ENSLAVED - Below the Lights LP
From the rune inscribed, unforgettable and glum cover image to the 46 minutes of near impregnable aural genius on parade, this is a band reaching a new vista of potential and simultaneously airbrushing the Norwegians' previous excursions into experimental, progressive territories into a portrait for the ages. Progressive rock of the 70s and 80s, psychedelic overtones, historical and folk cognizance, 'wall of sound' or 'shoegazing' guitar passages, and lying deep at its heart, the same polished and potent black metal rasping and riffing the band introduced in the early 90s. It's not Enslaved's first dance with self-production and engineering, as they had been locked in the DIY mentality for several prior albums, but Below the Lights was clearly the very best the band had managed to its day. An earthen authenticity enriches the dynamic guitars, and much of the disc feels as if it could translate directly into the live setting. And yet, there is nothing 'pop' about it. Just a cloying sadness and darkness to the album worthy of those underground recordings that continue to thrill the core, devoted black metal audience. This is mandatory material, less jarringly developed than Mardraum and more thematically consistent than Monumension. It looks good, it sounds superb, and it even reads wonderfully! Simple, searing imagery rooted in folklore is well integrated to the emotional shifts in the music. Once more, Enslaved proves that growth need not come at the expense of credibility, and this record remains a hallmark for 'progressive black metal' or whatever sonic niche you deem to place it.
Ltd. to 500 copies on 180 gram black vinyl in gatefold sleeve.