Best Enslaved Albums

Formed in 1991 by guitar/keyboard player Ivar Bjørnson and vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson when they were 13 and 17 shows the maturity Norway’s Enslaved possessed early in their career. Along with Emperor, Darkthrone and Mayhem, Enslaved were a seminal part of the second wave of the black metal movement. Utilizing blast beats, frantic tremolo guitar picking and higher pitched aggressive vocals, Enslaved fit the musical concept but not in style, substance and lyrics.

The majority of the movement wrote lyrics about Satanism and their image was defined by corpsepaint. Enslaved followed their own path and resisted both traditions. Their lyrics dealt with Norwegian folklore and the majority of their early releases were sung in their native language. Early on the band never accepted the black metal label and were branded Viking metal. They were showing a progression that no one else in the genre was able to compete with.

Their songwriting was on another level with complex song structures, orchestration and song lengths of over ten minutes was commonplace. With each release the band started to incorporate more progressive elements into their sound and some of their later releases were a brilliant combination of extreme metal and the psychedelic Pink Floyd influences that started seeping into their sound. One of the true legends of the underground scene; we celebrate their most impressive and influential releases of their career.

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'Below the Lights' (2003)

Enslaved - Below the Lights
Enslaved - Below the Lights.

With their seventh release Below the Lights, everything the band had been slowly building towards was fully realized. Enslaved’s full potential was unleashed on the listener as the band's compositions perfectly combined their '70s progressive rock influences with ripping riffs and aggressive vocals. The release is the debut of lead guitar player Ice Dale, whose stellar performance elevates the band to a new level.

“As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” opens the record with an epic sense of the peaks the band will take the listener. A heavy emotional tremolo riff accompanies Kjellson’s screeching vocal melody until midway when a death metal riff and melody tear your head off. “The Dead Stare” brings a unique structure, as the first half is straightforward with some ripping leads from Ice Dale meld with the best riff of Enslaved’s catalog. Enslaved bring out an intelligence that is often overlooked in the black metal movement and Below the Lights is their crowning achievement.

Recommended Track: "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth"

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‘Vikingligr Veldi’ (1994)

Enslaved - ‘Vikingligr Veldi’
Enslaved - ‘Vikingligr Veldi’.

With a successful split release with Emperor behind them, Enslaved returned with their brilliant debut, Vikingligr Veldi. With only five tracks, the record clocks in at over fifty minutes and is stunning in its depth. Enslaved create a perfect amalgam of landscape melodies with sheer aggression. Fast tremolo guitar playing and blast beats are entwined around unique piano and guitar melodies. The fact that the band were in their teens and early twenties shows the maturity and songwriting presence the band possessed from their onset.

Lyrically the band utilizes Icelandic and Norwegian to full effect. There are long stretches of instrumental passages throughout and the closing track “Norvegr” is a ten-minute plus instrumental that creates some of the best musical melodies the genre has seen. The classic “Midgards Eldar” is intense in scope and features a slow build as the band gives a lesson in dynamics. At this early stage it was clear Enslaved were ready to become a premier player in the underground scene.

Recommended Track: "Midgards Eldar"

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'Axioma Ethica Odini' (2010)

Enslaved - 'Axioma Ethica Odini'
Enslaved - 'Axioma Ethica Odini'.

Coming off their most progressive album to date, Enslaved ramped up the aggression with 2010's Axioma Ethica Odini. The riffs are larger than life as the band at this point in their career are far above most in the black metal genre. Jens Bogren handles the mix, and this is the best sounding record the band has released. The separation of the vocals and instrumentation is stunning with the speed and aggression being performed.

“Ethica Odini” is a fantastic black metal song. The opening riff doesn’t get more epic with its esoteric chord structures and tremolo picking. Drummer Cato Bekkevold puts on a display with finesse and amazing footwork. Clean vocalist Herbrand Larsen creates an added emotion throughout the song, as this is his best vocal performance yet. The record is solid throughout with the thrash inspired “Raidho,” the throwback flavored “The Beacon” and the progressive masterpiece “The Lightening” highlight some of Enslaved’s best songwriting.

Recommended Track: "Ethica Odini"

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‘Vertebrae’ (2008)

Enslaved - 'Vertebrae'
Enslaved - 'Vertebrae'.

Having to follow Below the Lights was a difficult task, but the band had a run of two solid releases in the mid 2000s. Enslaved upped the ante again with the breathtaking Vertebrae. Pushing their progressive boundaries further here than on any of their records, the band maximized the limits of their Pink Floyd worship, but still retained elements of the attributes that made them successful.

Clean vocals have become a huge part of their sound as Herbrand Larsen's vocals are everywhere. He possesses a dynamic, haunting voice. The one two punch of “Clouds” and “To the Coast” that opens the record creates a spacious wave of music with luscious acoustic guitars, haunting melodies all blended with Kjellson’s unmistakable growl. The title track embodies Voivod and Rush with its chord phrasings and rhythms. The spectacular “Ground” features one of Ice Dale’s best leads, as he morphs into David Gilmour. Vertebrae stands as the most adventurous and inimitable recording in Enslaved’s remarkable history as they continue to prove how far the boundaries can be pushed with extreme metal.

Recommended Track: "Clouds"

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‘Mardraum: Beyond the Within’ (2000)

Enslaved - ‘Mardraum: Beyond the Within’
Enslaved - ‘Mardraum: Beyond the Within’.

The perfect balance of their epic beginnings and progressive influences the band would so strongly adopt going forward is heard in the brilliance of Enslaved’s fifth release Mardraum: Beyond the Within. After the back to back bludgeoning of Eld and Blodhemn, the band shifted their focus and began experimenting with their songwriting. It's the first release where they fully embraced '70s progressive elements, and its influence is felt throughout.

Opener “Større Enn Tid” begins with some clean arpeggiated guitars mixed with dissonant textures before ripping into an all out war. At over ten minutes, the track takes on many facets and emotions. The title track features odd timing signatures and haunting vocal melodies that are also jagged with its chord structures. It's a completely unique piece that only Enslaved could deliver. The intense aggression of “Det Endelege Riket” pummels the listener until a breathtaking solo section that captures Enslaved at their best. The album stands out due to the band's ability to take chances and step out of their comfort zone.

Recommended Track: “Det Endelege Riket