Review Summary: Dimmu Borgir released another album. They're so cute.
I used to think Dimmu Borgir were a funny band, and certainly not in a good way. Then I saw the music video for the single from their latest album In Sorte Diaboli, “The Serpentine Offering.” After that, I thought they were hilarious
. It’s the kind of video that, when you watch it, all you can think is “This has to be a joke. It’s supposed to be funny, right?” Then you realize that Dimmu Borgir are indeed not joking. The poorly choreographed medieval fighting, the heavy fog in the band performance area, the corpse paint, and the band’s apparel are all part of a music video that was intended to be taken completely seriously. I don’t know what the rest of the world thought when they saw that video, but I could only infer one thing: This band tries way too hard.
You see, back in the middle to late nineties, a band like Dimmu Borgir could be forgiven for their undeniably forced and cheesy look, attitude, and sound, especially when they were just starting their career. I could see myself in 1997 looking at Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and saying “Hey that looks sort of cool and interesting.” Ten years later however, it’s just not interesting anymore. It’s sad that there are people out there who will latch onto this album merely because it’s dark and liking it estranges them from society even more, which is a good thing right? Frankly, I can’t really see this album appealing to anyone else. I just can’t imagine someone looking at the cover to this album (Satan, complete with exposed breasts, furry legs, and hooves, surrounded by angels and people in robes…so risqué!) and thinking “Man that’s awesome!” Or perhaps maybe I’m giving the metal community more credit than they deserve.
In Sorte Diaboli (super dark translation: A Faithful Connectivity With Satan) isn’t too much different from the other Dimmu Borgir records I’ve heard, although it does seem to be more along the lines of Enthrone Darkness Triumphant than their controversial forget-the-guitars album Death Cult Armageddon (Jesus Christ they have the worst album titles ever). I’m sure people will see that as a good thing, but to those who didn’t like the band’s earlier releases, there’s nothing to be found here. The orchestral elements that make the music sort of cool and incredibly cheesy all at once are of course still present, but to a bit of a smaller degree.
One of the major complaints with Death Cult Armageddon was the fact that Dimmu Borgir seemed to forget that they have two guitarists in the band. The orchestra and choir were so overbearing that it was incredibly hard to hear the other things that were going on with the music (which wasn’t much anyway, but hey it would have been nice to hear some guitars!). This problem was somewhat rectified on this album. The orchestral parts aren’t so prevalent, but at times they still seem overblown and pretentious. However, the orchestra/choir can’t really be presented as a negative aspect of the album as it could with other Dimmu albums; in fact it’s one of the album’s few saving graces. The rising and falling of the orchestra is the only thing that gives the album its epic feel. It’s pretty apparent that Dimmu Borgir are no longer (it’s debatable whether they ever were) capable of creating epic and moving music without the crutch of an orchestra and choir. I’m not sure if someone in the band arranges the orchestral parts or if it’s a professional orchestra director (I know they collaborated with an orchestra in Prague for Death Cult Armageddon), but whoever writes and arranges the parts does a great job. In basically every song they appear in, the orchestral parts seem vital in keeping the listener’s attention; that is, if they weren’t there, you’d probably be falling asleep listening to this record. The songs with no orchestral moments, such as “The Conspiracy Unfolds” are incredibly boring and uninteresting.
The music put forth by the regular band members is less than spectacular, especially when compared to the orchestra’s performance. The guitarists rely way too much on bland riffs to hold their songs together. They have some good ideas, but when they try to base a whole song off of one riff, it doesn’t turn out too well. In the early years of their career they showed a penchant for writing cool riffs, but they seem to have run out of ideas. For every cool riff like the slow, atmospheric intro riff in “The Conspiracy Unfolds” we get two bad ones like the generic chug riffs in “The Serpentine Offering” and “The Chosen Legacy.” The bass is of course nowhere to be heard. The only musical standout in the band is Hellhammer, the drummer. He plays some incredibly fast and cool beats on this album (he likes his double bass pedal) and most of the time he’s the only guy who’s doing anything halfway interesting. Combine all of these band members and the result is an extremely boring musical album.
I tried to hold off writing this paragraph for as long as I could because listening to the vocals on this album just pisses me off so much. Shagrath is easily one of the worst vocalists I’ve ever heard. He does the screams, growls, etc. for Dimmu and he sounds like a squawking toad. With a guy like Burzum, where the screaming is incomprehensible and seems totally directionless, you can at least say “Wow that guy conveys a lot of emotion with his voice.” Shagrath however just sounds monotonous and boring, with no real power in his voice at all. Some people can shake mountains and move people with their voice. Shagrath is definitely not one of those people. It also doesn’t help that they decided to record some of the lyrics as spoken-word sections, done by Shagrath himself, whose speaking voice is even less interesting than his screaming. The clean vocals, performed by ICS Vortex, are a bit of a step up from Shagrath, but they’re still largely uninteresting and bland. His voice reminds me of the guy who sings for Tyr, who isn’t very good. The album’s concept is overdone (a priest realizes Christianity sucks and then he goes to the dark side!
) and the lyrics, from what I can tell, are generic unmoving lyrics typical of metal bands these days.
Alright Dimmu Borgir, it’s 2007 now. Wipe off that corpse paint, stop trying so hard to be so dark and risqué (the lyrics in the booklet are printed backwards, in true Satanic fashion!), ditch Shagrath, and learn to write a decent song without relying on an orchestra. Then we’ll talk. As I said in the beginning of this review, it’s interesting to see Dimmu Borgir being so serious about what they do. Metal has always been largely looked down upon, parodied, and made fun of anyway. The last thing the genre needs is a band like Dimmu Borgir becoming a parody of themselves over the years. I was hoping to see the band somewhat redeem their ridiculousness with this record, but In Sorte Diaboli is an entirely bland, uninteresting record filled with stale riffs and horrible vocals. In no way does it redeem the band’s ridiculous attitude and look. However, if you happen to enjoy this band’s music, then you might find yourself liking this record. I recommend it to fans of the band only.