Bridging the gap between their somewhat underwhelming “Isa” and what I consider to be their modern masterpiece “Vertebrae”, “Ruun” shows a fairly big step for the music of ENSLAVED. Although the Norwegian Black Metal outfit had already incorporated ample doses of Progressive Rock into their sound on albums past, it had not yet sounded as profound as it does here. While the music is indeed Black Metal, “Ruun” is the vanguard for ENSLAVED's recent, up-to-date sound, and while I do not find it quite as memorable as the masterpieces which would succeed it, “Ruun” is an excellent progressive Black Metal album, and a fine addition to a largely consistent discography.
From the epic faster pacing of the opening track “Entroper,” it is made clear that ENSLAVED has put the energy back in their music here, and while parts of the sound still sound a shade too cleanly cut as they did on “Isa”, the development is quickly noticeable. A relatively mid-tempo track like the single “Path Of Vanir” however does bring the band back down to their sound they had used for the few years prior. In terms of Black Metal, ENSLAVED is sure to be on the less abrasive side of things, especially by this point. With exception made to the traditional, raspy snarls of Grutle Kjellson, the sound may not be so easily identified with the Black Metal sub-genre in the first place. In fact, the title track “Ruun” (and my personal favourite pick off the album) sounds as if it has more in touch with the Post-Metal stylings of TOOL than any extreme act.
Although the music here is kept quite consistent and strong throughout, there is the feeling that it is not quite as memorable as it could have been. Perhaps this is due to the fact that “Ruun” only passes me as being a less developed version of “Vertebrae”, or perhaps due to the fact that the band seems to still have much of the same dry presentation they did with “Isa”, albeit with the added dynamic and complexities here. ENSLAVED would see better days from this point on, and if anything, “Ruun” should be lauded for bringing in ENSLAVED's sound as we know it now. On its own, “Ruun” should prove to be a great introduction to the band for those yet uninitiated, as well as a very good addition to any existing ENSLAVED fan's collection.
(Online January 21, 2012)