Enslaved is one of those rare Scandinavian metal bands which refused to be pigeon-holed into the mass of genre-swamping metal bands. Enslaved is more akin to other brethren like Opeth and Borknager in that they pursue more atypical, more progressive compositions. With their 11th full-length album Axioma Ethica Odini (best guess: 'the self-evident ethics of Odin') this pursuit continues.
Axioma Ethica Odini is essentially a tale of two worlds. There is a certain predictability to nearly every song. Each begins with pummeling thrashy motif and a strong dose of growling pit-o-hell vocals. This is certainly not unexpected since Enslaved is from Norway, and at its core a black metal band. This measure should satisfy most hardcore fan. Then, almost to a song, each arrangement builds to a more melodic heavy/power metal finish with quite harmonious vocals. Sometimes, as on Singular, this is mix, a hybrid if you will, of rather bombastic and symphonic power metal with the death vocals in competition with the clean. Nevertheless, after listening to Ethica Odini or Raidho at the start, you get the formula.
While I understand black metal, especially the sweeping symphonic side, those beginning moments, and sometime later segues, of classic, typical, black metal got old real fast. From song to song, I found myself longing to hear the intrigue of the variations atypical of black metal. Within a song like Night Sight, in the latter half of Ethica Odini or the entire Lightning, these times are simply brilliant. However, this very conundrum of characteristic black metal has always stifled my enthusiasm for it (and most any genre that requires either death vocals as part of their style.
Yet, in the end, Enslaved (and others) capture my interest beyond normal black metal simply because they are willing to push out of those self-inflicted, genre suffocating, boundaries. Enslaved's Axioma Ethica Odini provides enough mystery and imagination to give any inquisitive, but reluctant, metal listener cause to explore the brighter side of black metal.