The vikings have left their dragonboats, ceased all plans of conquering, instead gathered in their longhouse to fill their brains with substances which allow them to communicate with the northern pantheon to share the secrets of the universe with them. The battles are over, the ritual has begun. ENSLAVED were always evolving, pushing their boundaries further and further with each album, from the raging war tunes on the early albums towards a spiritual plane. It seems Odin has bestowed them with the gift to see beyond, an inner eye to see the astral planes and- much more important- to transport their experiences there to a musical level. Anyone who has seen them live should know what I am talking about- ENSLAVED live is a kind of trance, a transcendental experience.
The album’s overall mood is a calm, dreamy travel through this vision. Though ENSLAVED are still metal to the core, using double bass, growls and staccato-shredding; the melodies (solo guitars, keyboards, acoustic guitars and supporting clean vocals) radiate a strange, pacifying tranquility. Ice-cold guitar riffs alternate with warm, blissful melodies which give you shivers down the spine (example: “Violet Dawning”). Acoustic guitars with tribal drumming, mounted by Grutle’s clean voice pass over to a doublebass-part with choirs and keys (see “Return To Yggdrasil”). On “Neogenesis”, the longest and most epic song, a fast-thrashy riff finds its climax in an unbelievable beautiful, dense melody. The best argument for “Isa” is that there are nearly no solo instruments. Everything fits together, and even when each instrument plays at the same time (which happens quite often), the sound does not fall behind the artistic intention, meaning you won’t have a muddle of sound here- it stays crystal-clear.
This may be the reason why this album sounds so mighty, so epic.
Just to give ENSLAVED-not-knowers something to compare: ARCTURUS covering the later works of ULVER with Carlos Santana on lead guitar would bring you somewhere near “Isa”. If Odin had to choose an album to listen to while hanging on the tree for nine days, he would go for this one. Roman Polanski making a film on norse gods would ask ENSLAVED for the score. ENSLAVED didn’t win two Norwegian Grammys for nothing, folks. Although the artistic value of the recipients of this award might be doubtful sometimes, this time a highly skilled, hard working collective has earned what they deserve. So I strongly suggest you listen to “Isa” for a start- this it not only music, this is an unique experience.
01 – Intro: Green Reflection