20. Enslaved, E (Nuclear Blast)
The three metal artists that had the biggest influence on me personally over the last 20 years are Opeth, Meshuggah, and Enslaved. All three have one key characteristic in common (okay, two): a constant hunger for musical growth and progression, as well as an artistic vision that is completely uncompromising. I’ve often compared Enslaved’s career trajectory to that of Canadian innovators Voivod, in that they evolved from the primitivism of Norwegian black metal in the early-1990s to something far more streamlined and melodic, and very difficult to categorize. Their 14th album continues to perpetually look forward, but is a marked improvement over their last two albums, 2012’s RIITIIR and 2015’s In Times. It’s a much more even balance between the black metal/Pink Floyd/Voivod hybrid Enslaved has perfected over the years, and Håkon Vinje is a solid inclusion on singing and keyboards. For all the strong original tracks (“Storm Son” and “The River’s Mouth” are phenomenal) the best moment on the record is actually the band’s inspired cover of Royksopp’s classic single “What Else is There”. It’s reassuring to know that a veteran band like Enslaved is still capable of clever new ideas.