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A truly breathtaking piece of Progressive Black Metal,
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This review is from: Axioma Ethica Odini Ltd (Audio CD)
After the outstanding achievement of their 2008 album 'Vertebrae', Norway's finest Progressive Viking Black Metal overlords Enslaved released their eagerly anticipated eleventh album in September of 2010. The intriguingly suggestive title is a vague stitching of ideas from the Latin word 'Axiom' (vaguely meaning an 'unquestionable truth against proven scientific fact') with Ethica Odini (taken from an Old Norse poem entitled Hávamál) which bluntly translates as 'The Ethics of Odin' (the Norse God). Together, the title forms a loosely translated understanding - The principal truth behind the ethics of Odin. Stripped to the bones and broken down to its underlying essence, it can be interpreted (at a very base level) as 'the fundamental spiritual belief that stands against modern day scientific fact'. It's a title and album concept for those that choose to believe in something more than the clinically barbaric nature of modern science.
As is with the very core of Enslaved's nature, the band has once again evolved with their ever progressive and intelligently ambitious sound. Axioma Ethica Odini carves out a deeper directional route for the band; merging together and mapping out a vast array of layers and musical ideas to form this unquestionably intriguing and inspired album. What instantly sits forward from the music is how effortlessly this all seems to sit together. On a song by song basis, the rigidly cut structures of the music somehow lies in harmony with each segmental piece. As diverse as the many progressive elements to each track are, the production and undeniably involved thought process that has gone into their formation, has brought out some of the most enchanting and engaging progressive black metal that can be conceived.
Enchanting is a strange word to use when describing any of Enslaved's music - none more so than with Axioma Ethica Odini. However, the way in which the musical layers and near-trademark complexities of the song structures are brought together, has this enchanting and instantly captivating appeal. That said, you never need to work hard with Enslaved to reap the rewards of the music (as with a band like Tool for instance). Instead, the music seems to elaborate in a piece by piece way, gradually infiltrating the depths (and natural quirks) of each song over time. The process seems effortless and (for want of another word) once again entirely natural.
Enslaved have seemingly formed an organic shell around their music. The coarse guttural growling of Grutle Kjellson rests perfectly upon the solid and dense shoulders of chunky guitar riffage and the ever-present sturdy basslines. The prog elements are very much in the thick of the album's construction, but Enslaved have craftly pulled back a gear from `Vertebrae' to once again embrace a more enriched and bold Norwegian Black Metal sound.
The calming air of the ambient track `Axioma' mid-way through the album allows the listener to come up for air, to bask in a peaceful atmosphere of lucid dreams and strange far-off messages passed over the soothing waves of Herbrand Larsen's synthetic tones. With the senses now relaxed, Enslaved emerge once again with their powerful and immediate sound, clawing through the thick air and standing tall upon their Black Metal ground once again.
As a whole Axioma Ethica Odini could perhaps be compared as the musical equivalent of a very good single malt (another one of my personal passions in life). There are undoubtedly complexities at work within its structure, depth to be explored, with a thousand contrasting elements all working in relative harmony. Familiarising yourself with it unlocks these deeper, more subtle qualities, allowing you to become immersed into the warmth within the many layers.
Enslaved, as always, employs an almost living and breathing mythological soul that embodies all of their music. With that said, the album quietly brings forth a parody on the complexities of human existence. Life in turmoil? Life in retreat? Life with the unforgiving background of our own morality? Too sentimental, too abstract, too overanalysed??? - perhaps! But it's what listening to these later offerings from Enslaved does. It seems to open doors with unending questions.
Ending with the near-epic journey undertaken with 'Night Sight' and then ultimately with 'Lightening', Enslaved fulfil an unspoken promise in delivering an album of constantly shifting proportions, which takes the listener on a haunting and mesmerising journey. And that's exactly what this album is - a journey.
The special edition version of the album comes packaged in a 7" card gatefold sleeve that also houses a exclusive two-track record. A single fold-out sheet is included giving the lyrics to all the tacks (including the two additional ones) as well as the usual thanks and production notes.
The 7" vinyl that is included with the special edition version of the album includes the following two tracks that were specially recorded in the woods of Valevåg:
Side A: Jotunblod (Doom)
Side B: Migration
Jotunblod (Doom) is basically a reworking of the classic track (from Enslaved's second album 'Frost'). This re-working of the song was originally recorded for Roadburn Festival 2010 and as such honours the festival's 'doom' orientation. Sluggish and brutally heavy, the new re-working of Jotunblod strips down the maelstrom of the original's high-intensity, and thrusts it into a whole new direction, which captures the same powerfully unstoppable feel (and indeed concept) to the track, whilst elaborating and adapting the final outcome of the song. In a nutshell - inspired Enslaved musical genius!
The second track on the 7" record is the song 'Migration' that until now had been a song that the band only ever played live - as part of their collaboration with the Norwegian extreme-experimental-jazz band 'Shining' for the Armageddon Concerto at the Molde International Jazz Fest in 2008. This recording is nothing short of utterly overwhelming. It shows Enslaved's side to the musical tale, pulsing with energy and a stomach churning atmosphere.
The inclusion of these two insightful and inspirational tracks is what makes the special edition such an important and dare I say triumphant release. Even the fact that the two tracks are presented on vinyl as opposed to CD format, simply adds an element of 'musical history and affectionate nostalgia' to the release.
For those who know and love the evolving story of this unique band, the special edition presentation is an absolute necessity.
Once again, the album incorporates starkly suggestive and emotive artwork by Norwegian artist Truls Espedal.