Artist: "Dimmu Borgir"
Label: Nuclear Blast
Review: You know I really wanted to hate the new Dimmu Borgir album. The ridiculous new costumes, the ridiculous album title (ok, ok, I realize it's taken from the writings of Aleister Crowley... but it still sounds more like the title of an Aquabats album, or something revolving around Criss Angel's super-massive ego, than a dark, scary, blasphemous black metal record), and of course most distressing of all... the absence of long-time members ICS Vortex and Mustis. Keyboardist Mustis, and bassist/clean-vocalist ICS Vortex having been fired last year from the band for vague reasons. I was really not prepared to enjoy this album in the slightest, since in the past I found myself fast-forwarding and rewinding choice tracks from Dimmu's body of work to solely listen to ICS Vortex's clean vocal sections, and the orchestral arrangements provided by Mustis (good examples being "The Serpentine Offering" and "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse"). Essentially what I REALLY liked about the band is now gone.
But being a musician as opposed to an elitist heavy-metal troll who exists solely to expel cyber-vomit upon the canvas of such sites as YouTube or Blabbermouth, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. I threw the new record on and was pleasantly surprised. It opens with a foreboding, atmospheric intro track which features mystical throat-chanting, and also introduces us to the awe-inspiring talents of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra (recruited by Dimmu this time around to handle the symphonic elements the band is well-known for).
When "Born Treacherous", the proper first track begins shortly after, you're likely to get the immediate urge to throw on corpse-paint and possibly set fire to something sacred (that stack of Simon and Garfunkle LPs in your dad's basement have been subjugating the traditional Norwegian way of life for far too long...). It's simultaneously ugly and pretty at the same time. Dissonant guitars, soaring symphonic layers, and of course the vocal stylings of lead singer, Skeletor... er I mean Shagrath. Honestly though, what I like the most about this track is the sound effects of pigs squealing and oinking it up, in the last 3rd of the song. Perhaps the significance of this is to draw a parallel between the unwashed, blindly religious, unthinking masses, and a filthy little animal. Then there's my theory: guitarist/lyricist Silenoz (sounds like a rapper name I know... we're going to get into that in a minute), is merely telling Dimmu fans how much he likes bacon. If you doubt my theory, take a look at him. We are clearly dealing with a man who is about two things: sticking it to the Christians who actually know of black metal's existence (all 8 of them), and being in general, a mystery wrapped in an enigma... wrapped in bacon.
The next track "Gateways" is more than a little odd, but still awesome, and probably the main source of mixed opinions surrounding this new incarnation of the band. Mostly because, prior to the actual album's release, they made a rather extravagant and suitably ridiculous music video for it... it's like a train wreck. You don't want to look but you can't help it... The song is probably the best example of what the band is about nowadays, which basically boils down to: Shagrath croaking and squawking as he always has, inexplicable guest vocalists stumbling and tripping over shit in Dimmu Borgir's bizarre occult circus, and arguably the best thing about current-era DB; The Norwegian Radio Orchestra. Okay not arguably. Definitely. These guys should be scoring every movie, every video game, every record (metal or otherwise), and while they're at it: they should be scoring whatever groupies DB may or may not be getting nowadays. (if you bitch about that pun, I'll find you and go Vikernes on your ass) It's an entertaining track until the guest female vocals kick in. It's not that they're bad. It's just that it sounds like Dani Filth if he had a vagina. It makes you wonder though; who in the band thought the track needed more "witch vocals" and less cowbell??
My personal favorite is the track "Dimmu Borgir". Yes. It shares the band's name. It's kind of like they gave themselves a theme song. Whether a Dimmu Borgir Saturday morning cartoon is in the works or not is perhaps a topic of discussion for a later date (maybe over some wine with ex-Gorgoroth vocalist Gaahl?). It's five minutes and thirty-five seconds of grandiose symphonic stylings interwoven with driving guitar riffs, and triumphant lyrics about God knows what (perhaps quasi-spiritual musings about the empowerment Silenoz feels from rejecting mainstream religion and worshipping at the altar of bacon-wrapped hotdogs). Basically, it's music to fuck up the Lich King's shit to.
"Ritualist" opens with incoherent babbling that sounds a little like Ozzy Osbourne searching in vain for his TV's remote. Then there's some lovely clean guitars, and then distorted guitars over-top those clean guitars, and then some orchestra stuff under the distorted guitars. Also more Skeletor vocals. The unfortunately-named Swedish multi-instrumentalist, "Snowy Shaw", contributes backing vocals which I guess is supposed to (in theory) fill the giant ICS Vortex-shaped hole that now exists in Dimmu Borgir's music. Core remaining members, Shagrath, Silenoz, and porn-mustachioed guitarist Galder, hired Shaw to fill the bassist/clean-vocalist seat. On the album it sounds a little like our Norwegian anti-heroes are trying to shove a square-shaped peg into a round hole. This is arguably the weak point of the album. Okay not arguably. Definitely. ICS Vortex, we hardly knew ye. Your former bandmates are stupid stupid-heads for firing you, and one day will realize this. But hey the album is not all black and grim... oh actually it is. I need to rephrase that. The album is still quite stellar even if their most stellar members have been kicked to the curb (or maybe that's fjord...?).
The record closes with the suitably epic and enigmatic "Endings & Continuations". The first minute of the song is a lot of strange watery sound effects which for all we know could be Galder having sex with the backstage fruit-platter. Then Shagrath appears seemingly out of nowhere and utters "ENTER THE SUPREME UNKNOWN" in a robotic voice which (I shit you not) sounds a lot like Ned from South Park. It's an inventive track from here on out, with melodies that sound almost major scale in tonality but take dissonant turns just as quickly. Occasionally Shagrath breaks from his customary squawking to talk into his voice-box, as in the song's beginning. "Ulver" mainman, "Garm", contributes what are probably the album's only decent clean vocals. The song sounds like Dream Theater on satanic steroids, and it concludes with Shagrath and the crazy bitch from "Gateways" (Agnete Kj°lsrud) chanting "ABRAHADABRA". Alrighty then...
The album as a whole is dark, epic, and it's lyrical content is perhaps not as overtly satanic or anti-religious as previous releases. It's a bit more in the realms of sucking Crowley's dick, than drawing pentagrams on the sidewalk with chalk to piss off mommy and daddy (just to put things in perspective). It's full of complexity, heaviness, richness, beauty, brutality, the expected, the unexpected. It's a good album, not a great album, and it's now out on CD at most major music retailers. Just in time for Halloween!
Here's the video for "Gateways":
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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