Review Summary: Born treacherous, still treacherous
When people who aren't fans describe Dimmu Borgir, they commonly use terms such as “commercial” or even “sell-outs”. I have to wonder whether people actually understand what those terms mean. Critics also deride the absence of certain band members. Indeed, the biggest difference between this and the past few Dimmu Borgir albums is the notable absence of ICS Vortex with his inimitable clean vocals, and Mustis with his atmospheric keyboards. Temporarily filling in for ICS Vortex is Snowy Shaw, who provided session bass and clean vocals on this album, while vocalist Shagrath himself provided keyboards. While their absence is noticeable, it does not make the album any less good. In a sense it is the next chapter of Dimmu Borgir, as evident by lyrics such as “Meeting destiny on the road we took to avoid it as we only compete with ourselves. Left is that of a confident union” from the track 'Dimmu Borgir'. However, I've read that some people believe the orchestra and choir as some sort of overcompensating for the members being gone. This is not true, as Dimmu Borgir has frequently used synthesized and real orchestrations in the past while they were still in the band.
Sound-wise this album hearkens back to Death Cult Armageddon in terms of using an orchestra to accompany the music as previous album In Sorte Diaboli did not feature real orchestrations. This album even goes further than that by using a full choir as well. This combination adds a sense of epic grandeur to the sound and opener 'Xibir' is a perfect example of that. The soaring choirs and heavy strings in the background coupled with the crisp trumpets announce the arrival of something new, something dark and something omnipotent. The only fault I have with this song is that I wish it was a longer piece of music, as its beauty would be wonderful for a long composition. It perfectly leads into the next track 'Born Treacherous', which is filled with great riffing, drumming and vocal performances. Hell, the whole album is like that. 'Gateways' is perhaps the best on the album as it showcases the skill of drummer Daray. He is definitely a worthy successor to those who beat the skins before him. This song is also notable in that it features the first guest female vocals since the 'The Night Masquerade' from 1997's Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. Her cleans and shrieks perfectly compliment the gruffness of Shagrath. The song named after the band is another example of the excellent songs the album has, with the choirs chanting the band name adding an irreplaceable epicness to the whole song. Other standouts include 'A Jewel Traced Through Coal' and its fantastic opening and blast beats; 'Endings and Continuations' with guest vocals by none other than Garm of Ulver; and their cover of Deep Purple's iconic song 'Perfect Strangers'. The other cover song and the orchestral bonus tracks provide a fitting accompaniment to the album and round off its closing nicely. Lastly, worthy of praise is metal legend Andy Sneap's mixing/mastering of this album. Nothing sounds too dense but neither does it sound too light. Everything sounds just right.
While definitely not fitting into the stereotype of “trve” or “kvlt” or other mannerisms, this is an album by a band that does what they want, does it well and gives no ***s in the process. This is another fine addition to a near-flawless discography.