Exploring Enslaved: A Discography Breakdown

Discog diving with da boss.

One day, not too long ago, my good friend and everyone’s favorite Venezuelan Half-Elf, Link and I were chatting about life, the world and Metal. As the conversation progressed he says to me, “I’m listening to Enslaved. Do you like them?” To which I had only one response to give… I hadn’t really ever listened to them before. Some of you may be concerned by my lack of Enslaved exposure; they’ve been around since the early 90s and released their 13th album last year. How could I never have listened to them? And to that I only have one answer:

Too many tunes.

In my exploration of the vast sub-genres of Heavy Metal I have often times passed unknowingly over the genres stalwarts. Which, while unfortunate at times, gives me opportunities such as this to enjoy the scope of an entire band’s catalog with fresh ears.

After realizing my error, I promised to Link that I would give them a listen later in the day and report back to him. I had heard them a few times on ROTW and knew their sound changed drastically throughout their career, but that was all I knew. So with eager ears I delved into this band’s 25 year history.

The Toilet has discussed how to listen to bands before, but I started from the beginning, and what follows is a chronicling of my chronological journey through Enslaved’s discography. A breakdown, if you will, of each album and my thoughts about them.

Vikingligr Veldi (1994) & Frost (1994)

Vikinligr Veldi shows the band starting off strong. To me it has the sound of the early 90s Black Metal but with a splash of Prog that wasn’t quite heard in their contemporaries. The Bathory influence is strongly felt throughout the musical passages and overall Viking theme of the album, but Enslaved start to create their own voice.

With Frost the band keeps the proggier elements to a minimum and release a fairly straight-forward Black Metal album. If I had to compare the two I would say Vikinligr Veldi is “fire” while Frost is “ice” in the sense that Vikinligr Veldi has more life to it with a unique movement while Frost is a steady, unrelenting slab of cold Black Metal.

Eld (1997) & Blodhemn (1998)

With Eld, Enslaved really start to come into their own. The riffs, the melodies, the orchestration, the atmosphere, everything is superb. And on top of all that, the clean, chanting vocal technique used throughout the record is phenomenal. After all was said and done with this experiment, Eld remains my favorite Enslaved album, at least for now. There is something magical about this album that entrances me, and the falsetto scream at the end of “Kvasirs Blod” blows me away every time.

Blodhemn starts with a mood setting intro much like Eld. That, however, is where the similarities cease. As is the case with Frost, Enslaved unleash the fury on Blodhemn and ignore the orchestration of its predecessor. There is still plenty of melody within the songwriting, but the drumming pushes it into a frenzy and, in my opinion, takes control of the album. And I do not find that a deterrent; in fact I enjoy it greatly. 

Mardraum – Beyond the Within (2000) & Monumension (2001)

Mardraum – Beyond the Within is the biggest step the band has taken thus far in their musical direction. The prog influence that I knew was coming hit hard, and it was nearly jarring how much of a change there was between this and Blodhemn. The time signature variations and sudden riff changes were very interesting to listen to, but I believe it will need a third or fourth listen to sink in.

Following Mardraum – Beyond the Within, I must admit I was even more perplexed by Monumension. It was not the album I was expecting. I must commend Enslaved for reinventing their sound within the manner of 2 albums, but I’m not 100% sure if I like this or not yet. There were some excellent riffs throughout the album but as a whole it felt somewhat lacking to me. Even the artwork, though really cool looking, seemed a bit off.

(Retrospectively, these album makes more sense within the scope of their work)

Below The Lights (2003) & Isa (2004)

Below the Lights is a fantastically written piece of music. My mind was blown. It shows the return of the band’s Black Metal tendencies soaked in Proggy excellence, this time with much more concise writing than the free-form jazz vibe of Monumension. The clean chants throughout are simply glorious. This album is fantastic.

If I had to sum up Isa into one word I would use “Fluid.” The flow of this album and its seamless transitions work wonders. It is hard to tell when one song ends and the next begins, but you can feel a shift in the music and emotion throughout. The solos here have the slow, bluesy swagger of  Gilmour that I find very endearing. The clean vocals on the track “Isa” were also a big highlight for me, just incredible.

Ruun (2006) & Vertebrae (2008)

Ruun is a beautifully orchestrated album. Lush guitars swept through my head while the drums kept me grounded to Earth. The clean vocals on this album shied away from the traditional chanting of Enslaved’s early work and strike a new path of melodic poetry. The production is fantastic and matches the band’s new direction perfectly.

When Vertebrae started, I thought I had the wrong band. Musically this album varies even more from the rest of Enslaved’s work.  I’m not sure how much I like the growling vocals on Vertebrae; they don’t mesh as well as I think they should, but the clean vocals work extremely well. This album is good, lots of subtle intricacies, but to me it sounds more like a blueprint for a new idea and not the final product.

Axioma Ethica Odini (2010) & RIITIIR (2012)

Axioma Ethica Odini is, simply put, phenomenal. I enjoyed it thoroughly and felt that it was the fully realized idea the band was attempting with Vertebrae. The guitar tones matched the harsher vocals perfectly, while keeping the riffs melancholic enough for the cleans. Some of the song structures remind me more of King Crimson Prog than of the Floydian variety I heard on the past few albums. All of the elements on this album floored me. Flawless.

Enslaved release an incredible work of art with RIITIIR. Everything is mixed perfectly and your ears are constantly filled with heavy riffs and intricate drumming. The atmosphere on this album is different from their past works and is even evident with the change in artwork direction. The past few albums have been black, white and red, while this boasts wonderful, warm earthen tones that seem to match RIITIIR’s overall vibe extremely well.

In Times (2015)

My journey has come to its end, and what a fantastic adventure it has been. When I started In Times, I thought briefly that Enslaved had went all the way back and were going to deliver a Black Metal album. And that is almost what I got. In Times leans more towards the blacker side than their past few albums, but the prog still flourishes throughout. This album is aggressively beautiful with a sense of urgency that blends perfectly and brings a large smile to my face. As emotional and superb as their last few albums have been, I am very excited for this newest direction and what Enslaved have in mind for the future. The title is perfect, and In Times feels like a culmination of their musical history. Enslaved are truly masters at their art.

So there you have it, Enslaved in a nutshell. I must say, I enjoyed this experience very much. Enslaved is a fantastic band with an astounding musical scope that I am happy to add to my list of favorite bands and painstakingly, but without hesitation, add to my “buy this music” list.

Now I must ask you, the readers and loyal commenters of the Toilet, was this a good idea? And if so, which band is next? I want to do this again, but I need your input. Who would you like to see get put under my microscope? I’m looking for bands that have at least 6 albums and have had somewhat of an impact on Heavy Metal. I believe everyone here already knows of my wide variety of music taste, so feel free to throw any suggestions my way. Be sure and upvote your favorite bands in the comments below, so that I can get a general consensus of what everyone wants. Cheers!

A special thanks to Jimmy for naming this article!

Written by:

Published on: June 29, 2016

Filled Under: Discography, Metal

Views: 1068

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  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    I got that In Times on wax courtesy of JAG, and it’s a stellar album

  • Dubbbz

    Thanks for this post, Boss. My favorite era of Enslaved is from Vertebrae to RIITIIR.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Thank you for the dubs, Dubbbz.
      As I was listening through this journey, I also thought about which albums would be different toileteers favorites. That was the era I thought you would fall under and Axioma would be your jam.

      No love for In Times?

  • The Tetrachord of Archytas

    This is a rad article/concept. I must say I only own Riitiir and In Times and have really needed to go through their whole discography, but too many tunes is a for reals problem

  • Well done Bossman, goddamn.

    Frost & Vikingligr veldi are my favorites. I really haven’t gone anywhere past Eld though.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Thank you sir!

      That is understandable, that was when their first big change happened.

  • Eliza

    I haven’t really given Enslaved a listen until now, even though their sound is right up my alley. This article is a great help for beginners like me, thanks for it.

  • Stanley

    I don’t have a lot of time to read this right now, but I’ll look forward to reading it later. Anyway, here’s my favorite Enslaved tune. Those riffs are on fire.


    • Hans Müller

      This is awesome. Listening to more from that album now, I think this one is where I’ll start.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Interesting pick Stan the Manley! I was expecting either something from Frost of Blodhemn from you. Show’s what I know I guess…

      This does have the thrashy vibe you enjoy though, so it makes perfect sense.

  • JWEG

    Below the Lights was my gateway into other Enslaved and into extreme metal in general. Without that album to convince me otherwise, I probably would have just stuck with doom and specifically-Canadian thrash indefinitely.

    Not that there’s much wrong with that, but without Enslaved I’d probably not be able to appreciate the more progressive, post, or just plain weirdly-experimental of the Cascadian and other (definitely-not-Cascadian) atmospheric black metal that forms a large third part of my current metal identity.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      NICE! Excellent insight, thank you for sharing. Seems like the album is really important to you. I’m glad I listened to it.

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Great examination BtR, I’ve enjoyed following your journey on the face books.


  • Joaquin Stick

    Every time I see that Eld cover I am more convinced that it is Macaulay Culkin. I really only know In Times, and I enjoy that one a bit more than their older stuff now that I am sampling. I might have to do this journey in reverse.

    • Joaquin Stick

      Just got to the Axomia song you posted. Holy balls. That is one hell of a song. This will be my gym album tonight.

      • Señor Jefe El Rosa

        That is one of my favorites. Right now, as far as newer Enslaved albiums are concerned, Axioma and In Times are tied for the lead.

  • Old Man Doom

    Fantastic read, boss. I’ve enjoyed keeping up with your progress posts in the FB group. Enslaved is definitely one of those bands where I’ve had different phases (my Vetebrae weird prog phase, my riffy Ruun phase, and now my cerebral Riitiir phase).

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Thank you Mr. Doom!
      I like these phases you speak of.

  • Waynecro

    Well done, Bossbro! This awesome article might put me on a multiday Enslaved kick.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Thank you Mr. President!!


  • Old Man Doom

    Opeth might be a good candidate, especially considering that they’ve got a new album coming in the fall.

    Another suggestion: they may not have 6 albums yet, but Ahab have shown some interesting progress in their sound and identity over the years. High On Fire too perhaps.

    • I listened to the whole Opeth discography a while back, never had the desire to listen again for some reason. Like the albums are in my music library but I just don’t wanna.

      • Joaquin Stick

        I get that. I love Oldpeth when I am listening to it, but I rarely have the urge to do so.

    • The Tetrachord of Archytas

      I only have the most recent Ahab release. I think I need to get nautical and dive into their catalogue

      • Abradolf Lincler

        Ahab is unfuckwithable

        • Old Man Doom

          SAIL AND KILL

          • CyberneticOrganism

            SAIL AND KRILL

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa


      …now that is an idea.

  • I’ve only heard In Times, but goddamn if that isnt a spectacular album. I really should check out the rest, but like you said, too many new tunes are dropping with the rise of bandcamp and what not.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      I loved the album.

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Boss, I suggest Behemoth for your next discography deep dive. Their range is enormous, from the early lo-fi Darkthrone stuff to their recent classic metal throwback vibe with The Satanist. It’d be interesting to read your take on it.

  • MachoMadness5000

    This was an awesome article. I, too, am a victim of too many tunes. I actually own all of these Enslaved albums but I gave them a quick listen and never went back. I understand their greatness and I hope to dive into them again one day, but one fact remains: THERE ARE TOO MANY MOTHERFUCKIN TUNES ON THIS MOTHERFUCKIN PLANET!!!!

  • Ryan Levitation

    When I first got into black metal in 2000, I picked up the Emperor/Enslaved split, and for several years Enslaved’s side of that (Hordanes Land) was my only exposure to Enslaved. When Ruun came out in ’06, I began exploring the rest of their discography which was much more dynamic than I expected after the brutality of Hordanes Land. Love all eras of this band.

    Another band you could do this with who has a whole slug of albums and went through some changes over the years would be Amorphis, but you’re most likely familiar with their stuff. Hmmm…Dark Tranquillity, Moonspell, Borknagar, Vintersorg, Arcturus, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Bathory, Edge of Sanity…any of those gone overlooked?

    • Welcome to the Toilet!


    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Awesome story, thank you for sharing! There are some bands here that may make an appearance later on down the road.

      Also, I am honored that you chose my article as your first Toilet comment. Welcome! And please stay awhile!

    • I can back up with the Dark Tranquillity recommendation when I return to writing, I think. There are a lot of bands that deserve this treatment!

      I support Amorphis, Vintersorg, Paradise Lost and Edge of Sanity, too.

  • Hans Müller

    Yes, this was a great idea. I’ve missed out on a lot of the “big” bands, the stuff that laid the groundwork for what I enjoy today, so you’re doing me (and many others, as the comments comfortingly reveal) a great service. Tackling an expansive discography can be intimidating, and a concise overview like this is a great help.

    So thanks, and don’t hesitate to keep ’em coming!

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Thanks Hans! Its great to hear feedback like this.

  • Sir Tapir The Based

    I’ll suggest one of me fav metal bands, Godflesh.

    • Joaquin Stick

      I just confused them with Godsmack and nearly had a stroke.

      • i’m sure Tapir likes them too

        • Sir Tapir The Based

          Sayin’ shit like that
          That’s a paddlin’

      • Hans Müller

        Well, they do have six albums, and I’m sure they were super influential, so…

      • OldMetalHead

        I was thinking Fleshgod Apocalypse. There really are too many similar sounding bands.

    • Dubbbz

      If you get into all the remixes and dubs, there’s quite a bit there to explore.

      • Hans Müller

        Hahaa! The dubs! The… the dubs… ha…




  • OldMetalHead

    I’m another Enslaved Newbie. It seems these albums are different to the point that some of the links I really like and some of them I just don’t. Hard to believe they’re all from the same band.

    • well, BtR touched on it, but this song is OFF THE BELT!

      • Señor Jefe El Rosa

        YESSSSSS! I really dig this song. It was hard to pick and choose which ones to include.

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      It all makes sense if you do what Boss did and dicog dive, but it’s really hard to see the connections if you don’t have the time, or the will.

  • Óðinn

    One of my favorite bands. Thanks, Boss the Ross.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Good to know! Thank you too, Odinn!

  • I enjoyed reading these in the FB group, on the toilet, every morning before work.

  • Jacquelinedlaird1


  • BobLoblaw

    Macabre would certainly be a good choice next time.

  • I truly like this article <3