By Laura Wiebe
Many albums and years into their career Enslaved are offering few surprises, but their latest record, Axioma Ethica Odini, lives up to expectations more than it re-charts worn ground. The new album’s familiarity owes a lot to atmosphere, the subtle intertwining of extremes – harsh and heavy, soft and smooth, airy and oppressive, dissonant and harmonious… The songs are long (excepting the “Axioma” interlude) and their momentum never follows a linear path, but the breadth and range of Enslaved’s experimentation isn’t about epic proportions. Calling this progressive and psychedelic black metal is accurate but hopelessly inadequate, and yet the intricacies are almost too subtle, leaving me at the end unsure of what I’ve heard. Sometimes the record is brutal and beautiful all at once, and in other sections it’s so heavy (often fast, but there are doomy parts too) or so light (like a lilting serenade) and so unerringly convincing that it’s almost impossible to imagine it being anything else until that something else arrives and the music changes direction one more time. Despite some jagged rhythms and an unexpected groove Axioma Ethica Odini flows consistently to an abrupt not-quite conclusion, so that finally I’m perplexed but also persuaded that I want to work my way through it all again until I fully understand.