ENSLAVED – Below The Lights

The true kings of Norway have done it again. While there are plenty of bands rehashing the same tired ideas over and over again, ENSLAVED is not one of them. Instead they choose to challenge themselves and their listeners with each new album. The band’s latest, Below the Lights, is no exception. They expand on their flirtations with progressive rock that were hinted on Mardraum and later became fully realized on their last release, Monumension. Below the Lights further explores these ideas with the first three songs alone, which combine a variety of dynamic and tempo changes ranging from clean voices, soft acoustics to harsh vocals and blastbeats. There are variations that intermingle thrash riffs, odd-time signatures and a mixture of dark atmospherics with a strong psychedelic influence overseeing the proceedings. On “Queen of the Night,” you could have sworn that someone slipped on a CAMEL disc while you weren’t looking as the intro employs the use of flutes and acoustic guitars. But in the next instant, heavy chugging riffs arrive with some black metal vocals before double-bass kicks in with some fine lead work from their new guitarist Arve Isdal. He also delivers a great solo on “The Dead Stare“. While Below the Lights introduces Isdal, it also marks the final appearance of the departed Dirge Rep, who exits in style by displaying complex, intricate, and well thought out drumming throughout the entire record. It complements the music rather trying to impress everyone with self indulgent, over playing. The album is an interesting, involved record that incorporates a variety of influences while simultaneously retaining the black metal roots that helped take the band to the top of the viking black metal elite. It’s not only a lesson in progression, diversity, and creativity, but also one of integrity. It’s a lesson that James, Kirk, Lars, and the new guy may wish to investigate. (The End Records)

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