Review Summary: Old but not obsolete.
It comes with getting older. One day you wake up and all the ‘stars’ you grew up with have aged. It happens with our favorite sports stars, movie stars, and even our favorite musicians. Out of all the occupations people can age out of, musicians probably have the most impact on a personal level. It only makes sense because we often gain an emotional attachment to the music we love, and even associate specific albums with events in our own lives. This emotional attachment makes it hard to watch one of our favorite artists slowly lose what made them special to us, and it’s even harder for those into more extreme forms of music. Fans of ‘mainstream’ genres can basically watch their favorite artists thrive well into their twilight years; the (lack of) physical requirements allows for that possibility. Like an NFL running back, though, extreme metal bands often hit an age wall early in their careers. This leaves them with only a few possibilities. They can start swapping members with younger players, evolve into a style they can still play/feel, fake it at the risk of their own legacy, or face an early retirement – Dimmu Borgir were a band that obviously found themselves at these crossroads.
I could be wrong, but In Sorte Diaboli
sound like albums created by a band that were trying to fake a style they weren’t all that passionate about anymore, and it worked about as well as could be expected. Since they were already adept at member swaps, this left them with two choices: evolve or retire. If you think Dimmu Borgir took eight years between albums without seriously considering retirement, you have more faith than I do. This was a band that had already hit their thirties by the time In Sorte Diaboli
was released, and they were now contemplating a return while married and in their forties. Believe me, retirement was a topic that came up. With the question of retirement answered, though, the only question remaining was one of direction and conviction. Were they really the same hate-filled youths full of unbridled aggression? Of course not, and that’s why Eonian
is easily their best release since Death Cult Armageddon
– because it’s obvious they’re making music they’re passionate about again, and they’re utilizing every bit of their twenty-plus years of experience to do it.
So, what does Dimmu Borgir circa-2018 sound like? Honestly, they sound like a more competent, black metal-tinged, version of Epica without nearly as much cheese and bombast. So, yeah, Eonian
isn’t the same hateful wall of riffs and keyboards, and it’s not going to scare anybody with its aggression or intensity, but it’s still expertly done and totally enjoyable… it’s just not black metal. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of black metal moments, such as the main melody/riff of “The Unveiling” or the majority of “Lightbringer” and “Council of Wolves and Snakes,” but there are just about as many instances where the tempos and melodies bring to mind anything other than black metal. In fact, a lot of Eonian
is pretty uplifting thanks to the overwhelming (and they are a bit overwhelming) amount of choir parts and the band’s newfound melodic inclinations. This is nowhere more apparent than on “Interdimensional Summit”. Without Shagrath’s vocals “Interdimensional Summit” would be the kind of poppy symphonic metal artists such as Epica excel at creating. While the rest of Eonian
isn’t nearly as upbeat thanks to the black metal undercurrent, just about every song has its moments.
might not be classic Dimmu Borgir, but it’s still better than anything they’ve done in nearly fifteen years specifically because they’ve stopped trying to recreate a sound they had literally outgrown. Eonian
takes the parts we most associate with Dimmu Borgir and forges them with a more traditional metal sound that creates the band’s most melodic, diverse, and nuanced release. Of course, as bands grow and evolve, their fans come to a crossroads too – evolve with them or move on. I’m not going to lie, when the first song for Eonian
was released I thought it was terrible. I thought it sounded like Epica without the hot redhead; it definitely wasn’t Dimmu Borgir. It took a few listens and an acceptance that this is a new era for Dimmu Borgir for me to enjoy Eonian
for what it is. Eonian
is a solid black metal-tinged trip through some expertly crafted symphonic metal featuring creative melodies, plenty of aggression, and enough diversity and nuance to keep coming back for more.