reputation in the black metal scene with great releases such as Vikingligr Veldi, Blodhemn and Eld, but it wasn't until their 5th studio release Mardraum: Beyond the Within did they really begin to ... (read more)

Report this review (#218502) | Posted by Wintersun | Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is definitely my favorite album by Enslaved. They are a black metal band that has come to put progressive leanings into their music, and do it just as well as Opeth, in my opinion. Strong influences are Pink Floyd and King Crimson (and some others I think), and some slight hints of viking folk ... (read more)

Report this review (#204119) | Posted by The 7 Spheres | Monday, February 23, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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