Greek brutal death outfit Murder Made God didn’t exactly make a splash with their debut, Irreverence, which introduced the band with little fanfare. Enslaved isn’t out to challenge your conceptions of brutal death metal, but there’s a wealth of material on this album that shows the band growing but certainly not diversifying. With a name like Murder Made God, brutal death is what you expect, and brutal death is what you get: no frills, no chills, just a half hour of blasphemy and blastbeats. They might not be the next big thing, but that won’t stop Enslaved from delivering.
“Victims” opens the album with a competent display of blastbeatery and some of the album’s most technical guitar work, falling into a Decapitated-esque groove that won’t be forgotten later in the album. Murder Made God take heavy influence from other continental brutal death bands like Hour of Penance and Kronos, but shy away from the long songs that often plague the albums of other brutal bands. Cuts like “A Morbid Institution” and “Depression” are some of the album’s longest, but come in at under four minutes each. “Depression” ends with an excellent pit-fodder riff that really gets the head moving, and “A Morbid Institution,” along with its perfectly brutal name, delivers a slow, simple and winding lead that’s quite memorable.
Later album tracks like “Subject 666” flaunt some Origin influence and some riffs would fit right in on an Abysmal Dawn album, full of tremolo low-string riffage under meaty growls. “Urban Warfare” is one of the album’s best mid-paced songs and builds tension before “Involuntary Servitude” caps the album in a violent, if predictable, finale. There’s not much to complain about here; the band are tight and their songs are snappy, built around flagship riffs as propulsive as they are heavy, and they never get bogged down in technicality. Even if the sound isn’t too distinctive – Enslaved makes for a good halfway point between Decapitated and Dying Fetus – the band’s ability to sidestep the pitfalls common to modern brutal death metal makes for a very solid record.
Enslaved‘s mix is a bit uneven, with the guitar sounding somewhat pushed back, and very prominent vocals. Neither of the two are doing anything particularly groundbreaking, but the imbalance does pinch some of the album’s more interesting moments, such as the quick and airy lead in the title track. But the guitar here otherwise sounds great, and axeman ‘Dennis’ has dialed in a springy, athletic tone that sounds very appropriate and reminiscent of the last Kronos record. While the band aren’t genius writers or technical showboats, there’s a certain chemistry between the instruments that makes Enslaved pretty enjoyable, and though it’s pretty squashed, short songs and a very manageable total length do the band a lot of favors.
What’s most commendable about this album is just how much it doesn’t suck: something that a lot of brutal records have trouble with. Murder Made God aren’t trying to blow your mind – though they might blow your speakers – and are content to deliver straightforward death metal without pretense or posturing. Listening to this album felt comfortable, like wearing shorts for the first time in spring; not a big change, but a taste of something both new and familiar. It might not win them masses of fans, or indeed much critical acclaim, but it’s refreshing to hear a brutal band so comfortable in their own skin, seemingly uninterested in trend chasing. Enslaved is very much an exemplar record; not excellent, but an exercise in exacting execution of its genre.