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June 17, 2024

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Below The Lights (The End Records)

By: Vinnie Apicella

The Black Metal extremists create their most inspired work to date with "Below The Lights." This is an album that has to be heard a number of times before its magnitude can be fully absorbed. The loss of Kronheim (guitars) and Dirge Rep (drums) -- though Rep's precision playing can still be heard here -- takes nothing away from the potency of the band who fire forth a renewed passion and playability few could convincingly muster. While the integration (or intrusion) of symphonic elements have successfully watered down the genre's tradition, "Below The Lights" maintains the integrity of their dark origins while breaking free of age-old boundaries that's burned out the flame of distinction. Merging power with technical prowess, songs like the epic opener, "As Fire Swept Clean The Earth," and notably, "The Crossing," and "Queen Of Night," are not filtered down versions of Nordic folklore -- ala Amorphis -- neither misguided nor feeble. For every opening dirge there lurks a numbingly quick call and answer-like response of head-splitting aggression before breaking off into undiscovered musical trails of elaborate proportions. On a deafening level with prime era Dimmu Borgir or the likes of Enthroned, Therion-like progressive attempts are successfully made at gutting song structures by adding swift string elements, crafty lead breaks, tricky time changes, ambient textures, and mournful vocals, highlighting, rather than detracting, the underlying floor of sonic density. The resulting effect yields a seven-song masterwork that transcends the ordinary while remaining intrinsically dark and inherently evil.
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