(Nuclear Blast Records, 2008, 8 tracks, 49 minutes, 07 seconds, reviewed by Adam McAuley)
Enslaved have evolved nicely into a machine capable of churning out the most interesting of music within the metal genre these days and Vertebrae furthers the quality of their outpourings considerably. We can see a more refined progressive sound here that was started to develop around the Mardraum: Beyond the Within album and the amount of diversity they display is mesmerizing.
We have a band that can play catchy riffs as well as more mind-numbingly complex ones to great result. They show the ability to switch nicely between more mid-paced sections and faster ones here and likewise the vocals display an ability to deviate nicely between harsh and lighter ones making for an all around stellar instrumental performance.
The passages here are not longer than previous ones, but they manage to maintain their intensity throughout. This makes for a varied style that they are able to fit into parameters of their own liking. We can sense Enslaved constricting their sounds enough to fit their views, but also allowing enough room for experimentation.
The songs are excellent outpourings of musical edginess from the band who continue on their trek towards perfection. "Ground" features a catchy riff that will mesmerize your attention. The final track "The Watcher" shows a great ability to voraciously close the album. Longer tracks are present and they have a larger progression in them.
A great deal of interest is upheld by the band throughout, but is there anything they could possibly improve upon. Well, it seems they have a formula down and it would only benefit them to continue with it, but we could see a greater need for more open-ended sections blended amongst their repertoire.
How will fans of the band react on the whole to the sounds presented on the album? The progressiveness displayed on it is not up to the point of Mardraum, for example, which features slightly more experimental workings, but is rather refined to a premium that should be appreciated at this juncture of their discography.
Lyrically, the album features a very poetic like standpoint that contributes nicely to the manners that epic landscapes are described. This bodes nicely for Enslaved’s sound which is somewhat epic in scope and needs the types of lyrical swagger given to them for their progressive approaches.
Overall, Vertebrae will please people looking for a more well-rounded nature to Enslaved’s work as they excite on many levels and come across with another winner. One of the better albums of 2008 is found within the confines of Vertebrae and you owe yourself to check it out.