Ok, so here we go. I’m not down with Black Metal. At all. It’s not in my musical DNA. When I was a kid, Venom and Mercyful Fate said they played Black Metal and I dig them. But something happened in the early 90’s when Norwegian musicians took over the term. Their kind of Black Metal was a whole other beast and that’s what considered Black Metal by most people today – and that’s the Black Metal that I’m not down with. I’ve tried to listen to many of those bands but I can’t stand more than bits and pieces here and there, I just don’t get it. But something happened back in 2010 when Dimmu Borgir – another Norwegian Black Metal band that came from the 90’s – released their then new album Abrahadabra. I got that one. At first I only liked it but it grew on me pretty fast and over the years I have come to love it. A lot.
That album made me want to go back and check out their back catalogue and even though I dug the albums In Sorte Diaboli (2007) and Death Cult Armageddon (2003) none of them were in par with Abrahadabra and all the albums that came out before 2003 didn’t connect with me at all. I just don’t like extreme music whether it’s called Black Metal or Death Metal. But since I love at least one of Dimmu Borgir’s albums and like two other, I was very interested to hear what the band had come up with now when they release a new album, their first with original songs in eight years. So when I take stroll down Black Metal Lane I don’t do that as a Black Metal fan but as the rocker I have always been so bear with me.
The album opens with “The Unveiling”, a heavy, symphonic and bombastic tune in a slower pace. It’s dark, atmospheric and evil sounding where the softer passages brings out the dynamics of the song. Still, in good old Black Metal tradition, the drums blasts on fast even though the song itself is slower. Any good, then? You bet it is! “Interdimensional Summit”, the first single/video, is next. This one is more upbeat with a distinct rhythm and even though it’s a heavy piece it’s also – I hate to say it – even poppy at times. So where the song is dark, operatic and full of ambiance, it’s also extremely hook-laden and even catchy. But don’t let that deter anyone because it’s anything but mawkish, it’s a captivating and great tune! “Ætheric” is next. This one’s an uptempo, melodic, big and bombastic blaster that actually holds a big groove. That said , the tune’s big vibe is both cold as ice and very dark so don’t expect top 40 pop here anytime soon. There’s a break or a passage if you will that’s very cinematic and atmospheric that’s chilling – symphonic and orchestrated, distinct and punchy. Awesome!
Second single “Council Of Wolves And Snakes” takes a more rootsy turn with its icy and malevolent evil sounds and the heavy drumming is trying its best to blast your head off. But it don’t stop with that – there are hook-filled melodies and big orchestration and the chorus contains chants that brings Native American Indian chanting to mind. The dynamics are even bettered with the slow, operatic middle-break’s huge melody arrangement. None of that takes away any roughness, though. It’s a great tune that spoke to me right away. “The Empyrian Phoenix” is a big, bombastic and symphonic Metal track that also brings on an operatic feel. The tune is punchy and ballsy, heavy, dark and venomous – very direct and in-your-face. It’s a very rhythmic piece which melody arrangement is instant and guitar melody itself is the work of pure brilliance. Another killer!
“Lightbringer” brings on a heavy and dark groove where the fast drumming is mixed with a distinct and tough beat. The song is kicking and blasting but never without a comprehensive sense of melody and the symphonic vibes are all over the track. Good one. “I Am Sovereign” comes in a mid pace, heavy and brutal but still very melodic. It’s distinct, punchy and aggressive with guttural growl vocals that sounds like they’re closer to Death Metal than black dito. The powerful riff-fest is also just amazing to hear and makes the tune even more epic – how great! “Archaic Correspondence” is heavy and dark with a whole lot of razor-sharp Black Metal riffing. The tune blasts hard but the big melodies are all present and there is also some choir-like vocals that brings even more grandeur to the song. Some clean vocals have also made its way into the song and it actually fits the tune brilliantly. Awesome!
“Alpha Aeon Omega” is an epic, symphonic and cinematic powerhouse that actually comes across like some kind of Black Metal opera. That said, it’s also fast, aggressive, hard and cold and old-school Black Metal vocals occurs along the way together with some raging blastbeats. So while it’s both bombastic and atmospheric, it’s also striking and a big punch in the gut – gotta love it! As a closer we are being provided with an instrumental tune called “Rite Of Passage” and while I almost always prefer vocal tracks, this song connected with me right off the bat. The tune is slow, atmospheric, melodic and even beautiful in all its darkness. It’s an epic, bombastic and grandiose tune that have come to be one of my favorite songs on the album.
I know that for many diehard Black Metal fans, Dimmu Borgir have lost it by not going on the traditional early 90’s Norwegian Black Metal route and that their development have bedraggled what they once were, but I couldn’t agree any less. Because I love this. This album is a grower for me – which is something all their albums that I like have been. I still hold Abrahadabra as their masterpiece but that just might have changed in 6 months / a year or so. To me, Dimmu Borgir are brilliant at creating huge sound scapes, epic arrangements and atmospheres that makes me feel both very good and a bit spooked at the same time. When it comes to the orchestration on this album, they went the opposite way to Abrahadabra where they used the whole Norwegian Radio Orchestra for that. On this album everything is sampled but it doesn’t matter because it’s easy to hear that a lot of hard work have been put into making it sound as authentic as possible. Think of this what you will, Black Metal purists but to me this album is a winner!
More Dimmu Borgir reviews:
1. The Unveiling
2. Interdimensional Summit
4. Council Of Wolves And Snakes
5. The Empyrean Phoenix
7. I Am Sovereign
8. Archaic Correspondence
9. Alpha Aeon Omega
10. Rite Of Passage