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Incredibly Immersive - 90%

Five_Nails, September 20th, 2016

Enslaved is black metal's Pink Floyd and “Below the Lights”, at least to me, is black metal's “Dark Side of the Moon”. The band has a unique thematic approach to every album, isn't afraid to experiment its way into progressive and psychedelic territory and keeps itself grounded with the battle-hardened black metal kickassery that keeps you coming back to their style. They can easily transition from a deeply serious atmosphere to a very catchy sound, and always seem up for an enlightening new approach to every album. Adjectives have to be ordered by the truckload to attempt to nail down just what this band plays at any given moment and though they can be too weird for me here and there, Enslaved is always captivating and memorable. In seven songs averaging about five and a half minutes per song, “Below the Lights” clearly defines, elaborates on, experiments with, and tightly grasps a series of overarching themes of life, death, and spiritual rebirth in the old Norse world.

“As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” is a lament that opens the album with the fury of Sutur's fire during Ragnarok. Haunting and howling, the song kicks you right into the middle of the apocalyptic deluge. The double bass sounds like its being played on hollowed out tree trunks, the guitars ring out in long wailing harmonies, sounding psychedelic and raw at the same time. After a breakdown and return to form, another psychedelic moment happens giving the false sense that the song is going to end. Instead, they come back with a vengeance, blasting the harmony with invigorated drumming to round out the piece. Beginning with an ending, Enslaved brings a complex emotional sound to the mass destruction zone.

“Below the Lights” is the album that really builds the band's brand. One of my favorite metal memories was my first listen to “The Dead Stare”. If you haven't heard some Pink Floyd in Enslaved before, here it is in Enslaved's own version of “On the Run”. I remember how bewildering those first listens to the whirling vortexes in each of these songs were. At 1:28 a wicked shredding solo cuts the initial structure of “The Dead Stare” into ribbons and the solo's end leads to a new interlude that wrenches you away from reality, rupturing space-time as you fall into a chasm of infinite obscurity. Tears stream down your face as the world around you evaporates, the song scars itself into your brain, rips itself into legend, cauterizes the wounds, repatriates you into reality, and leaves you reborn in the icy shadows of your new gods. At least that's what happened to me. I don't know, I was really drunk at the time. “The Dead Stare” is exactly how you would translate into music looking through the campfire into the eyes of an ancient forest mystic after drinking his spirit-sensing concoction.

I'll lump “The Crossing”, “Queen of Night”, and “Havenless” into one space as they are excellently paced, flow well, and together form their own chapter of this album. In “The Crossing” there's a very nice guitar interlude that lasts a couple of minutes before coming into grainy black metal distortion. The riffing flows and ebbs aggressively before settling into a great shredding section. Drums gallop, guitars tear at the fabric of space-time again and you're flying off into Enslaved's ether again. The song moves like the kind of journey one would take on the path where no one goes as we abruptly dive into “Queen of Night” and its unforgiving guitar riff. While the other riffs that have been featured on this album flow and ebb with clear definition, like waves pushing up the shore and falling back into the sea, “Queen of Night” hits you with a punishing theme, one with plenty of space for some bluesy guitar solos, tremolo craziness, and an improvisational tone that understates the precision of the song's writing and reminds me of “Any Colour You Like”. This song always goes by like a blur for me, from the early solos to that gorgeous gallop at the end, there isn't a dull moment, but pure, satisfying, metal. The band lets loose, plays nicely with the space its created, and sounds like it was created on the fly. This brings us to “Havenless”, the first song I ever heard by Enslaved. What can I say? I love the awesome Nordic chant, the guitar and drums drop hard and heavy, the production cleans up and becomes a bit more professional. If there is anything resembling a single on this album, this is definitely it. Clocking in at the exact average song length for this album, unique yet accessible, plus with some of that black metal edge you're looking for, this is a defining moment in Enslaved's catalogue. We've gone from the horror of death in fire into a psychedelic experience in the Druid's cave, and now embark on a journey that has taken us to the seas in conquest of another land. All pretense is dropped for the time being as now, it's clobberin' time.

The clobberin' just keeps on coming. “Ridicule Swarm” brings back the rage we had “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” while “A Darker Place” drowns you in a rhythmic experience before blasting you out of its shivery sanctuary. These songs hint at the Enslaved you're going to hear later on, one with the kind of stamina and intensity they've perfected while really polishing their technique. I've seen some reviewers saying that these songs aren't worth their time or lose what the band had going earlier in the album. It's a valid argument that after “Havenless” the main narrative of the album has come to a close. The riffing is the main change, there's plenty more echo and the riffs hold strong through a more chaotic rhythm. The soloing is still on point though the tone is where things have changed. You've got two rippers here that kick some ass and I think do well enough to set the languishing tone of this album. It's coming to a close but Enslaved isn't going to let it go without a fight. This isn't a case of a song feeling out of place, I think they do work together and keep this album sounding great, but these seem to be the real controversial tracks of this album for not being hits. I'd say these songs did well to round out this album, and while even the “Dark Side of the Moon” motif ran its course by the end of “Havenless”, you're not out of the woods after that track.

While “The Dead Stare” is Enslaved's version of Pink Floyd's “On the Run”, there are some similarities to how “Havenless” is as direct and badass a money track as Pink Floyd's own “Money” and “Queen of Night” has an “Any Colour You Like” sort of improvisation in its guitar soloing. I hope it's not just the lunatic in my head hearing these similarities. Enslaved created something very unique, memorable, experimental, and beautiful on “Below the Lights”. This is an album that shows the versatility of black metal as a whole as much as it shows how creative and one-of-a-kind this group is. If you haven't given this album or any of Enslaved's other music a try it should definitely be a priority.

Their masterpiece. - 89%

ConorFynes, April 20th, 2016

Each time I visit this album, I'm more convinced that this is Enslaved's finest album. There are days where Axioma Ethica Odini and even Vertebrae might stand to dispute that claim-- at least in my eyes. Nonetheless, I don't think it would be fair to peg a different album as the one that made Enslaved everything they are.

Below the Lights is a masterpiece, and part of me thinks it's the result of the album being in the right place and time. Look at the band's output chronologically to see what I mean. On Mardraum and Monumension, Enslaved were lunging out of their shells as a undisputedly progressive band. I have a lot of respect for both albums, but as time's gone on, I've come to see them as transition pieces. Enslaved knew what they wanted to do, but it came across roughly. However brilliant the music was in large part, Mardraum in particular always comes off as an overcrowded mess with too much to prove. It would take a few years before the band became masters of the ideas they wanted to express, but they would get there.

I know there are fans that hail Isa (directly following Below the Lights) as the band's masterpiece, but it's never a feeling I've shared. Rather, in the albums after this, I actually believe Enslaved went too far with their control. Even the latter-era albums I loved sound like they've been brushed over with a fine-toothed comb. The blackened aura I loved on the early material was washed away. To call Below the Lights the "best of both worlds" wouldn't serve to express the inspiration they delivered this time around, but it might suggest why this one stands above the rest. However consistent they've been over their career, there have always been issues holding the band back, and it took an album like this one to prove just how good they could be.

Below the Lights is the only Enslaved album I could think of as a masterpiece from both a black metal or progressive standpoint. Other albums made compromises between one or the other. Below the Lights finally made due on their promise to marry the two genres as one. The album's unforgettable opener, "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth", demonstrates it superbly from the start. The intro is awash in vintage mellotron, as if Enslaved drew directly from a page out of Genesis' "Watcher of the Skies" off the classic Foxtrot and willed to twist it with black metal murk. Which they do, of course. The riffs here are thick and aggressive, and unlike most of their other albums, the production is rightly organic. Even Grutle Kjellson's throaty screams, which do little for me most times, have a fierceness to them you might assume had been muted by their proggy twist.

While the golden ratio between styles is a big part of why this album works so well, it would mean little if Enslaved had lacked for creative fire. When all of the songs included are full-bodied and distinctive, it's quickly obvious this isn't the case. While they've always been talented songwriters, this may be the most consistent batch of tracks ever released under the Enslaved banner. All of the tracks here offer a distinctive character. "The Dead Stare" follows the pummelling opener with quick-footed riffs and unexpected sonic interruptions of the space-kraut variety. "The Crossing" is a sweeping epic, replete with Opethian acoustics. "Queen of Night" is simultaneously one of the proggiest yet most oppressive tracks they've ever penned, so it's no wonder why it's a favourite for me on this album. Following that with Viking might come "Havenless", the black "Ridicule Swarm" and psychedelic "A Darker Place", I don't think there's a weak moment on this album.

It might be said that the final two tracks on this album don't quite live up to the par of the rest, but even then, I'd be hard-pressed to agree on most days. After all, "Ridicule Swarm" is host to one of my favourite ideas on the entire album (that part beginning around 3:15) and "A Darker Place" as a distinct Porcupine Tree glean to it that I cannot argue against. This may be the only point in Enslaved's career where they could do no wrong. Of course, that leads to the tragic element of this album; as quickly as they found their golden ratio, they abandoned it. I can't complain about a band continuing to evolve-- after all, that's the reason they're still successful-- but I don't think Enslaved will ever beat the masterstroke they achieved on Below the Lights.

Two career highlights and little more - 70%

flightoficarus86, January 19th, 2015

I can’t talk about Below the Lights without dedicating some time to the absolute triumph that is “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth.” What a beautiful song. That mournful opening riff worms its way into my soul and brings me very near tears. Typical of Enslaved, there are plenty of varied movements and sounds to be found here, but rarely are they executed so perfectly. And those stunning synths in the outro? I could listen to this track all day.

But enough. You are undoubtedly here to learn about the album as a whole. Unfortunately, after such a high-point opener and its violent counterpart “The Dead Stare,” I find myself largely disappointed for the remainder of its runtime. While Below the Lights covers similar ground as Monumension, it does so in a fashion I find less engaging. Tracks often take to long to come to a point with builds that ring as generic and lazy. Lacking the 70’s weirdness of its predecessor, Below the Lights begs for stronger songwriting to match its straightforward approach.

There are some cool start-stop riffs that have become synonymous with Enslaved’s later work, but that is part of the problem. Even the successful moments of this album feel like demo versions of the far more accomplished Isa. The epic minor chords, the slowly wavering tremolos, the haunting cleans and longing howls: they all pale in comparison. Had I heard this album on its release without foreknowledge of later works, I may have held this in as high regard as many of my peers do. Alas, I am but a plebian, having only joined the bandwagon recently.

Doing my best to view Below the Lights in isolation, there is still plenty to like. Apart from the guitar, drums continue to be varied in approach and are played expertly even if they are a bit buried in the mix. I would venture to say that the drums are one aspect of this album that are done better than on Monumension. On the flip side, the bass tone has undergone a major change in tone from the ever-present clanginess to a more typical background drone. It’s fairly uninteresting, but helps keep the overall sound full and strong. Finally, the synth work is just stunning. Following a less-is-more philosophy, the few tracks it appears on never fail to captivate, as on the intro and interlude of the otherwise uninteresting “Ridicule Swarm.”

In sum, I would venture to say that Below the Lights is likely Enslaved’s most over-rated work to date, but I am sure it was an achievement for the time. Far from a bad album, tracks like “As Fire…,” “The Dead Stare,” and “Havenless” are more than worth your time. But with so many albums to choose from, those daunted by diving into the discography for the first time would be better served by either Isa or Frost depending on their particular taste.

Mellotrons are cool, coherence is not - 55%

messengerofthegods, August 3rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2003, CD, Osmose Productions

It's really hard for me to figure out why some people consider this album Enslaved's best and most fans consider it even a "masterpiece". I've been listening to it for some time and I still can't figure out why.

First and foremost because, OK, it has some good or even great moments like those Viking-like chants accompanied by guitars at the beginning and at the end of Havenless. But the rest of that track (the middle part) has nothing to do with that intro/outro. It's not that the middle part is bad in itself at all. It's that although one can hear that there's an intention to put those pieces together, they still feel disconnected like if they were played by even different bands. When those chants present at the beginning of the song returns after the atmospheric and arrhythmic middle part to close the track, they are felt out of place and are not that epic anymore (although they are exactly the same as those at the beginning).

Despite all I've said above, the mentioned track is still among the most listenable ones on this album. This album has worse examples of disconnected sections and explaining all of them will be boringly painful for me and for readers of this review, so I'll illustrate that with one single and clear example. If there's a track in an album that is at least 2 minutes longer than the second longest track, then that track should have a good reason to have such a length. Instead, we have here that the longest track is in fact two completely different tracks put together. The first 4 minutes are OK; it's a good instrumental with a lot of clean guitars, but it suddenly fades out while another song fades in. Why is that? I don't get it. And as I said, there are many more sudden changes like that that are difficult to understand. Just listen to the whole 6th track to get an idea of what I mean.

There's only one track that I really like and that's the first one, As Fire Swept Clean the Earth. It still has some parts that seem not in harmony with each other, like the arpeggiated chords that appear just after the epic intro riff. That riff could have had a much better following section, but this song is still the most cohesive track on the whole album and these minor faults can be forgiven. It starts and ends with the same mellotron sound, which I think is cool, and the end is really good. It's probably the only track from this album that goes somewhere, and when after hearing the blast beats along with the intro riff again and a guitar melody, then suddenly most instruments stop, but the melody keeps sounding, now having just the mellotron as background, one realizes that listening to the whole song was worth it. And one can realize that it's one of the best musical moments in the whole discography of Enslaved.

Some other positive things I would like to mention is that the production sound is brilliant as well as is the musicianship, understood as the ability to play the compositions properly. But the problem, as we know, are the compositions themselves. About the production, I would like to add that although I like the final sound, I probably missed more dynamics and that is strange given the fact that the volume of this record is relatively low.

In the end, it's not a bad album at all, but it is definitely neither a masterpiece nor one of their best albums. Most of it is pieces that they've failed to put together.

Raising the stakes while razing the soul - 98%

autothrall, December 19th, 2011

I feel that to endear an album with the term 'Enlightenment' is often to reek of some attempt at pretentious misdirection, and yet there is no other choice I could use to so accurately describe Enslaved's 7th full-player, Below the Lights. 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. Up to its release, I admit to having viewed Enslaved as 'that band who released the stunning Frost and then a bunch of other albums which were gradually scaling in range and quality. But thanks to Below the Lights, my favorite album of 2003, they have become one of the acts I most closely pay attention to, eagerly anticipating each new studio effort and never having been let down since.

This is pretty much a template for how to incorporate varied stylistic influence into a cohesive fusion and vision so seamlessly gelled that I simply cannot imagine it ever fragmented into its scattered roots. 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.

The use of subtle orchestration and ambiance is but one of many weapons in play here, and a solemn synthesizer piece is used to inaugurate the opener, "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth". Immediately one can glean a sense for the warmer, jazzier textures being incorporated to the guitar chords, and the swerving complexity of the bass, and yet there are brazen tremolo lines and Grutle rasps so isolated and defiant that they could condense the clouds to darken the sky and induce a steady, cold precipitation. Cleaner vocals and guitars are threaded through the verses, while warbling whammy effects and sprinkles of sporadic lead melodies create an even denser palette of experience. But, as excellent as this piece is, it can't even begin to cover the myriad pleasures that await the listener throughout the album's duration...

I can only point out a few of the highlights, otherwise this would turn into a 10,000 word propaganda polemic. "Queen of Night" wins enormous marks for its transition from eerie, Jethro Tull flutes and acoustics to leaden, winding prog-metal grooves, bottom feeding bass ruptures and then it even explodes into this frenetic speed/thrashing sequence around the 4 minute mark. "Ridicula Swarm" begins with another engrossing, layered synthesizer sequence that transforms into a slew of violent riffing redolent of the band's earlier albums, and back again. "The Crossing" opens with a tranquil sensibility, tiny organs in the distance beyond its acoustics; but then flattens you with a massive wall of resilient electric melodies over an almost tribal foundation, Dirge Rep yet again proving that he's more than just a blaster on his swan song (with this band).

In fact, I think this is the best single album that guy has ever performed on, and not just for his technical ability, but contribution to the lyrics and writing. He even joins the band's internal choir for the intro to "Havenless", which is as swaggering, manly and memorable as you're going to get from anything even tangentially related to the Viking/folk metal scene. The musicianship of all parties involved is never less than stunning, but not just for its technical merits, but the impact of each individual sound. Like the kick drum and bass guitar in "A Darker Place" which create an uncanny, pounding sensation, or the constant contrast of Grutle's grisly bark with the cleaner, more refined melodies that surround it. Or the seemingly random electronic tangents fused into various tracks, which once again reflect the band's proggish influences. It should also be noted that the new guitarist here, Ice Dale is perhaps the perfect match for Ivar's playing.

Overall, Below the Lights represents a balance of brilliant ideas and meticulous execution, which I would deem utterly flawless were it not for the final track ("A Darker Place") slightly lagging behind its forebears in eloquence and compulsion. And by slightly, I mean that it's still superior to most of the other tracks in the band's backlog, it just feels like it's marginally shier in ideas and distinction than those leading up to it. But otherwise, 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.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

2-Phase System Equilibria Reached - 87%

zeingard, January 8th, 2008

'Below the Lights' is an ironic title for this quirky release by the viking-crazy Enslaved; it quite easily represents the peak of their creativity during the second, more progressive half of their musical releases. At this point they've moved on from creating atmospherically dark albums such as 'Monumension' and 'Mardraum - Beyond the Within' and started to mix things up by using the tried and true formula of throwing random passages and sections at the listener whenever they damn well feel like it. As much as I'd like to lament this clichéd and embarrassing hack of an attempt at progressive music it works quite well, really well in fact. Enslaved have managed to utilise the ever-popular formula without being a bunch of cockwits about it, most likely because they don't simply insert gratuitously long and meandering melodic passages for the sake of lengthening songs nor do they get the spontaneous urge insert a section from a completely different genre of music with no real purpose except to give me the shits. There is method to their madness; the brutal death metal style breakdown in "As Fire Swept the Earth" is a perfect example, it comes right out of left field and clocks you in the bollocks, it proves to be a powerful combination thanks to the strength of the main riff and keyboard work. The military snare drumming break in "Havenless" is also another interesting example and in the case of that song is probably the only thing preventing it from being a total loss on all fronts except for the fucking awesome Nordic chanting.

But it's not all about the jack-in-the-box passage insertion technique, the majority of the songs flow smoothly from section to section without much fuss really. "Queen of the Night" starts off with some pansy but effective flutes before moving into a mid-paced riff that moves into an ass shredding solo! To be honest I didn't think they had it in 'em but they play decent solos when they need to. After that they move into a clean sections and then solo yet again! "Queen of the Night" is definitely one of the better songs, being highly instrument focused and moving through varied sections without feeling like you're running the 100m hurdles up a flight of stairs. "The Dead Stare" also mixes things up without being jarring, and contains a great solo which is ruined by the guitar tone being rather 'soft'. Most interesting however is the excessive use of samples, keyboards and clean vocals during the breaks in the second half of the song, this style serves as a forerunner to their far more progressive offerings 'Isa' and 'Ruun'. Whilst in this song it's not too bad, it could probably do without the weird samples which really don't offer anything constructive or talented for that matter.

"The Crossing" is a god-awful song, 9 minutes of bland as fuck riffing. This song is a notable sign of Enslaved losing the plot; it's just such a boring song, so boring it could probably put a coffee taste tester to sleep. The first 4 minutes contain some bland riffing, some acoustic work, and then not much until the vocals and the bland riffs kick in again. Some other wank happens towards the end but who cares since it's at the end and nobody wants to even sit through 'til the end. I'd almost call it some sort of horrid failure at an attempt of post-rock aesthetics but it's not even that, it's just shite progressive wank. "A Darker Place" is a good song, unfortunately during the first verses there are some of the most terrible keyboards I have heard in a long time; they sound like a crystal xylophone being played with a broom. As nitpicky as it is, especially considering the chorus is actually good, they are quite awkward and again serve as warning for what would come in the future.

'Below the Lights' was their first step in shedding even more of their black metal style whilst adapting more progressive aesthetics, and it strikes a very clear balance between the two without treading too deeply into either waters and sucking more than a Thai hooker on two for one Tuesdays. It's tragically hilarious to note that the band has gotten worse by abandoning black metal, well by abandoning too much of it's black metal history at least. Then again Emperor had hit their zenith with 'In the Nightside Eclipse' and then proceeded to water down their sound further by shedding the corpse paint and adopting more traditional elements that produced convoluted albums like 'Equilibrium IX'. Enslaved's ultimate downfall that would become readily apparent in their subsequent albums is having plenty of progressive elements but not enough black metal to give the music an appropriate atmosphere and frankly enough balls. At least this album will stand as a testament of just how talented this band can be; the powerful guitars backed by dark keyboards while rasped out vocals sing tales of vikings and Norse mythology.

Brilliant, nothing more, nothing less. - 92%

PerArdua, August 29th, 2004

Enslaved are one of the founding fathers of the genre known as viking metal, the lineup has gone through many changes over their illustrious career, yet with each release they manage to produce something new and original.
'Below the Lights' brings in elements of death metal and progressive metal along with the typical viking metal that Enslaved is known for.

As Fire swept clean the earth: This song is such a great way to start of this album, it begins with an interesting sound from the synthesizers, sort of like an old record player but with chords (hard to explain) but it fits perfect. This leads into this song, typical tremelo picking and screams, very nice. The song features interludes with chants and spoken vocals along with a more mellow guitar, before blasting back into the tremelo picking. About midway through the song, a death metal approach is taken, seemingly out of no where, this soon slows down to a mellow riff, with a short guitar solo. The song then blasts back into tremelo picking and finishes on the same opening to the song.
5/5 Great song

The Dead Stare: This song is a little more upbeat than the first, a mid paced riff along with good drumming here makes for a nice combination. Soon enough, there is a solo that fits in with the upbeat part of the song, even though the first part of the solo is a bit cliched. The solo leads right into an interlude, a very good one at that, this in turn leads into blasting tremelo picking with the drums balancing it all out. The song then takes another turn for the slower, sort of like parts on Arcturus' 'The Sham Mirrors.' The song then finishes by playing the same riffs from the beginning of the song, again.
3.5/5 A good listen.

The Crossing: Acoustic intro here, played very nicely, dwelling in both major and minor chords. Soon the acoustics are broken with some tremelo picking, and some synthesizers in the background for an extra dimension to the song. After this tremelo picking has taken effect, in comes another acoustic part, played to perfection. This same part is then played with distortion and drums, it sounds very good. About halfway through the song, the song picks up with a typical Enslaved riff, this really picks up the song. Good stuff all around. This part also includes spoken and chanted vocals. About 6 minutes in, there is a solo but it serves the purpose of a lead part here. Towards the end of the song, it really picks up before slowing down and fading out at the end.
4/5 Good track

Queen of the Night: This intro is very weird, almost jazzy mixing an acoustic guitar and a flute along with the drums going in the background. Leading into a nice, typical Enslaved riff. The next part (along with most of this song) incorporates lead parts and melody, very well executed. The solo in this song is one of the better ones on this cd. The first lyrics on this song are sung, and they are sung very well, i love this part. This next part really picks up the pace, intense drumming and very fast guitar riff, along with screams. This is more like the older stuff that Enslaved did, this is prove that they still have skill.
5/5 Probably my favorite track on the album, though it's hard to pick.

Havenless: This song starts off with a chant, with guitars blaring in the background, it makes for a very interesting intro. This goes on for a little, then into a typical Enslaved riff, with some palm muted stuff along with screams. Nothing bad here. Soon comes in a cool riff, somewhat like a Quo Vadis song, but slowed down and if you added in chants and wind. This part is very interesting. This goes on for quite a while before returning to the original riffs in the song. The song then ends the same way it started, with the chant.
3.5/5 Solid Song.

Ridicula Swarm: This song starts off with cello (synth) it's a very sad and depressing intro, i love the atmosphere that it gives off. The song then gets extremely fast, fast. A very fast song, with technical drumming and an awesome guitar riff. About halfway through the song, there is a symphonic interlude, along with clean guitars. This is quickly broken with viking chants and great guitarwork. This song rotates in and out of traditional viking metal and a more black metal approach.
5/5 In the running for best song on the album.

A Darker Place: A sort of slower guitar part to open this song along with some synth parts. The song then picks up a bit, along with great vocals here, they are sung particularly well. This song then goes into black metal mode, along with death metal growls. This song gets very fast at this point, good stuff. The song eventually returns to the parts with great vocals. At about 4:30 the song stops for a second and the sound of nature comes in, followed by a beatiful acoustic part. With some guitars in the background, nothing big though as the acoustic is still the main focus of the music. The song fades out with this acoustic part along with the guitar solo. This song ends on the sound of nature. Thus ending the album.
4.5/5 Awesome track

Brilliant album all the way around, though at times it can be a bit repetitive.

Best Metal Album of 2003 - 89%

CrimsonFloyd, March 31st, 2004

For a very long time now, Enslaved has been one of the most intriguing bands within the black metal scene. They originally carved their own niche into the scene with their addition of Viking styled clean vocals (which have sense become very popular), traditional Norwegian folk influences as well as classic 70’s progressive rock influences. Over the years Enslaved has evolved, leaving their many clones in the dust, as their music has become more and more progressive. Here we see Enslaved continue to climb that mountain, letting the progressive elements shine forth more then they ever have before. “Below the Lights” is a collection of original, dense, artistic and creative songs each with a completely different song structure and set of emotions then the previous. While most metal albums, including most of Enslaved’s previous works, tend to try and keep one overriding theme or atmosphere throughout (a style I am not attacking, as most of my favorite albums take this route) Enslaved has opted for a different route, allowing each track to create its own little world for the listener. With this new approach Enslaved has managed to create the best album of their career as well as the most interesting metal album of 2003.
“Below the Lights” begins with lush mellotrone, playing a sad melody, before the band kicks in. “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” is equally beautiful, tragic and sorrowful. The riffs are rich with emotion and bring the lyrics to life. The listener can see their self standing atop a hill staring down on a village set a flame with the townspeople running every which way. The melancholic only lifts for a moment during the slow, thick, deathy segment in the middle of the song. The next song, “The Dead Stare” is extremely dark, in fact its one of the more wonderfully dark pieces of metal I have been fortunate enough to come across. After a groovy guitar solo the song pulls you into a dark world, as evil riffs wonderfully layered with a Hammond B3 organ surround the listener pulling them in deeper and deeper. “The Crossing” is slowly builds up from a lone acoustic guitar to an extremely atmospheric metal segment. Next the song alternates between black metal versus and clean choruses. The song concludes as a riff that can only be described as mystical builds up going faster and faster until it finally peaks. “Queen of Night” is another brilliant song. After a jazzy flute led intro, the song switches from rough black metal segments, atmospheric clean segments and extremely intriguing guitar soloing. This is probably the hardest song to get into on the whole album, but in the end is also the most rewarding. “Havenless” is probably the strangest track on here. An extremely catchy, crunchy riff with Viking chants and black metal rasps leads the song. The middle section contains a bunch of backwards vocals over another very tight, crunchy riff. Overall the song doesn’t come off as strong as its predecessors, but is enjoyable, nonetheless. “Ridicule Swarm” is a strong and full of furry. After starting with some atmospheric mellotrone, the band burst into a barrage of black metal aggression. The fury stops for a moment, when a less intense riff kicks in with Grutle’s excellent spoken Norwegian hymns. The highlight of “A Darker Place” is defiantly the ending, which sounds like Pink Floyd jamming in hell, absolutely phenomenal.
Overall Enslaved have managed to make an excellent album, filled with many different emotions, song structures, concepts and instruments. Though many bands put these different elements into use, very few pull it off as well as Enslaved has here. It’s nice to see that Enslaved have taken more then just musical influences from the progressive greats of the seventies, they have also taken on the attitude of constant musical progression, always stretching the boundaries and trying something new. As long as Enslaved keeps this mentality they should reach even more amazing peaks before their career is complete.

The King Crimson of viking metal? - 90%

Conan_Troutman, November 24th, 2003

Wow. Was I surprised upon hearing this album or what? Not being an Enslaved superfan or anything - although I am creeping closer to that status after listening to [i]Below The Lights[/i] - I wasn't expecting anything as interesting and progressive-sounding as this. Having only heard their [i]Frost[/i] record from 1994, I had(unwisely) made the assumption this disc would sound something like the previous Enslaved material I had heard(abrasive and forceful, like a frostbitten horde of berzerkers ready to raze a village), never once heeding the words of more knowedgable metalheads, who said that Enslaved's last couple records were "really out there". While not as "out there" as I had expected, [i]BTL[/i] is definitely not as straightforward as one may have come to expect of black/viking metal. Enslaved make great use of not only non-traditional heavy metal instruments(check out the jazzy flute passage during the intro. to "Queen of Night"), but also the overused "epic sense" found in most of today's so-called "black" metal (Shagrath & co., I'm looking your way!). Enslaved accomplish this sense of majesty without drenching their music in keyboards and synths, as opening track "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" shows; it's possible to create a sense of atmosphere and emotion with just the drone of the guitars(the lead guitar work on this one gives me the chills) and drums(alright, alright, so there's synths in the intro. to this song; at least they fit, and only appear again to close out the track). Standout tracks for this reviewer include "The Dead Stare" with it's awesome "thrash metal-meets-psychedelic rock" outro. riff (if you can keep from bopping your head along to this one, seek help), as well as the aforementioned "Queen..." and "As Fire...". "A Darker Place" ends off the disc nicely, with it's (gasp!) [i]Opeth[/i]-esque leanings, the soft-yet enticing guitar outro. leading one to wonder "what the hell will Enslaved do next?" Definitely one of my faves of 2003.