Retrospective: Enslaved — “Below the Lights”

When recollecting the histories of some of the greatest metal bands there’s often a sink or swim moment following lackluster albums or a musical dead end, where it was a necessity to reinvent themselves in some way (or quite simply release an incredible comeback album) — Metallica went more commercial with The Black Album after the excesses of …and Justice for All, Judas Priest made their glorious return with Painkiller, and Megadeth’s opus Rust in Peace simply blew the rest of their material out of the water. Even if it’s easily the most red-headed stepchild of metal genres in terms of general musical approach (and non-musical controversy), black metal has a number of artists that followed a similar trajectory. Bathory took things in a mythological and epic direction with Hammerheart and beyond, Darkthrone has been inspired by heavy metal and crust punk for nearly two decades now, and Ulver abandoned the genre once they had nothing more to offer it.

This leads us to Enslaved in 2003. After releasing classic albums of black metal’s second wave with Vikingligr veldi and Frost, they began incorporating more and more progressive elements beginning with Mardraum and Monumension; increasingly dynamic song structures and technical playing as well as largely abandoning the relentless blast beats and trem-picking that characterized the early material. However, some of the experimentation on Monumension fell flat in several ways, thus deeming it necessary for the band to take a big next step. After abandoning unnecessary baggage in their lineup Enslaved crafted Below the Lights, an atmospheric, technical, yet beautifully dark and heavy album that defined progressive black metal and paved the way for what might be the most consistent string of releases in extreme metal history. Today is the 20th anniversary of its release, so let’s revisit what makes this monumental album so special.

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Nine Circles ov… Colin’s 2023 So Far

We’re already coming close to the halfway point for 2023 and since I’ve had too much going on to actively seek out new music recently, I figure it’s time to highlight albums that have made some degree of impact on me over the past few months. Aside from one or two exceptions I don’t expect many of the albums here will join Enslaved and Dødheimsgard on my AOTY list; nevertheless, they deserve a shoutout, even if the wheel isn’t being reinvented.

I’ve made sure to select albums that haven’t been featured on the site yet (aside from popping up in our weekly playlist or mentioned on the AOTM podcast), so let’s dive in with a chronological look at what 2023 has had to offer so far.

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The Nine Circles Audio Thing: Enslaved was March 2023’s Album of the Month!

There’s no doubt as to whether or not Enslaved are household names at this point in their career, and have been for quite some time. With the release of Heimdal our back office halls went nuts so it was the obvious choice for the March Album of the Month pick. Well… maybe not obvious as in landslide but close. The rest of that story will surface during this discussion as Buke once again captions the episode alongside several of our usual suspects as they cover this album, catch-up discussions since last time, an enormous section on everything else that tripped their triggers across March, and the usual banter back and forth on literally anything and everything. Pro tip: pack a lunch and a case of beer, this one’s lengthy.

In other words, just another Album of the Month episode of the Nine Circles Audio Thing.

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Album RAMBLE: Periphery — “Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre”

Periphery - Periphery V Djent Is Not a Genre

We (the Top Brass, Benevolent Overlords, etc: Corey, Dan K, Chris, and Josh) had so much fun drunkenly rambling about Sky Void of Stars and Foregone that we decided to come back for round three! This time around, we’re taking a first dive (some of us actually followed this rule) into Periphery V, the highly anticipated new album from djent stars Periphery. Josh is very much aware and familiar with the Periphery discography while the rest of the group is very much unaware. So. How shall this go with that in mind? Will Josh be the only one left standing? Will we collectively end up new fans after this? We ask the hard questions around here, and rarely answer them. But, maybe this time something will be answered.

Need a reminder of how this works? Sure, you can have one. We pick an album off the promo pile we’re interested in, we get drunk, and we share our first impressions. Cohesive reviews can be hard, and we don’t get paid for this shit. Deal with it. Let’s fucking go!

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