Enslaved Axioma Ethica Odini

EnslavedAxioma Ethica Odini
Initially well received, but the victim of a surprising backlash months after its release, Enslaved's prior full-length, Vertebrae, polarized their fan base and left many wondering whether the group were content to rest on their laurels for the foreseeable future. Without completely abandoning the more tempered ground Enslaved have staked claim to, Axioma Ethica Odini ups the intensity a bit, fleshing out some darker atmospheres and startling shifts in direction that, at points, recall the more eclectic period between Mardraum and Below the Lights. The clean vocals have improved by leaps and bounds, acquiring a prog-inflected wail that's a far cry from the ethereal subtlety of past performances. The similarities to Opeth, which have become fairly obvious in their recent output, are still present, although the faster tempos and less complacent approach to songwriting complicate things a bit while failing to completely discredit the comparison. While it isn't the blistering return to form many expected, the album flows well from beginning to end without a hitch while still managing to surprise and engage the listener. Whether it will be enough for those that have watched Enslaved go from one of the top acts in the genre to merely a cut above the rest remains to be seen. (Nuclear Blast)