|Review: Enslaved - Ruun|
Label: Tabu Recordings
Year released: 2006
Genre: Black Metal
Review online: September 2, 2019
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Enslaved have had a really odd career. They started out as a fairly vicious Black Metal band, but by Below the Lights began experimenting with progressive songwriting and never really turned back. This is often seen as the high point of that experimentation before they shit the bed with Vertebrae, and while I'm not familiar enough with their past output to agree with certainty, I can say that this is a great example of how versatile Black Metal can really be.
Say Jim Matheos of Fates Warning lost his mind sometime after Inside Out and decided to make a Viking Black Metal album after listening to some Pink Floyd: that is Ruun in a nutshell. While this album isn't lacking in the kind of hateful intensity and harsh vocals you'd expect from Black Metal, it's all interweaved with open, proggy guitar work, spacious, almost '70s-inspired atmosphere, and even some muttered, folksy clean singing in spots. I know that sounds awful, but the band successfully combines all these conflicting influences to create a hooky, sometimes mesmerizing sound they have been chasing and failing to recapture ever since. Songs like "Entroper", "Path to Vanir", and the hypnotic album highlight of the title track show a band reaching for a powerful, innovative sound and succeeding without reservation.
There are places, such as on "Essence" and the bizarre closing track "Heir to the Cosmic Seed", where they lose focus and let the atmosphere overtake the song, and this is a problem that would go on to plague later works much more severely. Experimentation, after all, is a dangerous game in a genre as defiantly uncompromising as Black Metal, and indeed Enslaved have long ago lost the mark and mistaken themselves for Pink Floyd. Still, Ruun is an example of that risk paying off and creating something individual and inimitable that even their own recent failures can't tarnish. Highly recommended.
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