Enslaved made quite a name for themselves for pushing the stylistic boundaries of the black metal/viking metal genre. This they achieved by adding elements from seventies prog rock and psychedelics, a process Björnson and Co started from Monumension (2001) and Below The Lights (2003). On ISA (2004) Enslaved try to bring their music to an even greater progressive level.
After a Hawkwind inspired intro the album starts with Lunar Force, which is a great combination between Enslaved’s earlier black metal/viking roots and its more progressive meanderings. It’s quite a complex song with lots of tempo changes and subtle keyboard and psychedelic effects. A great introduction to the beauty of ISA indeed. The title track and Ascension feature some clean vocal parts and continue the progressive path set by Lunar Force.
Bounded By Allegiance and Return To Yggdrasil show a more dreamy side of Enslaved, due to the abundant use of psychedelic effects and even some acoustic parts here and there. Secrets Of The Flesh and Violet Dawning are the two harshest compositions on ISA. The album’s grand finale comes in the guise of Neogenesis, which can only be described as the perfect marriage of black metal and seventies prog rock. The subtle use of violins add to the atmosphere of the song.
Another highlight of ISA is its production. It’s clear enough to do the progressive and psychedelic effects justice, but it also has a nice dirty edge to maintain the typical icy black metal feeling.
ISA is generally seen as one of Enslaved‘s finest hours to date. It has found the right balance between black metal, progressive rock, intelligent song writing and an atmosphere to die for. In short, a modern classic.
Written by Raymond Westland