Friday Full-Length: Enslaved, Ruun

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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Enslaved did not have to forsake their black metal origins in order to take on more stylistic range — they simply added to what was already there. Thus Ruun still has its raging stretches, whether it’s the beginning charge of “Fusion of Sense and Earth,” the later twists of “Api-Vat” or even the opener “Entroper,” which seems to spend its six-plus minutes building to this massive swell of scream-topped push, but ultimately cedes the apex to Larsen, signaling the evolution taking place in Enslaved‘s approach. With backing growls from Bj√łrnson behind Kjellson‘s verse lines, even a riffer like “Path to Vanir” demonstrates an uptick in the depth of the arrangements, as Enslaved were able to bring a wash to their sound as they’d only hinted toward since bringing in their first keyboardist, √ėyvind Madsen (Vulture Industries), in 2002. Still, it’s with vocals that Larsen was able to make the greatest impact on the band, and in the break of “Path to Vanir,” he shows how. His voice is somewhat tentative and would grow more confident over time, but the softness of his singing style and the contrast it brought to the blackened churn surrounding helped make Enslaved all the more unique as they reached beyond the bounds of genre traditionalism.

This was also a band who knew the power of a riff. “Fusion of Sense and Earth” remains a hair-standing-on-end catalog highlight for the band — it’s one of the best songs they’ve ever written. Moving from its¬†Enslaved Ruunheadbang-ready thrash, it opens wide to release tension first in a pre-chorus transition led by keys, then shifts through growls to an instrumental hook that is the stuff from which air-drumming legends are made, the double-kick intricately keeping up with the nuances of Bj√łrnson‘s riff as the lead enters and the band rightly rides that groove to oblivion. That’s hardly the only instance on Ruun of standout riffage, as the title-track subsequently reminds, with its outright departure for prog rock, back and forth clean and harsh vocals and heavy-in-spite-of-itself rhythm; a precision of chug that still marks them as extreme metal, but is decidedly outside of the black metal norm. They bring it around, but “Ruun” ultimately resolves in a wash that includes acoustic strum, and it’s built around that initial riff with keyboards adding melodic breadth and Larsen and Kjellson coming together on vocals. “Tides of Chaos” is meaner, its chorus clean, but engulfed by screams and growls, and Kjellson coming across like he’s committing an atrocity against his vocal cords during the verses. It is demented and glorious, and pairs brilliantly with “Essence,” where the melody is more center and the call and response more direct, the band finding a middle ground that hints at what psychedelic black metal would become largely in their wake before straight-up thrashing the song into the ground, leaving “Api-Vat” to pick up the pieces and renew the sense of structure before closer “Heir to the Cosmic Seed” rounds out with a hypnotic epilogue.

The shows, which may or may not have been their first US gigs — I honestly can’t remember [They were not; see comments below. -ed.] — were at SXSW, I think in 2007. The first was in a tent at night and the second was during the day. They may have played others — it was a long time ago and I was very intoxicated. I’m pretty sure Mot√∂rhead were also on the daytime bill though, and I remember¬†Enslaved only got to play three songs because they only had a half-hour set. “Fusion of Sense and Earth” was one of them, and there I was, headbanging outside Emo’s¬†at like 11AM, still hungover from the night before and probably a couple beers already into the day. One did what one had to do in order to survive down there.

Soon enough,¬†Enslaved would sign to¬†Nuclear Blast and their touring North America would become a matter of course. 2008’s¬†Vertebrae pushed the impulses of¬†Ruun¬†further, while 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini¬†(review here) pursued rawer fare, 2012‚Äôs Riitiir¬†(review here) brought ferocious grandiosity, 2015‚Äôs¬†In Times¬†(review here) boasted their most progressive style to-date, and 2017’s¬†E (review here) introduced new keyboardist H√•kon Vinje in place of Larsen and showed how yet again they were able to expand their sonic reach.

In October, Enslaved will release their 15th full-length, Utgard, through Nuclear Blast and by what I swear is pure coincidence, the band just posted today a video for the track “Jettegryta,” which is the second single taken from the album. Where the prior “Homebound” showcased the work of new drummer/vocalist Iver Sand√ły, “Jettegryta” focuses more on Kjellson‘s voice and even features some clean singing from him with harmonies behind, as well as what sounds like some pointedly experimental guitar in its second half. The lesson, such as it is, is to understand just how dynamic Enslaved have become as a band, and I assume that when Utgard arrives — I’m not cool enough to have heard it in full yet — just how much it will see them revel in the multifaceted nature of their particular vision of extreme metal. Here’s that video, just for the hell of it.

Enslaved, “Jettegryta” official video

I hope you enjoy that, and Ruun as well. As always, I thank you for reading.

Enslaved is one of those bands who I can rely on to get just about no response when I write about them. They’re crazy popular, of course, but for whatever reason, every time I put something up about them, it gets about no feedback. Crickets. Rest assured, I blame my own lack of insight, but it’s true of several others as well. Swallow the Sun, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Anathema. I guess at least I’m consistent.

I wasn’t looking for privacy though in writing about¬†Ruun, just something that I knew I’d enjoy, and really, the timing of that new video was coincidental. I didn’t even know it was up until it was pointed out to me while I was putting this post together. I’ve watched it once.

I hope you had a good week. The Patient Mrs. and I hit a really good working rhythm this week. The Pecan in daycare for the morning helped make Wednesday and Thursday easier, work-wise, but even Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, we had it pretty much down. I fed him breakfast, we went for a run every other day, and then we hung out and played and read books and all that stuff while she worked in the morning, then I picked up after that and worked while she kept him for lunch and into his afternoon nap. She was able to get some research work done, I was able to do the Quarterly Review — which, again, thankfully, was a breeze full of good records — and we both kept our heads reasonably above water.

Of course, it was only a couple posts per day, but I was glad to do stuff like that Crystal Spiders premiere, hosting the Swarm of Flies track and that Candlemass review, which was worth it solely to get a comment from an old friend who I haven’t seen in a long time.

Need to catch up on email and messages this weekend, which will take some doing, and I’m going to review the Forlesen album for Monday, which is a little bit of brilliant. Tuesday a premiere from TOOMS, Wednesday a special feature I’m very much looking forward to putting together, and Thursday, a video premiere from The Brothers Keg. Friday, I’ll review that YOB live record they did to benefit the Navajo Nation Covid Relief Fund. Here’s a preview: “Duh. YOB are great. Great great great great. Duh.”

Seven bucks well spent on that, either way, and I love that music isn’t existing in a vacuum.

New Gimme show. You know the drill. 5PM. http://gimmeradio.com

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, I wish you good fun and the utmost safety. I let The Patient Mrs. go into Whole Foods yesterday, which was a little nerve-racking, even though it’s a new store so everything is well spaced out. In a few minutes I’ll split out and head to Coscto on my own. That place is like a free-for-all, so yeah. I told her maybe next year on that one. She’s apparently going back to campus to work in August though, which will be interesting.

But hey, almost 60,000 cases of COVID-19 yesterday, huh? Anyone tired of all that winning yet?

Alright, time to put on my mask and go buy a block of cheddar cheese. Oh, and apparently we’re getting a puppy this weekend?

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