Dimmu Borgir is possibly the most successful black metal band ever. Though condemned by many ďelitistsĒ as not being ďtr00 black metalĒ or whatnot, I feel that it is for good reason that this band has had so much success. The music is good. Sure the production doesnít sound like it was recorded in a sewer, (at least not on the last 4 studio albums theyíve put out) but it seems pretty black metal to me, and original at that.
The instrumentation and musicianship is top notch, not to mention the song arrangements. The more extreme vocals are certainly an acquired taste, but very tolerable compared with many contemporaries. The clean vocals accent the music perfectly. As a Christian, black metalís satanic lyrics donít appeal to me, but since the growling/screaming is indecipherable for the most part, this is not a concern whatsoever. Even most Dimmu fans that ive met and black metal listeners who both love and hate this band will openly admit that the bandís strong point is certainly not their lyrical content. Who cares? The music speaks for itself.
The bass is all but nonexistent on its own, only serving to thicken the sound, which is all that it could do with the immense wall of sound that is Spiritual Black Dimensions
. Fancy basslines would just sound too cluttered and make for a chaos that could ruin the mood.
The guitars are mostly the stereotypical tremolo picking, not that thatís bad. Since the riffs are very keyboard-oriented they are quite melodic while still retaining their crushing intensity and the lead parts are actually somewhat emotional. Itís to be expected with the amazing synth and piano work and the albumís moody feel, but most black metal guitars generally clash with the melodic keyboards. Emperor and other bands pull this off well, and Dimmu Borgir does it here and there in this album and its predecessor, but itís a relief to listen to black metal committed to melody
Blastbeats are fairly synonymous with modern black metal, and as expected Tjodalv, the drummer this recording, delivers them. What I really love is that while theyíre common, its not the only type of drumming to be heard. The drums slow down where they need to and the double kick drums are used to help emphasize the heavier parts just like they should be. His fills and drumrolls are usually long and drawn out, helping with the epic mood, it would just be nice if there were more of them.
enters the speakers itís immediately clear how prominent the keyboards are on this album. The band itself states that over 70% of the songs are written on keyboards, and it really shows through with how much of a different, complete, and structured yet chaotic sound they possess. The clean vocals certainly shine here. The intense ending works well for moving on to the next track, Behind the Curtains of Night Ė Phantasmagoria
, which is just pure chaos and intensity. Not very surprising, as such is often the case with a recordís shortest track.
The third and fourth songs are really good, but nothing really different from the rest. Dreamside Dominions
begins with some beautiful piano and a sort of midpaced drum beat you might find in a thrashy Metallica or Testament song. As previously mentioned, this albumís drumming is great because it isnít just the same blastbeats over and over. Overall a beautiful track that sounds very classic thrash with wonderful piano and Shagrathís growling added in. United in Unhallowed Grace
continues the albums constant flow of strong songs with a synth piano riff and some interesting other synth effects; much more intense and upbeat than the previous track.
The Promised Future Aeons
is a favorite, if simply for the breathtakingly and somewhat overbearing emotion of the keyboard intro. It starts off like a soft synthesized orchestra and choir and ends in a mass of simulated string/choir effects which abrubtly ends for a short second. Afterwards, the band propels you into one of the more midpaced riffs with piano overtones interlaced much like that of Dreamside Dominions
The Blazing Monoliths of Defiance
is one of their chaotic tracks, and although I like it more than the albumís second track (with quite the long title) it really isnít all that great. The keyboards arenít nearly as prominent as any of the other tracks here. The Insight and the Catharsis
is another one of my favorite songs; one of their really heavy and fast tracks with piano and good synth effects to complement the mood. Quite epic, I really love it; the guitar solo is great, as is most of the riffing. At 4:28 the guitar changes and shifts the track with an awesome and actually original sounding guitar line. The only part I really donít like is when Shagrath talks about how ďand the power is mineĒ. It almost ruins one of their best guitar riffs. Spiritual Black Dimensionsí
longest song and probably their most epic song before their more orchestral days during the following two albums
not only has its title spelt wrong, but has some of the bandís best soloing. That aside, it isnít anything special. Arcane Life Force Mysteria
was the song that convinced me to buy the album; an amazing song, with an amazing ending solo. The keyboards are truly top notch and there isnít much to complain about at all. The drums are more of a gallop than a blast beat for the most part and makes for one of the heaviest songs on this album.
What a wonderful album this is. Iím still wondering how they managed to fit so many good tracks in without having them all sound the same or at least being filler. Sure they all sound similar, but for the most part they are all unique and each has their own special moments that are anticipated with every listen. The mood is awesome and doomy, though not in the sludgy sense. Think more along the lines of a horde of demons galloping towards you. No, on second thought that sounds a little power metal, but you get the idea.
The Promised Future Aeons
Arcane Life Force Mysteria
(all four are 5/5)