I wish a review could be written about Dimmu Borgir that doesn’t address that the fact that they really are one of those bands that splits opinion right down the middle. I have good reason for mentioning it here as you will come to understand.
In all honesty, even though I have a huge love for Black Metal, I really don’t know why I have never listened to the band bar a few videos for singles over the years which I saw before my love for the genre blossomed. I can promise you it was never because of the outpouring of hatred you can stumble across easily.
This is how I see it – Dimmu are Norwegian and their roots stem all the way back to the second wave so are by no means newcomers trying to cash in, hell, this is their ninth album and they formed in 1993 amongst all the murdering and church burning. The fact that they have also included Hellhammer of Mayhem fame in their ranks should really say something, shouldn’t it? So why the vitriol aimed their way from Black Metal’s elitist legions? Well, they are unapologetically open with their ambition to be a huge band. They make elaborate and expensive looking promo videos for their singles. Their music doesn’t have any raw elements, sonically, preferring a large and polished mix.
What this album tells me though is that seems to be their only crimes in the eyes of the ‘cvlt’!
“Eonian” was described by core members Shagrath and Silenoz, vocals and guitar respectively, as the extreme of every direction they have taken previously. The orchestration and symphonic elements are exaggerated, they are using a choir in numerous passages but at the same time there are parts that blast away and tremolo riffing that is as icy cold as their native land.
I am not hearing anything leaping out at all that makes me understand why the ‘trve’ have a problem with the band’s music. I am sure it stems from the non-musical points I make in paragraph 3, not that many would be open enough to admit that. All over this album are compositions that would sound at home one any of the first three Emperor records, throw a dart and you will be a minute or two at the most from a section that brings to mind Ihsahn and his merry men. There are also parts of ‘Aetheric’ (a definite highlight) that could be on the last Mayhem record which is as twisted and awkward as anything that band has released. The strange, picked guitar notes that Teloch so effectively utilises are present here. Yes, now and again, some of the operatic vocal embellishments stray into Nightwish territory, which is obviously terrible, but it never gets in the way of the song and the overall enjoyment. In fairness, if it wasn’t made unbearable by bands of that ilk then it would be a welcome addition used as sparingly and for effect, as Dimmu obviously have gone for here.
The likes of ‘Council of Wolves and Snakes’ and ‘Lightbringer’ show that the band’s claim that they have so many different influences to be a valid one. So much going on within these two that it is incredible how they remain coherent and take you on a journey. Isn’t that what we are after when listening to Black Metal?
‘I am Sovereign’ is sublime and is as if Dream Theater and Rush spliced their ranks and made a progressive Black Metal band. It is absolutely breathtaking and I’d be interested to know if the band have any similar compositions to this on previous releases. Make no mistake, if Behemoth released ‘The Unveiling,’ it would be praised to high heaven, or deepest hell, as is more apt in this case but the first minute or two is certainly something you could imagine them putting their name to.
I do feel that the mix does back off a little on the guitars and a lot on the drums, much to the detriment of overall heaviness. Usually, Jens Bogren is on the money but is just wide of the mark on “Eonian.” It would have made the drama within so much more panoramic, but this is a minor gripe if I am being truthful. Some of the lead guitar lines really do steal the show and are beautifully written.
I like this record a great deal and I think you will see it on many an end of year list of both fan and critic alike. I am going to go back and check out them from the ground up, surely that is endorsement enough for a bands latest output?