Below the Lights

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One of the few early-wave Norwegian black metal bands still making music in the early 2000s, Enslaved has also remained quite prolific. Below the Lights is their third album of the decade, and with it, they unfold a rare balance between remaining innovative and experimental without getting into a lot of electronic trickery. Often that balancing act takes place literally, the band coming up with odd juxtapositions such as layering a sad, soaring guitar solo over a fierce blastbeat ("As Fire Swept Clean the Earth"), or a bluesy hard rock solo over a galloping black metal backdrop ("The Dead Stare"). At other points, the contrasts are more clear-cut, such as the abrupt switch into the death metal-ish middle section on "As Fire Swept..." Elsewhere, Enslaved also offers up chanting Norse vocals and intricate prog-rock passages ("Havenless"), a harmonically unusual guitar/flute/drum intro ("Queen of the Night"), some tasteful synthesizer passages, and plenty of good old-fashioned guttural death metal riffing as well. Yet for all its variety, this is still a fairly heavy, meat-and-potatoes album with plenty of emotional nuance as well. There are a few spots where Enslaved's ambitions get the better of them, but the experimentation is welcome in any case, and most of it does work. Below the Lights will likely stand out down the road as one of the top black metal releases of 2003.

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