A Norwegian Black Metal band. Not really my bottle of beer. But lo and behold, when my curiosity took the best of me and I gave this album a chance, I discovered that I really, really liked this. My knowledge of this band is very small, but from what I have heard, they used to be quite brutal and that they have become more and more melodic for each release. And melodic it is. But not in a AOR or cheesy kind of way – it still sounds dark and evil. Add epic, symphonic and big sounding with a great production to that and you get a Black Metal album that should go down well even with rockers who normally don’t like this kind of music. And speaking of symphonic, they even went all in and used a full-scale orchestra, the Norwegian Radio Symphonic Orchestra, instead of keyboards and also the Schola Cantorum Choir, using more than 100 musicians and singers on the album. A very good move! The whole album is packed with brilliant and epic songs and lots of them are really catchy, some of them so catchy that they stick in your mind and you find yourself humming on them a long time after you finished playing the record.
First single and video ”Gateways” (featuring female singer Agnethe Kjölsrud from the band Djerv), ”Dimmu Borgir” (best song on the album, maybe their best song ever!), ”Ritualist” and ”Renewal” are such tracks. But never, ever do they get cheesy. The key to this album is heaviness and stuff like ”Born Treacherous”, ”Chess With The Abyss” and ”The Demiurge Molecule” are really heavy. New guy Snowy Shaw (Therion, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate) on bass and lead vocals also does a good job on here. He has a very personal voice that sticks out like sore thumb! Too bad he didn’t even last until this album’s release before leaving. And as bonus we get a couple of covers, Deep Purple’s ”Perfect Strangers” (where Shaw takes over) and GGFH’s ”Dead Men Don’t Rape”, both very good. However, I’m not that sure about the orchestral versions of ”Gateways” and ”Dimmu Borgir”. A cool thing to do, maybe and they probably had fun doing it, but for me those songs go nowhere. The only problem when you record grandiose music like this is: how are you gonna perform this live without using shitloads of backing tracks. Never mind, this is, no matter what, a great album and you’d be doing yourself a big disservice if you don’t check this out. No matter what your taste in music is. It certainly made me a fan.
Jon Wilmenius (9/10)
02. Born Treacherous
04. Chess With The Abyss
05. Dimmu Borgir
07. The Demiurge Molecule
08. A Jewel Traced Through Coal
10. Endings And Continuations