ENSLAVED The Sleeping Gods CD EP/12"

With downloading off the internet making it absurdly easy to destroy your computer with all the free music available, a great band is arguably less about a single anymore, or even a record, and more about a complete body of work. Enslaved fits well into this somewhat lily-livered, everything-at-your-fingertips world, because you're not exactly sure where they are going from record to record. Though some fans and critics are saying these are mere outtakes from their last record Axioma Ethica Odini, The Sleeping Gods, Enslaved's 13th-or-so release (a black metal "offering," if you will. TSG is a free digital release from the strange and ominous Scion people at Toyota) is another strange twist in the road for this intriguing band.

Nothing on this record is super-radical or completely out-there—to say a group is progressive black metal is probably out-there enough anyway—but under the eaves of their Viking Metal schtick—they are remarkably innovative and even—sorry douches—refined. No phallus-of-the-gods guitar solos to endure here—only well-integrated guitar parts (see solo on "Alu Misyrki" or the bridge on "Nordlys") plucked with nervy restraint and without fear of repetition (their most recent release, Thorn, is practically a minimalist record). It's always about the overall effect—even within the confines of a little, weird, PR-drenched release like this.

Though a mini-LP/ fat EP/ what have you, TSG is surprisingly eclectic as well. Influences/sounds range from 80s glam metal (blah), speed metal, hardcore, Southern fried rock, Scandinavian folk chorales, John Carpenter-does-Tron ambience, to straight up AC/DC-style rock and roll. Though later-Pink Floyd is a fine comparison, (this may surprise some still), I could safely say that an instrumental like "Nordlys" wouldn't be completely out of place on a later Sonic Youth record (!). And "Synthesis"—a fitting title for this ambient piece—might be the direction black metal takes, if metal ever gets over its phallus-to-the-gods guitar solos, etc (but then, would it be metal?).

Any band that can fuse the line between goofing off/fucking around and directly rocking out—dialing in the high and the low (relatively speaking), sex and brains, heart and intelligence—however you want to put it—is doing a very difficult, seldom achieved thing. Promotional EP full of outtakes or not, one hopes for more cool stuff like this from Enslaved. [Scion A/V]

-Jeff Mooridian

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