|Review: Enslaved - Vertebrae|
Label: Indie Recordings
Year released: 2008
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: July 31, 2009
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
I first came across Enslaved when Mardraum was released back in 2000 (Great. Fucking. Album.) Up to now, I have liked everything they've released, be it the old stuff or the more recent, more experimental albums. A couple of them required a bit of time to sink in (Below the Lights comes to mind), but usually it was practically love at first sight. So I've always been looking forward to a new Enslaved album.
And now we have Vertebrae. I first heard it around the time of its release and after a few listens it just wouldn't click. Couple of months later, another try: No go. So here we are, several months later and I've been giving it more than its share of spins (let's just say I have quite a backlog ) And it just doesn't click. In fact, the more I listen to it, the more I find things I don't like.
The good news: Vertebrae is a more dramatic experimentation than their other post-Mardraum albums, but you can still hear quite a bit of the band's signature sound popping up here and there. The bad news: That was all the good news I had. The album as a whole is rather bland, with its only highlight being "New Dawn" which sound like a tribute to Melechesh (but not as good.) You still get the harsh vocals, although a lot of them sound rather crappy, making me wonder what the fuck was going on in that studio. But that's not the worst thing: Enslaved have used clean vocals in the past, but in a very restrained and tasteful manner. On this album, however, not only has the usage grown dramatically, but, well, let's just say it: The clean vocals sound fucking gay. Been hanging out with Opeth too much?
Musically, there are some remnants of Enslaved's heavier, more brutal past but it's highly unremarkable and just doesn't compare. This is made worse by a boatload of watered down, prog rock-ish styling that Enslaved seems to be going toward. In more than one occasion I've thought to myself: "What is this? Pink Floyd?" Now, I have nothing against Pink Floyd, but if I want to hear them, I'll pop in one of their albums, not a supposed metal album. There lies the majority of the music on this album, and the tragedy: If at least it was good. But save for the occasional passage, it's just very bland. "Bland" has never been something that came to mind when I thought of Enslaved. Never. Until now.
I've had a few discussions online about the album, and of course the wank squad have come up with the usual: "It's progress." "It's Evolution." "The band can't release the same album over and over." "You don't appreciate more complex music." Now, if you've been hanging out in the online metal community as long as I have and you're not a wanker, you know what these comments invariably mean: It's the ultimate defense of the suck. Which makes me right. ;) Personally I see progress and evolution as "getting better". Adopting a completely different style and not making it nearly as good as other bands in said style is not "progress". As for the "can't release the same album over and over" comment: Hey, this is Enslaved we're talking about. They have never released "the same album over and over." But let's face it: They can't always get it right, and Vertebrae is proof of that.
But that's the beauty of Enslaved: Even though I'm extremely disappointed with this album, they change so much from release to release that I'll be looking forward to their next album – hoping that they let go of what they're not so good at and aim for something different. As for Vertebrae, it's dead to me.
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