While the trio of albums Blodhemn, Mardraum: Beyond the Within and Monumension afforded Enslaved a very wide and superbly deep palette from which to draw, sculpt and splatter their blend of black, Viking and progressive metal, something wasn’t quite right. The feelings and intentions of the aforementioned albums were pure, but the Norwegians had corrupted their DNA along the way. Founding members Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson realized that after the touring cycle for Monumension had ended, change needed to take place. And fast. They needed to right the longship, make her sail true again. For the better part of five years, Enslaved had democratized the songwriting process and, illogically, entropy ensued—for as much as Bjørnson and Kjellson relish uncertainty, they also look at Enslaved as a literal and metaphorical extension of themselves. Similarly, internal turmoil threatened to blow apart what little organization Enslaved were clinging to. Guitarist Roy Kronheim had entered a new headspace and, so the story goes, was asked to leave. Meanwhile, drummer Dirge Rep (a.k.a. Per Husebø) had different intentions for his future. They didn’t include Enslaved.
But the key component to Enslaved in present form was Bjørnson reining in the songwriting duties on Below the Lights. This can’t be overstated. Actually, prior to Blodhemn, the riffmaster had owned song creation and conceptualization, so stepping back into the spotlight full-time was an area of comfort, not concern. With Bjørnson and Kjellson helming Enslaved again, the DNA lost to the evils of chaos and ambition received a welcome restructure. The line back to debut EP Hordanes Land and first LP Vikingligr Veldi was redrawn on purpose. But Below the Lights was no rehash of old. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Enslaved’s seventh album was their path forward. They were following their hearts. To be a real functioning, professional outfit or to sit back in the confines of Bergen and make albums for smaller and smaller sets of ears was a simple question to answer. Enslaved chose the former.
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