Enslaved

ISA

Tabu Recordings 2004
 

Enslaved has worked their way slowly into a position as one of my favorite bands.  It all started with Mardraum for me.  Before that amazing album I never really found them all that interesting.  But once they started incorporating all the psychedelic influences into their music I was ensnared.  Isa picks up pretty much where Below the Lights leaves off.  But there are few differences.  The music is not as dark nor is it as cohesive.  The overall musical texture of the album is somewhat less focused.  The songs seem like somewhat of a jumble of different journeys rather than one complete musical odyssey.  Also they have a new drummer, Cato, who sounds somewhat more machine like even though he is definitely very talented.  I think this has somewhat to do with his style and somewhat to do with the drum production.  But back to the main themes of the album.  Isa has a lot of high points for me.  The rumbling current of Return to Yggdrasil and the spaced out journey which is Neogenesis are two of these highlights.  Contained within Neogenesis is the real gem of the album and that is the guitar solos that remind me of Santana for some reason.  Very 70's-ish and spacey.  I absolutely love it.  The guitar sound is maybe a little thinner and cleaner than on Below the Lights but it still has its characteristic Enslaved sound.  As always Grutle's vocals are varied from Clean to Black to Death.   His transitions are seemless.  The packaging is stellar with the slipcase and the folky 70's looking cover art.  I know others will disagree with what I just said but that is just my impression.  The album reeks of quality as always but for some reason the music is not as memorable to me.  Isa is not as good to me as the 3 Enslaved albums that precede it, yet it still manages to capture a spot in my top 5 for the year.  And they easily maintain their status as one of my favorite bands.