ENSLAVED — Below the Lights

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ENSLAVED - Below the Lights cover
4.26 | 38 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 2003

Filed under Black Metal


1. As Fire Swept Clean the Earth (6:35)
2. The Dead Stare (5:37)
3. The Crossing (9:11)
4. Queen of Night (5:59)
5. Havenless (5:35)
6. Ridicule Swarm (6:18)
7. A Darker Place (7:01)

Total Time: 46:19


- Ivar Bjørnson / Guitars, keyboards, effectors
- Arve Isdal / Lead guitar
- Grutle Kjellson / Vocals, bass
- Dirge Rep / Drums

Guest musicians:
- Dennis Reksten / Synthesizres FX
- Inge Rypdal / Lead guitars on "A Darker Place"
- Gina Torgnes / Flute on "Queen of Night"
- Børgvin Tungrock Kor (Aesgeir, Dirge Rep, Enslaved, Kai, Kåre) / Chant on

About this release

Osmose Productions, April 14th, 2003

Produced by Grutle Kjellson, Ivar Bjørnson, Jørgen Træen and Pytten.
Mixed by Grutle Kjellson, Ivar Bjørnson and Jørgen Træen.

Recorded in Grieghallen Studios, Bergen during September & October 2002.
Mixed in Duper Studios, Bergen during January 2003.
Mastered in Duper Studios, Bergen by Jørgen Træen and at Digipro Studios, Paris by Nicholas Ramaget, Pierre Dechamps during February 2003.

Vinyl Limited to 1000 copies

The runes on the cover reads "Voluspaa Seks og Ti" which probably refers to
strophes six and ten of the Völuspá, the most well-known poem of the Poetic
Edda, describing the beginning and the end of the world.

Warning - Osmose CD presses up to around 2005 may contain a copy-protection
method which renders the CD completely unreadable in PCs and certain modern
Hi-Fi systems. This isn't indicated anywhere on the packaging.

Thanks to Prog Geo, UMUR, adg211288 for the updates


More places to buy metal & ENSLAVED music

  • CDUniverse - Specializing in the sale of domestic and imported music CDs and Imports


Specialists/collaborators reviews

This mysterious and melancholy piece of progressive black metal sees Enslaved exploring further sonic possibilities of the walls of guitar noise and mellotron waves they create. The highlight of the album must be the incredible The Crossing, particularly the turning point in the song when a folk-tinged instrumental lament takes an abrupt left turn into a harsh black metal rant. There are many such twists and turns between beauty and harsh, pounding ugliness on the album, which represents a great example of a band from the classic era of Norwegian black metal embracing growth, experimentation and musical change successfully. Four and a half stars, easily.
"Below the Lights" is the 7th full-length studio album by Norwegian black metal act Enslaved. The album was released in April 2003 by Osmose Productions. Incorporating more and more progressive elements into their "core" black metal sound over the last couple of albums, "Below the Lights" is probably one of the most progressive and diverse releases yet by Enslaved.

...while still being rooted in black metal, the music on "Below the Lights" features quite a few elements from 70s progressive/ experimental rock. Especially the occasionally used mellotron and organ lead my thoughts in that direction. As and example the mellotron intro to the opening track "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" has that epic yet melancholic feel to it that I also associate with the intro the "Watcher Of The Skies" by Genesis. I don´t think it´s a coincidence that "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" is the opening track on "Below the Lights" just as "Watcher Of The Skies" is the opening track on the album where it is featured (that would be "Foxtrot (1972)"). The closing repetitive and quite spacy sounding minutes of "The Dead Stare" have a very obvious Hawkwind sound to it (nice psychadelic sounding synth effects) and is another example of the strong 70s progressive/space rock vibe that is present on "Below the Lights". Or maybe take a listen to the intro to "Queen of Night" which features flute and a prog folky sound.

When that is said "Below the Lights" probably isn´t an album that will suit the taste of many "regular" progressive rock fans who aren´t accostumed to extreme metal. The vocals are for the most part still very extreme and delivered in an aggressive raspy sneer. There are occasional clean vocals featured on the album too, but they are not that dominant. "Below the Lights" is a very diverse album and while that´s not always a strength in my book as too much diversity has a tendency to ruin consistency, it´s an asset here. In addition to the progressive elements I mentioned above you´ll find both blasting black metal sections, blackened thrashy sections, epic atmospheric sections and a viking chant no less. The latter occurs in the track "Havenless" and to be honest I found it quite silly to begin with, not being a great fan of viking or folk metal in general, but it´s kinda grown on me and I´ve come to the realization that it sits quite well on the album and brings a different atmosphere to the table that makes the album even more long lasting that it already is. The album features enough variation for you to return to it again and again.

The sound production is enjoyable but compared to later more mature and well produced releases by Enslaved, I think it leaves a bit to be desired. On the other hand I like the rawness and unpolished sound of "Below the Lights", so I guess the sound isn´t an issue in the end.

"Below the Lights" is a very strong album showcasing both Enslaved´s black metal past and progressive extreme metal future. It´s a distinct sounding album both compared to the rest of the band´s own discograpy but also compared to extreme metal in general. It´s an album that´s taken a while to grow on me, but patience has paid off this time. A 4.5 star rating is fully deserved.
Conor Fynes
'Below The Lights' - Enslaved (8/10)

Although- in my humblest of opinions- Enslaved has never played a 'typical' sound for black metal, it is an irrefutable fact that the band has made steps towards a more progressive and left-of-center sound with each new release. Before releasing what are now considered to be their greatest 'prog' albums, Enslaved experimented with the new prog rock elements with such albums as 'Monumension' and this; 2003's 'Below The Lights'. Personally, I have found that the band started off quite strong, but took some time to properly incorporate the prog fixtures into their sound. It is surprising then, that 'Below The Light's has worked out to become one of my favourite Enslaved records to date. Despite still sounding like a progressive metal that was still trying to get on their feet, Enslaved shows some of their greatest promised here, delivering the same ferocity they had starting out, with the new additions to create a record that is flawed, but all too pleasantly so. An excellent album from these Norwegian black metallers.

Although I am sure it will put off the orthodox black metal fans like a bad case of the bubonic plague, 'Below The Lights' starts off with a melancholic mellotron passage; a surprisingly effective way to lead the listener into the intense riffing to come. The closest comparison I could draw to this combination of styles would be Opeth, due to the fact that both bands combine black metal and prog rock, but don't necessarily blend the two as one. In other words, there are aspects of the mix that are uniquely 'prog' and others that stay true to Enslaved's roots. Regardless of this though, the sounds generally work together quite well, and when they don't, it seems to be more a fault of the album's rather inconsistent production, which is certainly cleaner than on Enslaved's earlier material, but it's sometimes muddy and flawed sounding recording makes it sound like the engineer was more of a weekend warrior than a full-time professional. Be this as it may, Enslaved's performance is none the lesser for it.

While I am quite a fan of the music that Enslaved makes, and has made over the past twenty years, their presentation of the music sometimes lacks the sort of bite that I would generally come to expect in black metal, and things are no different with 'Below The Lights'. Although nowhere near as big an offender as 'Isa' when it comes to sounding cold, the way the guitar riffs are played sometimes feel a little too by-the-numbers and lack some organic feeling that would have otherwise made the music come more alive. In the scheme of most of Enslaved's progressive albums though, this one is certainly performed with a greater level of intensity, and the music is made all the more enjoyable for it.

In terms of album flow, cohesion was certainly not the biggest priority on the band's agenda at this point, but the first six tracks flow with some nice precision. The first and sixth tracks ('As Fire Swept Clean The Earth' and 'Ridicule Swarm', respectively) both open up with similar mellotron passages, and it feels as if it gives this series of songs a nice 'beginning and finish' feeling to them. The seventh track is- of course- the true closer to the album, but in terms of listening to the album, it does feel as if it is left out from the way that the record was put together.

Enslaved's 'Below The Lights' is certainly flawed, and the flaws are pronounced enough to clearly identify them in my eyes. However, it is the added sense of organism that this album has that endears me to it above many other albums by the band. An excellent album from Enslaved, and a great marker of the band's progress up to this point in their career.
I didn’t get to hear any Enslaved album untill Below The Lights hit the shelves. It was quite a discovery and it has held a strong position in my charts ever since. Musically it is a continuation of Monumension, but it manages to stay clear of the cold experimentalism of that album and merges Enslaved’s prog ambitions with a rocking energy.

The opening track is a treat. Signature Voivod riffs, varying time signatures and an elaborate song structure. It has a very aggressive bite and a number of blast beating attacks that rival their 90’s albums. The Dead Stare is even better. It starts as a blackened version of Voivod again with Grutle Kjellson’s screech in fine form. But around minute 2 magic happens. Enslaved realizes their prog potential here and dive into an extended psychedelic jam boosted by a forceful riff. Hazy vocals, organs and effects weave a big spacey atmosphere around it.

Enslaved found their momentum now and add another batch of some of their best compositions. The Crossing opens with 4 minutes of fine instrumental prog before it changes into an astounding composition that nicely varies their high black metal pitch with more laid-back melodic vocals. The hand of Voivod and the psychedelic daze of early Floyd is never far off.

Queen of The Night opens with a nice bit of Mahavishnu jazz rock before the sharp neurotic chromatic riffs kick in again. Havenless ends this strong string of intense music with a tribute to the pagan chants of their black metal years. Somehow I’ve never fully got into the two remaining tracks on the album. They contain some fine sections but somehow they don’t compare to what preceded. They fail to add remarkable riffs or any other element to make them stand out.

Excellent album but a bit too long.
Below the Lights is an excellent Black Metal release by progressive black metal band Enslaved. There's lot's of creativity in the album, and from the beginning one should know that they aren't in for a ride of a standard metal album OR a standard prog album, because "As Fire Swept Clean The Earth" begins with a haunting sole mellotron introducing, only to be immediately taken over by bleak and harsh black metal riffs.

The rest of the album has several great moments as well. Although black metal doesn't usually lend itself to solos, there is a technical and fast guitar solo towards the beginning of "The Dead Stare" that is pure excellence, and the song continues to progress to new sounds and atmospheres. The rest of the songs flow quite well too, since none of them are in standard verse and chorus formats. A good example is "The Crossing" which has an awesome acoustic guitar switching with agressive electric guitars to create an excellent buildup, until the vocals come in.

One thing most notable about Below the Lights are the eclecicism of the artsts. Though most of the album is clearly black metal with prog rock flourishes, there are a few other things mixed in. The previously-mentioned opener "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" leaves behind the harsh and evil black metal atmospheres at one point and suddenly turns into death metal, with some exceptionally agressive growls. "Queen of Borrowed Light" begins with an interesting jazz tinged intro, with folky flute flowing through it. While these songs are excellent, perhaps fans will be more eager to note the obvious viking roots of Enslaved because of "Havenless", which bursts right from the beginning into a viking chant, while later turning into a march with excellent syncopated percussion and palm-mute riffing.

Below the Lights only contains a few flaws. There's quite a bit of repetition in the album, but that's to be expected from a black metal band. Still, as good musicians one would hope that they are capable of writing music capable of more exploration instead of relying on simpler riffs most of the time. Also, the last couple of tracks are fairly standard, though "Ridicule Swarm" does have a rather interesting extended mellotron intro and "A Darker Place" is nice and sludgy.

In any event, this is a great black metal release by Enslaved. As I have said, it contains awesome metal licks and mixes in a lot of influence, from their folk and Norwegian viking roots to the progressive rock of the 70, which is more than enough of a reason to get it.

Members reviews

"Progression or evolution is best served if it does not include dismissing either the past elements or the future possibilities. Being all about regression makes music rotten from the inside in the long run, while total futurism tears up roots and make the tree fall," said Ivar Bjørnson, founding member and guitarist of Enslaved, in an interview with Metal Bite when Below the Lights first dropped in 2003. While referring specifically to the philosophy behind the music on the band's latest record, Ivar's comments could easily sum up the raison d'etre of many progressive and avant-garde metal acts leading up to and immediately following the turn of the millennium. This was an era where an open frontier of metal music remained undiscovered and many Nordic acts, Norway's Enslaved included, answered the call of exploration.

Below the Lights does its part in advancing these exploratory efforts by expertly threading together the most haunting elements of mellotron based 70's prog, Viking-inspired folk, and modern black metal. Coupled with an iconic album cover and esoteric lyrics, this is a record that fosters a palpable sense of impenetrable mystery. Who exactly is trapped below that snow covered forest? How does their pain and misery square with the abject euphoric beauty explored on tracks like "The Crossing"? Who exactly is having these mystical visions of impending darkness? I am not equipped to even attempt answering these mysteries. I am content with letting that mystery permeate through the music.

Despite the above praise, I'm still unable to afford this record a perfect rating. As I have mentioned in my reviews in the passed, black metal as a style is, for my own personal taste, a liability. Compared to a death metal growl, black metal vocals are thin and grating. If death metal vocals attempt to capture the power and terror of Satan himself, black metal vocals imitate the sounds of the small imps running around stirring trouble on Satan's behalf. Additionally, black metal guitars and drums are too keen on using tremolo techniques as the foundation of entire passages. "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" could easily have been improved had those tendencies been tamed.

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