Enslaved - Ruun - Candlelight Records 2006
Running Time: 46:03
Somber strings give way to Bathory-fuelled Nordic stomp, guitars as robust as they are dangerous, hacking with staccato precision beneath the gravelled snarl of Grutle. Yes, this is Enslaved as it ever was, only more. More what? More chaotic, more beholden to their historic coldness than we've heard them in years. The progression hinted at in Below The Lights and pushed to the foreground of Isa is now fully realized without giving in to Opethian meanderings. Don't miss the harmony vocals either, for when the more melodic tone of Herbrand joins Grutle above the blastbeats which carry us to the end of "Entroper", it's pure blackened majesty. "Path To Vanir" takes a more direct approach, driving rock backed by organic keyboards making up the lion's share of this song. A subtle guitar interlude builds into pastoral Pink Floyd tones, only jolt the listener from reverie for the coda, and the fiery start of "Fusion Of Sense And Earth". As speed-driven as "Fusion..." is, the imperial riff that blindsides the blastbeats at 1:48 is what makes the song for me, and careens into finest leadwork to be found on Ruun as a whole, Enslaved creating some impeccable fusion of their own. The title track is mesmerizing, giving itself over to the progressive induglences of each member simultaneously. It's all here, from muted organic harmonies (both vocal and musical) to riffwork perfectly capable of slicing through icebergs, so skillful is the delivery. For those who long for the misanthropy of Enslaved of yore, "Times Of Chaos" will seem a return to those disturbing days. For newcomers, the careening guitars and first verse of "I've got this twisted chord / I've got this noose around my neck / I've got this dream in which I kill you all." find Grutle flinging bits of his esophagus across the studio walls, giving birth to his fiercest vocal performance in quite some time. Over the past few albums, Enslaved have become masters of blooming progressive virtuosity on the branches sprung forth from the frigidity of their pagan roots, and "Essence" is no exception. "Api-vat" continues the genre-melding, Enslaved tossing in the occasional thrash gallop near song's end as kind of a guilty pleasure. It's a more straightforward number than most of what's found on Ruun, though, and could blow past someone not able to give "Api-vat" the attention it deserves for the impressive leadwork, if no other reason. A rolling bassline that begins "Heir To The Cosmic Seed" continues unabated as the band dips their collective fingers once more in the deep well of Opeth prog for the finale.
Over the years, Enslaved have surpassed most of their Scandinavian contemporaries, and moved forward to become metal royalty without sacrificing one iota of credibility along the way. Easily their most cohesive album to date, Ruun is a tour-de-force of blackened progressive brilliance ensuring Enslaved's place among the elite of metal.