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Enslaved - Below the Lights CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.10 | 145 ratings

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3 stars Norwegian death metal artists are back with their sixth studio album release since their 1994 debut, Vikingligr Veldi.

1. "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" (6:35) Gollum vocals! and then, later, deep mountain trolls. The music is so simple with it's two two-chord foundations alternating from start to finish. The Fripp-like lead guitar work in the final two minutes is nice. (8.667/10)

2. "The Dead Stare" (5:37) a little more dynamic fluctuation here but still hard to tolerate with those indecipherable vocals. (8.5/10)

3. "The Crossing" (9:11) acoustic guitars!? Oh. The metal walls of sound take over--again using two two-chord progressions (one major, one minor) as the sole basis for the entire song. The slowed down passage starting at the end of the third minute is actually quite nice. But then an old-fashioned two-chord metal passage is faded in during the fifth minute, bringing with it the growl vocals (the song's first vocals). A minute later the guitars shift to more spacious staccato strumming with normal human voice vocals before the music again shifts into a more of a swing rhythmic pattern. These last two motifs alternate back and forth over the next few minutes before turning to a rather hypnotic (and, actually, pretty) tremolo-guitar-based instrumental section for the ninth minute and finish. Parts of that were actually quite good! (17.5/20)

4. "Queen of Night" (5:59) opening with an odd acoustic guitar and flute duet, the music is quickly supplanted by metal (almost industrial metal) for some display of flashy lead guitar speed shredding. The vocals in the fourth minute have a monastic haunting feel similar to something from Blue Öyster Cult. But then we turn a corner into some very choppy stoccato and machine gun bas and guitar playing over which growl vocalist Grutle Kjellson does his thing. Pretty amazing speeds generated by that bass player! (8.75/10)

5. "Havenless" (5:35) Warrior-like men's group choir vocals over the metal guitar play opens this one before the growler takes over. The most schizophrenic song on the album, there are so many parts and dramatic vocal voices used that it is truly confusing. Interesting but just a little too weird. (8.5/10)

6. "Ridicule Swarm" (6:18) weird keyboard spacey ghostness opens this before the death metal stuff comes crashing in at the end of the first minute. Nice variation with the growls (in both duration and pitch) and nice drum play. Some kind of film voice sample in the background during the midsection is then followed by a "lulling" metal passage before the death metal stuff comes crashing back in. Definitely one of the more interesting songs on the album. (8.667/10)

7. "A Darker Place" (7:01) my brain hurts! Even the acoustic guitar mid-section and more 1980s heavy blues metal finish is more than my puny little vegetarian brain can take. (13/15)

Total Time 46:16

I finally decided to give these Death Metal artists a listen because I so respect and love Ivar Bjørnson for his Viking folk rock collaboration with Einar Selvik, the 2018 release, Hugsjá. but, in the end, I am, as usual, disappointed with the sonic textures presented in support of the death metal growls. Just not my cup of tea. Plus, the music is often far simpler than I expected (especially the drums--the bass is often amazing.)

B-/3.5 stars; a mind-numbing album of metal music that may find fans within the fold but, to my mind, even there might find detractors for the sometimes simple music and not-so-very-impressive soloing on display. Perhaps the messages mean more to those fans, but, as we all know, I do not hear lyrics--and especially not in the death metal growl form. I cannot in good conscience assign this the "excellent addition to any prog rock music collection" precisely because I've never been quite certain of death metal's place in Prog World but also because, even if I try to put myself into a Metal Head's mindset, I can see a lot of flaws and shortcomings with the music this album puts forward.

BrufordFreak | 3/5 |


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