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“Death Cult Armageddon” has always been a controversial record to me. On one hand, it’s the absolute epitome/consecration of what Dimmu Borgir has become in the last decade: a big “pseudo-satanic” circus; in fact, this is one of the most well-known albums of the famous Norwegian band, and when I meditate about the artistic involution of Shaggy & co., “Death Cult Armageddon” is often the first album I think about: overproduced, aesthetically very nice (the artwork is fucking awesome), highly praised by the “average 2000’s extreme metalhead”, but lacking substance. On the other hand, I must admit that this album is actually more consistent than “Spiritual Black Dimensions”, “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”, “In Sorte Diaboli” and “Abrahadabra”: so, I should conclude that this is the best Dimmu Borgir album since 1999 (excluding the “Stormblast” re-recording). But, well, don’t get me wrong: I have to describe in detail the record to split the good from the bad.
Yes, “Death Cult Armageddon” reaches the sufficiency. But, sadly, it still lacks coherence and substance, due to the omnipresent “Dimmu Borgir cliches” which ruin everything. Is this a black metal album? Yes and no. In the same vein of “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”, this album is a pretentious, random mix of various styles (but without industrial elements, excluding the intro of “Allegiance”). However, this time, when the band attempts to play “true” black metal, the ideas are often cool and inspired: there’s a major concentration of great riffs in comparison to the previous two albums. And sometimes, the good ideas shine even outside of the “true black metal” department. Here and there, you will find some “symphonic/atmospheric parts” which actually manage to be pretty suggestive, thanks to some more creative effort and a better balance between riffs and orchestrations (like in the atmospheric section of “Vredesbyrd”); sadly, these are sporadic cases.
Talking about some standout tracks... “Allegiance” is a very nice symphonic black metal song, characterized by decent black metal riffs, interesting evil melodies and very good symphonic interludes; there are some chugs here and there, but nothing terrible (the trumpet at 4:02 is maybe the only thing I’m not too happy with, it sounds a bit cheesy). On “For the World to Dictate Our Death”, everything sounds consistent, even the mid-paced riffs (usually inconsistent in most Dimmu Borgir songs). “Cataclysm Children” has some glorious moments, thanks to some kickass thrash riffs (unfortunately contrasted by some other uninspired riffs and other cheesy symphonic shit; just to give you a quick idea, stuff like 0:00 or 1:43 is OK, stuff like 0:38 is not). Also listening to a song like “Allehelgens død i Helveds rike”, I just can’t help but cry: so many great ideas (at 1:10, an orgasmic riff in the vein of Emperor, supported by a beautiful symphonic accompaniment, blows you away), but so many bad ideas too; this song expresses perfectly the nature of this album, in a constant balance between inspired and uninspired moments, butchering even some of the best ideas.
Now... let’s talk deeper about the flaws. Oh, those fucking flaws. Do you remember what I said about “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”? Well, multiply it. More mindless, futile and unnecessary chugging; more double-bass-driven marches with inconsistent pseudo-thrash riffs; more pompous and over-the-top orchestrations. The overuse of chugs affects severely tracks such as “Lepers Among Us”, “Eradications Instincts Defined” and “Blood Hunger Doctrine”; the most disturbing fact is that these parts, despite being modern chuggy shit, are packed in a generic black metal vibe: this is how to create black metal for moshcore scene kids. To be honest, even in the “true black metal” department, sometimes the band still dwells on stereotyped and generic riffs, like on “Lepers Among Us” and most part of the last two tracks.
Talking about the symphonic stuff... obviously, the work of the “City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra” on this album is very professional and competent, but the compositions don’t fit well in the context. Sometimes, you can find some cool orchestral parts (I already mentioned some examples), but most of the time it’s just cheesy overloaded shit which tries too hard to sound “majestic” and “apocalyptic”, collapsing in a clownesque, laughable result. The aforementioned tracks “Eradication Instincts Defined” and “Allehelgens død i Helveds rike” are perfect examples of it: especially, the latter features a tragic mess of pseudo-dramatic orchestrations and horrible Vortex’s choirs, and everything is constructed in a very pretentious and disjointed form.
But the peak of this shitty formula is what’s probably even the most famous Dimmu Borgir song. Yes, it’s what you’re thinking about: “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse”. Here’s its structure: it begins with some lifeless dumb breakdowns, surrounded by pompous, forced and laughable orchestrations (usually, the soundtrack of a Disney movie is more credible than this in terms of “epicness”), and then we go into another basic inconsistent march, while Shagrath tries to sound as evil as possible with his mediocre croaky vocals. And the saddest thing is that Abbath is featured on this song (what the fuck are you doing here, Abbath? At least, I hope they paid you enough!). Then, suddenly, another crappy Vortex’s choir comes in, without any connection with the rest. After this, all the shit I listed before repeats again, frustrating my ears to death. I wonder why so many extreme metal fans seem to love so much this song. I don’t understand the genius of putting some totally lame riffs over shitty orchestrations and suddenly throwing a random choir into the song, totally disjoined from the rest. This is one of the worst examples of this formula, but more or less, the whole album is pretty much like this.
As you can easily guess from my review, the whole mix of ideas just doesn’t work well. Often, “Death Cult Armageddon” is a very enjoyable record, but just as often it sounds boring, repetitive, obsessive, pathetically “melodramatic” and painfully disjointed. If I gave an above-60 rating to this album, it’s just because of the quality of some ideas, which, believe me, bring the whole thing to a higher level. If Dimmu Borgir had worked only on those great ideas, developing and expanding them in a coherent and less pompous way, the result would have been a lot better, and my rating wouldn’t just go over 70, but probably even over 80. Yes, it would’ve been a great symphonic black metal album with some modern influences. But Dimmu Borgir preferred to ruin their work with their overlong, boring and repetitive “pseudo-complex” shit. Take some of the most common “bad cliches” of modern metal and pack them in a black metal vest, in order to appeal even at those metal kiddies which are usually scared even by famous names such as Mayhem and Burzum, and you have the perfect product for the masses: they will believe to be listening to actual black metal.
The success of this album is something that really boggles my mind. In 2003, Cradle of Filth released “Damnation and a Day”, an awesome “extreme symphonic metal” masterpiece (NOT black metal, and they explicitly admitted it) with long and complex songs, but where everything fits in its place and every idea is consistent and great: riffs, orchestras, atmosphere. But the album was produced by Sony Music, so most metalheads began to bash it, also because of the prejudices they already had towards the British band. “Cradle are sellouts! They are just posers claiming to be black metal! Their facepainting isn’t tr00 and their music is just goth crap!”, and then they praised “Death Cult Armageddon”, produced by Nuclear Blast (the metal equivalent of Sony Music) and full of fragmented chuggy pseudo-extreme metal songs, pumped up with crystal-clear production and silly orchestrations. This is what a “tr00 black metal facepainting”, some scattered black metal riffs and some lyrics about Satan are able to do.
There's a highly subjective air to the concept of fashion, so much so that one would be possessed to simply eschew the entire concept of trends given that literally anything can be described as such. There is an implicit meaning amongst underground black metal adherents that mainstream fashion deals both with how many people will like something and what kind of people will be included in said crowd. Where this definition may run into some trouble is the lack of accuracy or shallowness of perspective that tends to go with it, where something will be dismissed more so for not conforming to the orthodoxy of production practices yet this will be conflated with achieving a supposed "pop" sound of sorts. If this standard were applied consistently, most of the best works of Limbonic Art, Enslaved and Emperor would have to be dismissed for their consonant application of keyboard ambience and symphonic timbre, something that few would be willing to do.
This is all relevant due to the fact that, for better or worse, Dimmu's often panned opus "Death Cult Armageddon" owes most of its existence to the early works of Norway's more keyboard-happy adherents of the 2nd wave. It's an album loaded with a lot of extras that were not as common during the mid 1990s, such as a massive Wagnerian orchestra, a heap of melodic guitar leads that bear some resemblance to the Gothenburg sound, consonant to the point of being angelic operatic vocals at a few key points, and a punchy guitar and drum production that is equally as bombastic and polished as many modern thrash metal bands taking their cues from "Shovel Headed Kill Machine". Even the heavily produced solo works of Ihsahn would have to bow to the level of pomp and bluster that dominates every inch of this album. But by and large, if the underlying mechanics of this album are properly considered, its easy to see where "In The Nightside Eclipse" and "Vikingligr Veldi" fed into the broader songwriting formula at play here.
If there is a justifiable reason or group thereof to dislike this album, they tend to be shrouded by a lot of vague and ideological rhetoric. This isn't a shallow album by any standard, as it offers a fair display of variation and development that is generally absent from what tends to pass for actual mainstream music. The riff work is generally intricate, though playing off a limited template of palm muted thrash riffs and blurred speed picking after the Emperor model. There is a heap of other elements at play that tend to distract from the guitars to make them a bit peripheral, even when Galder takes an occasion to tear up the fret board with an impressive solo, which may be the fundamental reason for this album's negative reputation, as well as that of subsequent albums. From the beginning of Dimmu's tenure with Nuclear Blast, their sound has been quite more polished and modern in contrast to their first 2 studio LPs, but this is the first album where the really overt symphonic character of the band thrusts it into a similar movie soundtrack territory attributed to the likes of Epica or Rhapsody Of FIre.
To be clear, "DCA" is not what would be qualified as an outright superior album in relation to the likes of "For All Tid", or that of "Spiritual Black Dimensions" which is more comparable from a production standpoint (let alone all the classics of the early 2nd wave that came in around the same time as the former), but it is an enjoyable listen and an overall decent effort. Comparisons to the likes of Cradle Of Filth's "Damnation And A Day" are not without some merit given the similar largess of orchestral sounds, but Dimmu Borgir takes on less of an overt melodeath influence here (though still present obviously) and goes for something more along the lines of a modernized revamp of Satyricon's "Nemesis Divina", though without the mystique of the older production sound and a less compelling overall format. It's the type of album that is consistently solid from start to finish (save a few quirky hollywood-like interludes) yet doesn't have any particular moments that completely captivate or spellbind.
For me, this album is quite strange from a certain point of view - while I've heard all the other ones, some I rarely listen, others from time to time, but DCA has recaptured my attention after six years, even though it feels artificial, tiresome, long and too "modern". But then again, it's still black metal at core, with eclectic elements for diversion and, perhaps surprisingly, atmosphere. And before anybody bashes me as "blasphemer", "poser" or whatever the retarded human mind can come up with, let me present you the reasons regarding my statement.
In the music business, a band must sell its products to survive, if music it's a life priority - nothing wrong here. A competent musician must always prove to himself that he is capable to adapt to the evolution or involution of the music scene, without losing its identity - again, totally normal. Of course, a musician or a band distancing himself/itself for the pop "culture" and incorporating elements to produce something unconventional, yet ambitious and captivating, is a subject to talk about at home. This is the case for Dimmu Borgir's "Death Cult" and it is a paradox that it is both successful and criticized, mainly because of its eclectic black metal nature.
Using a full blown orchestra this time, the band incorporated a Wagnerian theme to the songwriting process and, in sharp contrast, half-thrash riffing but, as stated above, it retained the black metal core. The first two elements represent the most extreme pair, of course, a noticeable fact in the tracks where one of them tends to dominate the music, while the other is more a natural reaction than anything - just check out "Eradication Instincts Defined" or "Vredesbyrd": the orchestra is playing most of the lead melodies and the interesting parts, leaving the traditional metal instrumentation to thrash around or to groove along. I've found it very interesting and a necessary approach, because there is not a single moment of conflict between the instruments and the music flows very well. If one would like to hear guitars over orchestras or vice versa, he/she should check Anorexia Nervosa's "Drudenhaus" or "New Obscurantis Order", where this formula succeeded almost flawlessly. The reason why in Dimmu would not have worked is because of the more relaxed vision of the musicians, more inclined to whatever the scene could offer, so that the final product could reach its full potential.
The afore-mentioned "Vredesbyrd" has also a power/speed metal vibe in the beginning and at the end, while in the middle, a martial industrial metal one - see the spoken voices which remind me of Triarii, but without the NS bullshit. "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" is like a short metal "Gotterdammerung", full of half-thrash riffs, uninteresting alone, but cool as an addition; also, the dark ambient middle, with the spoken verses add a great deal of atmosphere. "Unorthodox Manifesto" is the martial industrial metal track of the album, with even a death metal influence on the fast parts. "Cataclysm Children" is mostly a thrash metal one, with some piano and guitar melodies at the end, reminding me of "Spellbound", although not that forward in approach. I think that these are enough examples to prove my point.
Before anything else, something must be said about the black metal part of the record - it's still there! Besides "Eradication", "Progenies" and "Blood Hunger Doctrine", you can find typical black metal chords or tremolo's, but the approach is still in black metal style - it's about the feeling, not the shock value, the atmosphere and not the moshing, head banging or the speedy shit; I mean, it's still an intense record, full of surprises, extremes and hate-spilled messages about humanity, deities and good. I believe it has almost a mystical thing inside it, with the classic satanic message as backbone: "Stay true to yourself!", and I see it when all the non-black metal elements kick in, but I still hear the blast beats, vocal shrieking, razor sharp guitars and sinister and cold riffing. It just takes time to fully understand it.
What really take away from the natural beauty of this album are the production and the vocals. The first one makes everything too artificial and strange sounding but, thankfully, the final product is not as loud as PEM was! The vocals are so drowned in effects that it resembles a mockery than anything else. C'mon Shagrath, I know you were all experimenting and shit, but for fuck's sake, you have two lungs, a throat and brains - just fucking use them! Just look at Attila Csihar, because that man/beast/whatever (he is like 10 feet tall!!!) is really inspirational vocal-wise! I think that even that the chick from Tymah could have sung on this album better, even if she's a bit one-dimensional.
An aspect I've seen criticized by other reviewers was the lyrical department and the "shock value" of it. Well, of course it's shocking for the entire world to hear a popular band sing/scream about Satan, eradication of the human specie et cetera, et cetera... The same was for Slayer, when Araya screamed about Auschwitz, serial killers, rapists and war. But c'mon guys, I don't believe that a band can be shocking when you read the lyrics it composed, but when it plays live, with its visual themes and such! You know, singing about Jesus or Satan doesn't make you a believer anyway... And of course, singing about rapes and murders doesn't make you a practitioner… hopefully...
In the end, I think I've summed everything concerning the album: a clearly satanic, blackened offering, with plenty experimental moments, that some may find enjoyable, others, causes for rabies. For me, this effort was honest, ambitious and eclectic in nature, as I usually like my black metal served. Too much of the same kind is wrong and unhealthy, you know. So, I recommend this album for listening and hope you like it. If you don't, who the fuck cares?
Amidst the allegations that they had finally 'sold out', Dimmu Borgir's 'Death Cult Armageddon' was, and is an album that is met with raised eyebrows throughout the black metal community. True enough, there was an increasing trend towards a more polished production standard and even- dare I mention- melodic hooks, yet the bat continued to proclaim that they were simply trying to 'spread their message to more people'. Now, whether you may love Dimmu Borgir or hate them, it's difficult to deny that they have been ambitious with certain aspects of their music, most notably their incorporation of a symphonic orchestra into their Norwegian black metal sound. 'Death Cult Armageddon' is arguably Dimmu Borgir's most confident use of the symphonic aspect to date, and makes for a cinematic black metal experience, although some of the band's other elements aren't as fleshed out as they should have been.
'Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse' was the first song I ever heard from Dimmu years ago, and it is a fair indicator of the direction of the album, if not its quality. This single would lure me in with a bombastic performance by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague (conducted and arranged by Gaute Storaas), as well as some high production values that I wasn't used to for black metal at the time. Although there is nothing else on the album that quite matches the quality of this teaser track, the song's mixture of film score-worthy orchestral music and black metal runs throughout the entirety of 'Death Cult Armageddon'. Although the symphonic sound is nothing new to metal, only a few bands have the dedication and resources to commission a full-blown orchestra to fulfill their sound, and it is realized beautifully here.
As far as Dimmu Borgir (the band) goes themselves, they are still at centerstage in the music. Many of these songs run in a similar fashion; with chugging guitars and thunderous drums rumbling in parallel with the orchestra. Bassist ICS Vortex even occasionally delivers some wonderfully dramatic clean singing here and there, an element of the band's sound that is far too scarce, in my opinion. Frontman Shagrath's vocals here are very distinctive from the average frostbitten howl, but his rasp feels a little underwhelming and cold, thanks in large part to the sense of overproduction that runs throughout the album. A clear sounding production can work without robbing black metal of its atmosphere or ferocity- look no farther than Watain for an example- but there is very little left to the imagination here.
For what the band may lack in atmosphere or ferocity however, they do make up for it in terms of their ambition and dramatic intensity. Without the added non-metal elements to 'Death Cult Armageddon', this would have been a barely decent work. Dimmu Borgir performs with skill here, but the true limelight is on Gaute Storaas and the Prague Philharmonic. Coupled with an interesting, albeit ridiculous packaging, 'Death Cult Armageddon' is an album I went into with dubious expectations, but I am finding myself now impressed by what they have done here.
Dimmu Borgir...the mention of this band enrages a lot of elitists or "true" metal heads or black metal gurus. Whatever, Dimmu Borgir may not be "necro" enough to satisfy the black metal crowd but they sure know how to make an awesome, atmospheric, symphonic, blackish, and flat out good album and Death Cult Armageddon is a fine example of this.
Not being my favorite Dimmu release, this album still succeeds in many aspects. The riffs are very good but not nearly as good as Puritanical probably because of the incorporation of an orchestra. I'm not gonna lie and say I love the orchestra but I get what they were going for. And fortunately, they don't overuse it too much. Yes, "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" relies a bit too much on it but still an excellent song. It gives a very angry, hate-filled vibe, especially near the end. Excellently structured but the riffs are lacking nonetheless. "Allegiance" starts with a weird intro but an awesome blackish riff with an amazing yet terrifying growl thing and is blasting madness. Another favorite of mine is "Eradication Instincts Defined". This song relies heavily on the orchestra but oh my god does this song rule. The angry feeling is probably most felt in this song.
Production is a step down from their previous album. I think it is overproduced. Too much to the point where the guitars fall behind the orchestra if it is heavily used in songs. Not to say the riffs are bad but they lack something. The drums sound really good and are perfectly played as usual from Nicholas. The vocals are a fine example of Shagrath's vocal range. "Heavenly Perverse" he sounds like he could be in Immortal, it's that good. He can go very deep and of course his awesome screams and growls. The bass is a disappointment. It is just way too quiet but Vortex's operatic vocals are a unique twist to the standard Dimmu vocal styles. A welcomed addition to add more variety.
The is definitely one of my favorite Dimmu albums. The elitists will say what they want about the selling out and the commercialism of black metal, whatever, this album rules. Just give it a chance but if you're expecting pure, "true" black metal, you will be disappointed. This is extreme/symphonic/black metal at its finest.
Best tracks - "Eradication Instincts Defined", "Vredsbyrd", and "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse"
Even though this well known, sold and discussed record gets bashed on a regular basis by the so called fans, this record is the Dimmu Borgir's summit to me and perfectly defines what the band is all about.
Dimmu Borgir did pretty much everything right in here they did wrong on other records. It's a consequent evolution from the last records and a peak compared to the certain regression that would follow afterwards until now. Death Cult Armageddon is an album with a healthy length of over sixty minutes which gives the instrumental parts the time to evolve and get quite atmospheric. The album sounds lighter and more precise than the overwhelming orchestral “wankery” on Abrahadabra, it sounds more consistent and creative than In Sorte Diaboli and more equilibrated than the early works that focussed too much on vocals, rapid instrumental heaviness or useless dominating blast beats. The Norwegians find just the right mixture between their atmospheric black metal roots and their later orchestral experiments and developed an epic horror metal atmosphere that is only topped by the masters of this genre which are The Vision Bleak.
Especially the epic tracks give some time to breathe and deliver profound atmospheric passages. The last three tracks of the album which are the atmospheric "Eradication Instincts Defined" with its numerous classic and symphonic influences, the dark and gripping military war epos "Unorthodox Manifesto" and the bleak "Heavenly Perverse" that uses great sound samples and even some acoustic guitars are pure perfection from that point of view. The band is clearly influenced by epic film soundtracks in the key of composers such as James Newton Howard, John Williams, Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer that can easily be considered as the contemporary big four of this genre.
The great thing is that Dimmu Borgir can also put a quite intense atmosphere in their shorter tracks this time. The first output and well known"Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse" perfectly defines the brave new direction of this album and is probably the best single or video release the band has ever done to date. One should also cite the heavier and pretty much diversified "For The World To Dictate Our Death" with its atmospheric sound samples of different historical speeches as well as "Allehelgens Død I Helveds Rike" that should also please to the whining fans of the band's early years and that mixes harder parts with harsh vocals and upbeat passages with relaxing parts including clean vocals and some piano works. In fact, every single song of the album offers a healthy degree of epic structures, diversity and bleak atmosphere. The songs are not conceptually connected in a progressive way and may sound slightly alike to some people but those are the only possible weak points I could find and where there is a thin line between excellence and pure perfection.
Until now, this record is the band's climax but I'm pretty confident that the band can even top this effort with a little bit more focus, organisation and time. This record is a bleak horror metal symphony. It may offend black metal hardliners but please to any fan of atmospheric gothic and symphonic metal styles. The band has not entirely the class of The Vision Bleak, Therion or Moonspell but they get pretty much close and anybody that likes those band should put his prejudices aside and check this record out. Dimmu Borgir are not satanic, commercial or overambitious, they just sound equilibrated on this record and do what they needed to do and created something that just sounds like them. Now climb the band's creative summit and be prepared for a great dark ride.
That's exactly how I would describe Dimmu Borgir's Death Cult Armageddon. Compared to their previous release, Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, this album seemed to lack even more in catchiness. It's just like they were trying to make metal covers of classical music, really poor and boring ones though. But enough of that, let's get on to the actual tracks before I get even more pissed on how the band decided to ruin itself.
The album's opener, Allegiance, is actually very promising. Its symphonics are really good and the guitars are playing exactly to fit the orchestra. The first problem of this album, however, becomes noticeable immediately: Shagrath's vocals. If on PEM they were still good, on DCA their deterioration sign is becoming more and more visible. Moving on, the next track, Progenies of the Great Apocalypse, might be the best track off this one, along with the title track. Mustis made each and every second of this song be a true epicness incarnate. And the best part is that they had Abbath from Immortal as a guest vocalist so that the harsh vocals do not ruin this song. The symphonic strings are epicness from the beginning to the end, Vortex's part is fantastic as always, and the song as a whole manages to capture the atmosphere of the apocalypse.
Sadly, the follower, Lepers Among Us, was plain worthless. All the instruments seemed to rush everywhere with no way of possibly blend together in an at least decent mix. Vredesbyrd bursts in with more epic strings, some actually good vocals from Shagrath and Galder's insane guitar riffage. But besides the beginning and ending riffs of this song, there's nothing else worth mentioning about it. Its middle isn't as good as the rest of it. For the World to Dictate our Death features some open speeches recorded so as to add the feeling of an apocalypse in our modern day. Too bad that the song was too boring for me to actually feel it like I did in Progenies...
And now comes the title track of the album, Blood Hunger Doctrine! It begins with some guitars slowly fading in while the drums decide to come in and play along. Then once this ends, Mustis comes in with a fantastic symphonic riff that you rarely find. Its epicness and apocalyptic feeling are unique and this song alone stands as a rival to Progenies. Too bad that they never played this one live... The rest of the song is Shagrath growling with the guitars, drums and a piano playing in the background, as he tells the story of a Death Cult which will slaughter the entire human race.
Another epic track is the follower, Allehelgens Dod I Helveds Rike, translated as The Death of all Saints in the Kingdom of Hell. It begins with some heavy riffage which is sure to get you headbanging and doing a couple windmills. Then Shagrath comes in with some decent growling and even attempts to make some shrieks like in the old days. Mustis offers us some movie soundtrack symphonic riffs and everything works well in order for you to imagine heaven being torn asunder and all its residents burning into the fiery pit of eternal torment which is known as hell. Shagrath's evil laughs adds more to the devilish atmosphere. And when you expected it the less, Vortex comes in with some beautiful singing, one of his best, which once again add more to the epicness of the song. Sadly, after Vortex ends his part, the song repeats the same riffs from the beginning to Vortex's arrival. And with one last shriek about Satan's dinasty and some burped lyrics, Shagrath ends this epic song.
Sadly, after this the whole album begins to sink into worthlessness and the only thing worth of an honorable mention would be the symphonic riffs of Eradication Instincts Defined, which I'm more than sure that belong to some classical song. All in all, this album proved Dimmu's wish to attract a new audience: the symphonic metal audience, but the problem is that they don't realize that they're slowly starting to become too cheesy and corny for their own good. For God's sake, just leave the symphonic metal stuff to Nightwish, they're far more experienced with this style, and return to your 90's roots!
Favorite tracks: Progenies of the Great Apocalypse, Blood Hunger Doctrine, Allehelgens Dod I Helveds Rike
Funny story: I was approached by a certain reader some time ago that said he was considering purchasing Death Cult Armageddon, and was on his laptop in class reading some of the reviews. He came across mine and the student next to him leaned over to take a peek, exclaiming "Why would you listen to anything recommended by a guy name Diarrhea?" In defense of the indefensible? Well, I have certainly found myself in similar circumstances in the past.
As I have exclaimed in other reviews, Dimmu Borgir really lost much of their soul when Aarstad was dismissed, as Mustis is simply not all that he is often made out to be. His cornball synth textures really ruined Spiritual Black Dimensions for me, wasting what was probably Shagrath's finest hour as a vocalist. The followup was great fun in spots, but lacked a truly memorable melodic element and suffered from Barker's overwhelming performance on the kit. Death Cult Armageddon smooths out many of these production imbalances, and dispenses of Mustis' ability to ruin decent compositions with the inclusion of a full orchestra. Sure, he is still arranging much of the music, but the scope is broadened to finally match the iniquitous intensity of the rest of the performances. Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia had the orchestra too, but here it is finally coherently entwined with the rhythm backbone.
Overblown? Sure, but there is a decent balance here that the later albums truly lacked. In Sorte Diaboli was more riff-driven but wholly unmemorable, and Abrahadabra has done nothing but cement the band's position as the consummate laughingstock of the black -excuse me, extreme- metal genre. Galder still saved most of his better riffs for his Old Man's Child project, but there are actually some really great burners scattered about Death Cult Armageddon. "Cataclysm Children" is a great track, so great that the band continued to recycle it's premise again and again on later records. Still can't top the original, guys. "Blood Hunger Doctrine" is also spectacular before the clownish vocals come in, perhaps embodying the single most memorable passage since Dimmu Borgir decided to take up this approach. "Lepers Among Us" also contains some rollicking verses and coherent structure.
"Allehelgens død i Helveds rike" also deserves a special mention, as it contains Hestnæs' greatest clean vocal contribution to date and has a more forward-thinking slant to its procession. In fact, only Shagrath actively irritates me here, which means we have come a long way from the early days. Barker is all over the place just like on his debut with the group, but the production sort of smooths out his contribution. Yeah, the production is beyond amazing on this record, giving all of the instruments ample space to breathe and leaving plenty of room for the low-end to sell the gravitas of the riffs. The only thing that bothers me about this is that you have to really crank Death Cult Armageddon to get the full effect, but once it clicks you'll see what I mean.
Dimmu Borgir definitely got their modern formula down pat here, and although this album has retroactively earned them a lot of scorn, it has aged a lot better than I expected it would. "Cataclysm Children" would easily make my Dimmu Borgir "best of" list, and I can appreciate most of these tracks in isolation, something that I haven't been able to say consistently for anything else after Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. Well, then again my name is Diarrhea, so what do I know?
When someone says the word Black metal, most minds will think of Dimmu Borgir. No single doubt. From all those bands, Dimmu Borgir seems to be the most known. With a small mainstream success, it seems to outweigh pretty much every other black metal band. Yet, as we all know, success is not a keyword for quality. A black metal album gone mainstream seems like a paradox, but Dimmu Borgir quite happened to break that taboo.
Enter Death Cult Armageddon.
It’s quite interesting to track down the Dimmu Borgir albums and notice the big change the music has made. Beginning with For All Tid, Dimmu Borgir started as a melodic black metal band with symphonic elements. Their sound was very underground; atmospheric production, Norwegian lyrics, instruments played with passion and emotion. Their sound hasn’t got much of a change until Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropy. Dimmu Borgir became a symphonic black metal band, with an addition of a orchestra. It quite worked and several classics were written, but there also was a negative side on it. They became too popular. To satisfy the likes of more people that they could ever dream of, they did the thing that disappointed most of the older fans. Dimmu Borgir specialized on only one thing. The orchestra.
The music Dimmu Borgir make themselves, sounds very stale. Everything sounds the same, and barely progresses. When a song starts, the feeling will stay the same until the end, there is almost no dynamic to be found. The guitar riffs are not only stale, they are misleading too. Every guitar riff on this album has the meaning to be evil, but just can’t get evil. Very often, there are dissonant tones that don’t need to be there. Very often there is a lack of a scale while such a scale is needed to make a nice sounding riff.
Shagrath Also performed a rather annoying vocal habit on this album. In the old days his screams were speechless. Those days were full of passionate screams and emotional growls. Over the years, Shagrath developed a nasty vocal habit. It’s very raspy and very monotone, just not interesting to listen to. It’s also quite sad that the keyboards took a step back on this record. Without the melodic keyboard lines, Dimmu Borgir has lost a great appeal. In many songs, the keyboard saved the song of getting rubbish. Now, the keyboard is no more able to save certain songs.
There are certainly some good things to be found on this album. Most important, the drumming. Nicholas Barker has proven himself to be one of metal’s greatest drummers alive. His speed is incredible, his technique very fine, but on top of all, he is very versatile. He makes great use of his whole drum kit. Secondly, we have ICS Vortex, Dimmu’s bassist and second vocalist. His clean singing is much more stable than Shagrath’s rasp. It’s sad that unlike Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropy he only sings on two tracks. His bass playing is nowhere to be heard on this album, making him rather a useless person in the band, which shouldn’t be.
Of all those same sounding songs found on this album, there are a few songs that can be set apart of sounding similar. First and foremost, there is Blood Hunger Doctrine, a song focusing more on guitar leads and piano work than anything else. It’s great, but sadly Shagrath brought up a annoying vocal effect, making the middle parts almost unlistenable. We also have Vredesbyrd, along with Blood Hunger Doctrine the only song that focuses more on lead guitars than anything else. Sadly, just like Blood Hunger Doctrine the middle section is not as appealing as the intro and outro.
There are of course some more enjoyable moments, such as the killer drum roll in the beginning of For The World To Dictate Our Death, or the epic opening orchestra of Eradication Instincts Defined. The parts where ICS Vortex sings are also satisfying. Sadly, that’s about it. Dimmu Borgir focused way too much on the orchestra and on sounding evil, forgetting that those two things are not the main features of making a good song.
- Blood Hunger Doctrine
- Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse
- The drumming is done impressively good.
- ICS Vortex has an incredible voice
- When the guitars or keyboard do a lead riff, it’s sounds very good
- Shagrath’s voice
- Guitar riffs with the only use of sounding “evil”
- Overuse of the orchestra
- Lack of keyboards (and to a lesser extent, the bass)
- ICS Vortex’s voice is only used twice on this album
This review was originially written at www.sputnikmusic.com under the name TheHamburgerman
Dimmu Borgir’s latest full-length, Death Cult Armageddon, is probably their most controversial, along with the previous release, Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia.
The reason for this is that it basically is labeled (mostly by Dimmu Borgir themselves and by Nuclear Blast) as Black Metal, but made much, much more accessible.
The production is very polished and clean, which in my opinion is very important for this kind of album. The massive orchestral pieces deserve the best possible production to be well heard, and the instruments are also all very easily heard. Some might call it overproduced, since this is, after all, black metal and we all know of the production standards of some other Norwegian musicians out there (Darkthrone, Burzum, etc.) and many black metal purists out there tend to call anything that is well produced “overproduced”. I personally haven’t yet heard anything I found too well-produced.
The lyrical themes of this album are easily detected even from the title. While all of Dimmu Borgir’s albums following Stormblåst (excluding the new In Sorte Diaboli) have long complex three word names containing words that try to produce some kind of evil/mysterious effect are quite childish in my opinion, Death Cult Armageddon abandons all hope of some complexity in the title and just sounds like some Hollywood satanic cult or maybe some Satan for Kids Scouts camp name. And the lyrics of each song are equally pathetic in their futile efforts to sound evil and genocidal. For example, the song For The World To Dictate Our Death contains the inspiring phrase “Pure Fucking Armageddon”. However, this same track also includes some interesting samples of none other than Adolf Hitler’s speeches in German which create an impression of true strength in the song, coupled with one of the best riffs on the album. The only tracks whose lyrics I am unable to judge are Vredesbyrd and Allehelgens Død I Helveds Rike, both being in Norwegian, a language which I’m unable to speak or understand (yet).
The use of orchestra here offers a truly epic feeling to the album, ignoring the childish lyrics, and in my opinion Dimmu Borgir have learned much about how to use and adapt an orchestra since their first venture into full-blown symphonies with Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia (PEM). The only part that fails here is the album’s intro: where PEM had a beautiful symphonic intro by the name of Fear And Wonder, Death Cult Armageddon starts with an instrumental intro integrated into the first track, Allegiance, sounding like a machine gun firing far away which just makes me want to get to the intro’s end and to start the album properly with Allegiance. The tracks where their orchestra really shines are the following: Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse, Blood Hunger Doctrine, Vredesbyrd and Cataclysm Children. The rest of the band’s instruments are somewhat lacking in originality but make that up more than enough by their superb technicality and their cleanly produced sound. The drums are triggered but still interesting and the guitars produce an amazing result when coupled with an orchestra.
I don’t consider Shagrath’s vocal talents as being in decline. They are different but still adapted to the music and very good. One curious thing about this album is that Abbath from Immortal’s contribution on tracks 2 and 11 (Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse and Heavenly Perverse) seem to pass unnoticed. Neither I nor other friends who have listened to this album several times have been able to notice which parts are done by Abbath and which are done by Shagrath. An overall good performance by both though. ICS Vortex has some of the best clean vocals in metal today, giving a much more epic, opera-like feeling to the few (2) songs in which he performs. The rest of the time he simply handles bass.
This album deserves a 85% for its superb production, amazing and epic use of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and overall excellent vocals. I deducted 15% because of the weak lyrical content and the generally commercial image (let’s be as evil as we can while touring the world and selling DEATH CULT LEGION 666 shirts to people). The lyrics are, however, easy to overlook as the album is musically a masterpiece and basically sounds perfect for something called Symphonic Black Metal. They might be sell-outs, but they sound good doing it.
Since their evolution into a full-blown symphonic metal band with their '97 release Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, Dimmu Borgir have certainly pushed the limits of exactly how far a metal band can go with symphonic flirtations. Their 2001 album was the supposed apex; full string sections were pretty apparent through the album's duration, and every other part had some sort of synthesizer layered over it. But that was nothing compared to what the band do on DCA; not only do they use a full orchestra with brass and strings, but actually make them a part of the songs rather than background atmosphere. It certainly does achieve a huge, epic sound to it, but for most, DCA is simply too cheesy and too overblown to make any real impact.
I dare say that as a unit, they took a huge step down in pretty much every department. They took a risk by basing the metal around the symphonics, not vice versa. (As it should be with any reasonable symphonic metal band.) As a result, the music behind the orchestra is pretty uninteresting. Silenoz and Galder play nothing but chugging power chord riffs here, probably in an attempt to add "power" to the orchestra. Sadly, they fail at that. Where are the ripping melodies and moderate degree of technicality that made the guitars in this band so great? They have all but been lost to monotonous chug rifffs that drone on for minutes at a time, without variation. This is painfully prevalent in "Lepers Among Us" and "Unorthodox Manifesto," whose utter lack of creativity or songwriting effort is almost unbearable. There are only a handful of good riffs and leads, but they only appear when the song is on the verge of failure, like "Vredesbyrd" or the ending of "Unorthodox Manifesto." "Cataclysm Children" features some fairly intense thrashy rhythms, and "Allehelgens Dod I Helveds Rike" features some decent tremolo riffs to bring back a bit of the old flair. Nick's drumming, while still incredibly self-indulgent and show-offish, isn't as prevalent because it's washed out by the orchestra and choir. Unfortunately, the drums nearly destroy themselves with a flat, sterile, and clearly triggered sound. There are no interesting or ear-catching drum patterns, and the only decent moments are faster numbers such as "For the World to Dictate Our Death" or the opener "Allegiance."
Aside from the band's musical abilities, the songwriting is lackluster and uninspired. It seems they went for a more accessible sound, as most of the songs are in the 4-5 minute range; but this is where it fails. All of the songs are very formulaic and repetitive, and things are hammered into the mid-tempo range for the vast majority of the disc. The plodding, empty riffs don't help matters, and even the orchestra can't save some moments. The way everything is put together will test your patience, and for some of you, it's an easily failed test.
The biggest thing that plays a role in Dimmu's sound here is the 40-piece orchestra and choir. While it certainly is epic, and helps to convey a certain apocalyptic atmosphere, it is almost laughable in its sappy melodrama. The only moments where it really helps the sense of drama are Vortex's clean vocal passages, especially on "Allehelgens Dod I Helveds Rike," which are backed by Mustis' twinkling keyboards and powerful melodies in the guitars. The catch is this; Vortex only has 2 parts in the whole album. You see what I mean? For the majority of the disc, the orchestra plays boring arrangements that add nothing to the music, and everything is composed pretty shoddily. The cheese factor of "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" will leave some in obvious doubt of the band's musical future, but there are some decent passages that come through on "Eradication Instincts Defined" and "Blood Hunger Doctrine." Mustis as a keyboardist can't really be heard; there are some typical piano passages, but nothing outstanding or remotely interesting. Some programmed beats and samples are used here and there as well, but are really nothing but filler.
DCA also sees the decline of Shagrath's vocals; no longer does he use a fierce scream as before, but now relies on a buzzing "grim" croak that sounds worn-out, uninspired, and nothing remotely metal. The verses of "Blood Hunger Doctrine" are particularly terrible, but there are some decent parts on "Eradication Instincts Defined." Another thing that takes so much away from his performance is the fact that endless studio effects are used to try and spice up an unsuccessful attempt of sounding fierce. There are very few moments where Shagrath himself makes a good scream without the aid of effects, and his overall performance suffers. I will say, though, the vocal patterns aren't bad; they're not totally stuck on the music, and some moments have a call-to-arms effect to them.
If there's one other thing that saves this album, it's the production. Holy fuck, it's great. An album of this sort calls for a sharp, articulate production, and everything comes through in a crystalline manner without mar. The guitars use a suitably thick and deeper tone, and each instrument in the orchestra is sharp and focused.
Boring song structures, questionable guitar riffs, and cheesy epicness aside, DCA is a pretty entertaining album. Ultimately though, it lacks substance. It may kick ass for one or two full listens, but then you'll start to see the scratches underneath the surface.
For their eighth studio album, Dimmu Borgir got a little more creative. They reached into their bag of tricks and pulled out a 48-piece philharmonic orchestra/choir from Prague. They then blended this orchestra in with their sterile black metal. The result was an album which is considered by most to be their best and most creative work to date. The orchestra, which helps to make "Death Cult Armageddon" sound epic and expansive, is sprinkled on, alongside some female backing vocals. Plus, some keyboards are wisely thrown in. Not To Mention Nicolas Barker's Amazing Drumming Style
The orchestra really shines on track two, "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse," where some cool piano playing makes an entrance. This song also balances clean singing (which is a rare occurrence) and snarly vocals well. "Blood Hunger Doctrine" combines more crunchy riffs and keyboards, and it ends with a single, cold note from a piano. And after the blistering guitar work and driving drums are over, "Cataclysm Children" turns to piano playing (which actually sounds rather pretty, here). Finally, track nine, "Eradication Instincts Defined," combines peaceful choir singing with violins and a brass horn of some kind.
But if you're looking for some great, old school black metal, it remains in tact here, as well. "Vredesbyrd" has machine gun riffs which almost bob in places. "For the World..." has more propulsive riffs and fast, all over the place drumming, and "Allehelgens Dod I Helveds Rike" features drumming which is so fast, it sounds like it could be a drum machine.
So, "Death Cult Armageddon" is full of fiery riffs, inhumanly talented drumming, and snarly vocals, but it also has some ear candy. The final sound is very full and explosive. Thus, this album is for all types of Dimmu Borgir fans, because if you're looking for something new, "Death Cult Armageddon" brings some innovation to the table; but it also has plenty of head banging worthy material to please old school fans.
I put off revisiting this review for a really, really long time, because rewriting it to reflect my current opinion on Death Cult Armageddon entails actually listening to Death Cult Armageddon again, an activity about as entertaining as getting one of those frame things that doctors put on people going into brain surgery bolted to my head, working as a substitute teacher for a class of preschoolers with special needs, or playing I Wanna Be The Guy on the hardest difficulty setting. It's not even entertainingly awful, it's just tedious as hell, draining your soul more and more with every shitty thrash-lite riff and airy-fairy "epic" orchestral embellishment.
The "Demon Burger" nickname that I borrowed from comedy site Ruthless Reviews is probably far more apt than the RR writers ever imagined. This is the Burger King of extreme metal--low-quality, slapdashed, loaded with fat and fillers, made of God only knows what unnatural substances, and wrapped in slick packaging to patch over the gaping hole where their integrity would normally be. Anything that might constitute flavor or character (and thus alienate some sector of the faceless masses) is ruthlessly expunged, leaving a safe, homogenous mass of anonymous, soulless blackened death thrash groove industrial symphonic generi-metal.
This record has way too many ideas everywhere, most of which are terrible. The riffs are mostly cheap imitations of extreme thrash, probably the cheapest ever put to tape--imagine riffs that are to modern Iced Earth riffs what modern Iced Earth riffs are to real thrash metal. They're honestly that bad. The rest are divided among chugga-stop-chugga-stop groove riffs that scream "heavy" to teenagers wearing studded belts and sing-songy, sugary-sweet passages that follow the mincing sweep of the orchestra like a starving puppy trailing its master. Then there's the aforementioned orchestra, which sounds like the sort of imitation John Williams crapola that you'd hear in a Sci-Fi Channel "original movie", and clangy synth noises that I guess are "industrial" or something, and the dopey spoken word samples much beloved of kiddies who like to sound "profound".
The little bloody cherry on top of this shit sundae is definitely the drums, a never-ending, incredibly loud clatter that barely manages to stay on time. Like many extreme metal drummers, Nick Barker thinks that getting in more drum beats somehow makes him "technical" and "brutal", so therefore he takes standard 4/4 beats and tom rolls and subdivides them unto infinity. The resulting racket of clicking triggered bass drums, thumpy bass-heavy toms, and plastic bucket snares is enough to make my ears physically hurt after fifteen minutes when paired with the Nevermore-ish noise-blaster guitar tone, even at low volume. There's allegedly a bass somewhere in this album, but I'll have to take their word for it because I sure as hell can't find it.
Frontman Shagrath is the 20-pound yappy dog of metal, posturing and scowling and trying his damnedest to be threatening, but cannot hope to disguise his total harmlessness. He wasn't scary when he first took lead vocals on Stormblast 14 years ago, and he's even less so now. His voice by this album's recording had deteriorated so much that he literally sounds just like a Dalek. As if to drive home the point, he is joined by Abbath of Immortal in a croaking robot duet for "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse", and it is hard to tell them apart. It doesn't help that they're both so clear and intelligible that you can make out every word of their awful, awful, terrible lyrics.
One wonders why second guitarist Galder and bassist Vortex are even in this band, because one guitarist alone could pull off all of the material on this album with no difficulty (no solos, no dual leads, no harmonies, just power chord garbage from start to finish) and there isn't even a trace of bass guitar to be heard. Vortex does have an excellent singing voice (and he's even more welcome because the guitars back off during his two singing spots, providing some respite from the nonstop ear canal sodomy), but he uses it for a grand total of about one minute on the whole album. Although, in a way, one can't really blame him for wasting his time in this band. Getting paid (and laid, for that matter) for doing nothing has got to be a sweet gig. Hell, I certainly wish I could get paid for doing nothing.
If I had to pick out a couple songs that are somewhat less godawful than the others, "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" comes to mind first, both because the orchestra actually plays something slightly memorable for a main theme, and because Vortex sings in it. That said, it has the same Z-grade chugga-chugga riffage as the rest of the album and the lyrics are entirely composed of a string of hackneyed phrases and cliches stuck together. I mean this in the most literal sense; look them up yourself and see. Other than that, opener "Allegiance" has a pretty cool arpeggio riff near the end. One good riff. On the whole fucking album. Certain editions of this album (there are a ton of editions, as befits Nuclear Blast's cynical cash-grab policy of using bonus materials as revenue-enhancing devices) have a Bathory cover ("Satan My Master") that the band absolutely massacres. It's terrible. If you played it to Quorthon's body his dead heart would probably beat again just to have another heart attack.
This album spits in the face of pioneering extreme metal artists like Bathory, Sodom, Possessed, and Death, taking their work that was meant to take metal higher, further, faster, and darker than any music had ever been before, and diluting it back down into a safe, inoffensive product for teenage consumers, a fucking Demon Burger to be dispensed out of drive-through windows by apathetic clerks making seven dollars an hour. It's greasy, it's devoid of nutrition, and consuming it for extended periods will damage your health. Artistic death, one bite at a time. Bon appetit.
Ahhh, Dimmu Borgir. One of the most polarizing bands in metal. Adored by critics, loathed by many fans. Many black metalers still cling to the bands older works while despising the newer, clean sounding, "neo-black metal" sound the band started exploring in Spiritual Black Dimensions, while others see the bands first three albums as typical amateurish black metal that gradually progressed into something greater. Dimmu Borgir's Death Cult Armageddon will likely not change anyone's mind on either side-a grand, epic, monster of a symphonic black metal record with some strengths, frustratingly bogged down by twice as many weaknesess.
On the song side of things, we have a couple that are great, some that are okay, and the rest are bad. Single "Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse" easily ranks among the band's best compositions: huge, catchy, epic, and a fantastic clean interlude from Vortex-this song has it all. "Vredesbyrd" and "Allehelgens Død I Helveds Rike" are also standouts, the later with another fine vocal contribution from Vortex.
As for the rest of songs, I was surprised by the lack of quality. While every track seemingly has at least one cool moment, its almost like thats all the band could manage to write. In addition, the album as a whole lacks a certain continuity and flow that makes listening to the whole thing quite the chore. While the album can be tied together by the orchestral sounds and epic atmosphere, the songs themselves, when broken down, just don't fit with one another very well.
Musically, Dimmu Borgir has always been competent at worst, and stunning at best, and this album is no exception. The production of Death Cult Armageddon is top notch, with the orchestral segments balanced very well against the standard instruments. Guitarists Silenoz and Galder riff along decently enough (though riffs have never been an important part of Dimmu Borgir), and drummer Nick Barker puts on a fine performance, always keeping perfect rhythm and adding impressive fills when the time is right.
This brings us to the vocals. Shagrath has always just sort of been "there", his standard black metal vox rarely detracting from the music but never really adding anything either. His performance on Death Cult Armageddon, however, has made it apparent that he is well past his prime (if it could ever really be called that), and that its time for him to go. What about a replacement, you ask? Well he's actually standing right there in front of you with a fucking bass in his hand-yes, I'm talking about bass player Simen Hestaes, a.k.a. ICS Vortex. Simen easily posesses the best clean voice in metal today-soaring, powerful, beautiful, and truly his own. His work with Borknagar has shown that he can be a perfectly competent growler as well, but to be honest, I think his clean approach is more appropriate for most of this album anyway. To have this man as a bass player with a voice solo on two songs and not as the full time vocalist is a fucking travesty, not to mention an unbelievable waste of talent. To put it simply, Dimmu must give Shagrath the boot NOW, before he bogs down another release as badly as he did this one.
In short, this album is proof of three things: Dimmu Borgir have some great ideas, Dimmu Borgir doesn't have enough great ideas to put together a full length album, and Dimmu Borgir needs to make a vocalist replacement that should have been made as soon as Simen signed on with the band. While Death Cult Armageddon certainly has its moments, its lack of continuity, subpar songwriting, and mediocre vocals place it firmly in the realm of mediocre. Buy if you must, but you're really just better off downloading the two or three best songs and going back to Enthrone Darkness Triumphant.
While pledging a return to their more traditional sound after the electronics of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, Dimmu Borgir return with a full symphony. Does bigger make better? Not necessarily. When Blind Guardian made A Night At The Opera, it worked. When Manowar made Kings of Metal, it worked. When Dimmu Borgir made DCA, it didn't work. Mainly because they used a symphony as a substitute for good songwriting. The songs sound flashy at first, until you realized you are listening to a turd spraypainted gold. It looks good at first, but the paint soon slides off, and you realize this is the same old subpar dimmu borgir, and the album lacks merit just like the previous 3 albums.
As noted on PEM, Galder's riffs are rather stale and boring, and can be smelled from a mile away. They stray away from the purpose of having the symphony there, with rather pointless amelodic riffs that, although they sound fancy, still revolve around basic modal chords that even 2nd year piano students know about. The first song is completely forgettable, with forgettable riffs, and seems to follow the recent DB pattern that they deviated from very few times: Opening melody, unrelated blastfest, different melody, unrelated blastfest, faux-epic ending. The second song, the all too known and extremely overrated Progenies... lacks any feeling. You are at first stunned by the symphonic elements, until you realize that, again, it's the same chord being played over. and over. and over. An important note is that it's still basic heavy metal, but with a symphonic lining. Most songs on this album are extremely forgettable, and lack any sense of musical feeling. Even the supposed "tr00" Norwegian songs lack the sense of musical feeling that permeated Stormblaast. The latter opens with a horrid riff that is a simple heavy metal riff accompanied by drums that are fast, but lack a reason for being so- maybe simply to distract from the uninspired songwriting, or to simply fill space. The song titles sound clever, but mean nothing, just like most of their recent albums. As almost any DB album is full of more merit than this album, and this album is simply a retread of better days, as if they forgot how to be good. The supposed epic, Unorthodox Manifesto, drags on without purpose, and meanders along without purpose.
Like the appearance of blood in one's urine, a new Dimmu Borgir album is never welcomed with open arms. That has held fast for me, at least, ever since I heard their piss-poor guitar plunking and completely ridiculous carnival keyboards on Spiritual Black Dimensions. I fully realize that there has to be a period where all the cream-faced 15 year olds slither out from the cosmetic closets around the European 'scene' to appreciate some real rhinestone cowboy approved "black metal", as it obvious the whole glam/goth/black metal transfusion is a big commercial success.
If it isn't obvious already, I don't really like Dimmu Borgir.
"Death Cult Armaggedon"?
What were they thinking? You could easily slip that title into an episode of 'Beetle Borgs' and no one would notice. While I would be brimmed with satisfaction to end this review right here and now, I suppose it is necessary to share my reasons for distaste in this mundane road trip through spankin' fresh 'gothic' atmosphere, spine tingling keyboard rape, and an unbearably huge insult to classical and black metal alike.
True, black metal has never been my first choice, but after hearing such grippingly powerful works as Aeternus' original two releases and just about everything by Absu, Xasthur, Darkthrone, and Leviathan, these guys approach wears thin like a waffle with too much butter. Throughout this horrendous mish-mash of musical spasms comes but a few salvageable riffs, only they're too smothered by the endless synths to have any real effect on the cynical listener. Of course, for every semi-decent riff, there are 5 completely terrible ones. To simplify it, it's a far-less-than-equal alternation between incredibly weak ass guitaring, incredibly boring guitaring, and mediocre guitaring, and butchered nicely.
There is no enveloping atmospheric elements at all, unless you consider your local Hot Topic to be atmopspheric. Instead, there is pathetic song structures that come off as boring and repetitive.
Listen to Vredesbyrd. Really, do it right now. Now count how many times the same ridiculous 'chorus' riff is played. I seriously think it's 4 or 5 times. And guess what? This is the "full version". The "single" version is identical, but even simpler.
Even though the lineup looking bleak, Nick Barker is undeniably the most talented member of the band, once again providing his excellent patterns and fills at ungodly speed and power. Why he wastes his precious time with this homosexual biker gang is far, far, beyond my comprehension. Such a complete fucking waste.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the most useless member of this "black metal" band. I swear, Shagrath is the worst vocalist in the entire genre, even besting the "legendary" Attila, who in my already widely stated opinion, sounds like a Leprechaun giggling through a piece of dislodged gutter. Even back on the early albums (For All Tid, Stormblast, etc...), I wasn't blown away by his approach. Now, of course, with everything else, he sounds terrible; constipated, choking on bile, drowning...etc. His vocals are slathered with heavy distortion 70 percent of the time, and when they're not... well, it's bad, nonetheless.
What really floors me is the countless hours I spent scratching my head wondering what in the high flying fuck is Simen Hestnæs doing on this album? Mr. Hestnæs of Arcturus/Borknagar fame is preforming bass on this pathetic media sensation, and once in a while, shining through with his powerful, captivating vocal approach, only to stick out like Michael Jordan in caucasian midget parade. Seriously, why did he join this band? Was he just after the high sell-out points? The fame? The bitches? If so, I want to shake his hand. If not, well... yuck.
I think I've probably gone on long enough about this stupid album. There are no high points on here, and it's difficult to believe people enjoy things this silly. Well, no it's not. People actually like 'The Sins Of Thy Beloved', so this is not really suprising at all. Time for some fatty foods and a whole lot of bad movies. My final note: what's with the REAL orchestra? Why would a huge group of excellent musicians contribute to something so far over the rainbow? That's enough.
I'm not going to repeat the same shit I've heard from these biased metallers. This album was decent. When I first heard it, I was satisfied with the riffs and drumming. The first song takes forever to start it seems, but it doesn't disappoint when it does. A string of other songs are well-performed, but can always use improvement. The overall feel of the album is that of any ordinary symphonic black metal album, except the music is loud, yet low enough for the lyrics to be heard.
Concerning the vocals: Shagrath has my respect for being able to pull off this kind of vocals without stripping his throat and gagging. It takes a lot to pull this stuff off. It is more of a gargle than a growl. He tries to be different than the other albums, which it is. Vortex's voice is rarely heard. His voice is like a solar eclipse. Rare, but much appreciated when it appears. If they would've given Vortex a little more space to show his voice, then it would be decent. However, this album doesn't really have a lot of open spaces for clean vocalists. It's sad that such talent is hidden away.
Concerning the keyboards: For Christ's sake, don't depend on them for every fucking song. Keyboards have become so cliche in their songs. The only song that I felt they truly belonged is "Blood Hunger Doctorine". At times, the keyboards are gone, and replaced by a full orchestra. This is where they lost me. It was like they were ripping off Haggard in a few songs. It is truly sad. I would hope that any real orchestral metal bands would have the common decency to do a better blend of orchestra and metal.
Other problems: The guitar riffs aren't the repetitive ones you find in other black metal bands. They do use a lot of double taps in almost every song. It is almost as if they are trying to rip-off System of a Down with the double taps. Intros need to fucking disappear. They obviously try to overexaggerate every song with a pointless intro. All of these intros are at least one minute long, sometimes more. My only question is: Are they trying to waste time or do they really think the intros make a difference?
Overall this album is decent if you like Dimmu. It's not their best by any means, but it is not the worst. Mostly, the only reason it's being dropped like this is because they sold on a bigger lable. Get over it. If you're into this type of music, then you will like it.
Much has been said about Dimmu's DCA, some comments glowing with joy, most seethed in anger. I have (should say, HAD) been a Dimmu fan since EDT, and have liked every subsequent release, as well as Stormblast to an extent. SO what happened to cause my disappointment this time? Two major reasons:
#1, and the most important reason: BAD SONGWRITING. There are exactly two awesome songs on this album, namely "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" and "Vredesbyrd". "Allegiance" is ok, if they had bothered to remove the stupid intro from the track it would have been better; and "Allehelgens Død I Helveds Rike" is good because of the section with Vortex's vocals. But otherwise, this album becomes a mishmash of Dimmu sounds with nothing to grab your attention, particularly the utterly forgettable last four songs. It's amazing how simplistic and stale the riffing has become, look no further than the beginning of "Cataclysmic Children" for boredom unleashed. Part of the blame lies with Galder, as his riffs can be recognized a mile away, and interesting they are not; but on the whole, the band is at fault. Symphonics have been mentioned as possible causes, butI don't see what the big deal is with the keyboards/symphonics, they don't make up for but sure are way better than the shitty guitarwork. Besides, this is Dimmu... what are people expecting? No, keyboards are not at fault with this album. These songs would not improve an iota without keyboards. Bad songs will remain bad songs no matter what.
#2 BAD VOCALS. Ever since Vortex joined I've been waiting for Dimmu to give Shagrath the boot, but sadly... The worst performance yet as Shagrath's voice has been moving away steadily from a tolerable black metal shriek to a drowning man's gargle. His argghss lack power and conviction and are overused anyway. Another major mistake is (IMHO, of course): Vortex does vocal parts on ONLY 2 SONGS!! Criminal underuse of resources.
So, my advice to Dimmu Borgir is as follows: Fire Shagrath and Galder, let Vortex and Mustis take over, make free use of clean vocals, forget the stupid intros and write some songs that require movement of the hands for the guitar riffs!
So, for 2 good songs and 2 ok ones out of 11, a score of 40. Hope next one is better!
Don't you just love it when a good band stagnates more and more with every album they release. Dimmu Borgir's first two releases, being 94's For All Tid and 96's Stormblåst were two well-done pieces of Norwegian melodic black metal...despite being second-wave, and therefore lacking the primitive greatness of their black metal forefathers. Their next release, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, showed a shift to a more keyboard-dominated sound..but that didn't take *much* away from them and it was another polished release. I don't have the privelage of owning Spiritual Black Dimensions...but I can imagine that it is alot like EDT. Puritanical Euphoric Misantophia, the band's next album marked a change in Dimmu Borgir sound...concentrating even more on the keyboard element. It was at this point where I stopped referring to Dimmu Borgir as a black metal band, but a symphonic heavy metal band with black metal roots. If it hadn't been for the crushing riffs on this album(hats off to Galder) I would have hated the album. But now...onto the band's latest album, Death Cult Armageddon.
You can tell how much of an effort Dimmu Borgir puts into being "evil" with such a ridiculous title for the album....sure, being played on MTV is -very- evil Since I wasn't entirely pleased with the band's previous recording, I downloaded this album....which I look back on as a very good choice. There are plenty of things I like about Death Cult Armageddon, first and foremost that the crushing riffs have returned as well as merciless fast-paced drumming by non-other than ex-CoF drummer Nick Barker. Death Cult Armageddon brings in not just Barker, but three members from well-known bands which almost makes Dimmu Borgir a "supergroup" such as Borknagar or Bloodbath. Unfortunately their talents are nearly rendered useless by the keyboards, which are overwhelming at some parts.
The worst thing about this album, as you may have picked up already, are the keyboards. This is not Lord of the Rings, this is a metal CD. So why do all the keyboard pieces sound like the background music to the opening sequence of the film? It's not just the keyboards that deem this album "nothing special", it's the boring riffage througout the entire production. There seems to be no variation in the way the guitar parts are played, it's the same fast paced power chords, or the same boring lead guitar. The band's vocalist, with his laughable evil carpet name Shagrath has very little variety when it comes to his "grim" vocals either. It's the same gutteral screams or heavily distorted screams on track after track. However, his vocals have improved since Dimmu Borgir's early days.
Finally, this review earns the title "Black Metal...my ass!" because of it's label. Any teenage kid that you speak with will refer to this album as a piece of "evil black metal"...just as the media might portray them. I listen quite heavily to black metal music...and I've listened enough to know the qualities of black metal...and this is not it. First off, the album focuses too much on their beloved keyboard, instead of guitar riffs or an overall dark feeling. What Dimmu Borgir has done here is used a few black metal riffs and drum beats and watered them, mixing it with commercial appeal. There was once a time when black metal bands hated the mainstream and tried to avoid making their music listenable and playable by networks like MTV and Fuse. This album as good production, and that's a black metal sin. If the kind of music on this album is looked upon as the "future of black metal" I'll never by a modern black metal CD again.
The only good song on this release is Vredesbyrd...download it, love it, ignore the rest of this CD. If you really must hear it, don't fuel this band's future efforts by providing them with the profits from this album. Don't purchase it.
I remember a time when Black Metal used to be evil and demonic and the last thing that any black metal band would ever think of doing is conforming to the mainstream and making their music tolerable for the ears of anyone who isnt a minion of the lord sathanas. Indeed black metal was about burning churchs and being as underground, anti-mainstream, tr00, grym, and kvlt as you possibly could.
Enter Dimmu Borgir, about as scary as a little elf in corpse paint and panty hoes dancing around in the snow (or just danni filth), black metal has completely lost all meaning in their eyes. Since they have started their way dimmu has sold over 400,000 albums and have rose to the status of one of the most known bm acts in the world along with Cradle of Filth. They have even participated in the most promoted metal event of the year - The Ozzfest. But saying all this doesnt necesseraily mean that the music is bad. right?
Wrong, regardless of what they have done or not the music still sucks ass.
Death Cult Armageddon is cute. Its quite radio friendly (as black metal was never meant to be) its already plastered all over mtv anyway. The cd starts out in a very boring and monotone way and leads into some awful sounding melodic bm. The first song has some standard riffing which drags on to much, by the end of the track you will lose your concentration completely. Progencies comes on and catchs your concentration back for a few seconds with its thunderous oepning but then loses you somewhere with all the shitty riffing and melodick bullshit thats going on in there. After that track nothing will catch your attention for the rest of the cd, except for a few half assed, sort of catchy riffs, and really awful parts, like dumb orchestral sections, and horrible clean vocal parts, which manage to stick out quite well.
The production is the clearest ive heard on any black metal album. Personally i enjoy bm with a rawer feel, but the Britney Spears - like production is better for dimmu becuase its gives them more room for the "atmosphere" they create with their use of keyboards, which essentially is a big part of their sound. The symphony and keyboards make their sound more sophisticated, even if it really isnt, and is just there to impress 14 year old CoF fans.
The drumming and bass (which you can actually hear) are not bad, they are standard and medicore but the guitar work and vocals make them the better part of the album. The vocals truely are someting else, shagrath sounds like a fucking frog. He almost sounds as bad as that dude from Maniac Butcher who sounds like hes doing a Donald Duck impersenation. Its fucking bad.
Above all Death Cult Armageddon is boring and doesnt really fill my expectations for a standard BM album or a mainstream, radio-friendly metal album. Its just bad and it will make you feel stupid, especially once those clean vocal parts appear. If you are into earlier Dimmu Borgir you might like this, if you are into Cradle of filth you might like this, if youre mallcore you might like this, but if you are serious about BM and want to get associated with the music you can skip Dimmu Borgir. There are many other BM acts that can create a much more powerful atmosphere without all the melodick wankery and filler symphnoy having to play in its background. This is just the sweet little elf Black Metal never wanted to be.
Because this fucking sucks.
This is standard Dimmu Borgir plus some more extra symphony.
Seriously, this is no different than Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, although P.E.M. is way over polished.
The song starts out with "Allegiance", this song makes me want to shit my pants in disgust, it has the most awful, repetitive riff I've ever heard. And then to the drumming.. The drumming is.. well... you've heard it before. You've heard it in any other Dimmu album. There's nothing new to see here, move along.
Then; the album seems to pick up a bit with "Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse", starting out with some very nice symphonic crap, which is a change, then.. oh dear lord, it's taken out for this fucking hideous riffage.
Again, the drumming is drumming. And at about 1:35 into it.. we have the exact same symphonic crap.. okay.. it was nice the first time.. Then we descend into the very, very, VERY fucking awful clean singing. Did I mention it was awful? But anyway, then the slong slows down with some boring symphonic crap. And for fuck's sake, we have the SAME symphonic crap again. "Three's a crowd", yeah, first time it was nice. Second time it was okay. Third time is overkill. Seems as though Ajattara borrowed this little skill from Dimmu...
The only reason the review-within-a-review for that song was long, was because I fucking HATE that song. As usual, Shagrath's vocals sound exactly the same, with little change in them.
The song after Progenies is "Lepers Among Us", and that song seems to plod along happily on its' own. ...Then we have "Vredesbyrd"... which is the only reason this album gets 30%. This song is good. The same keyboard sample is used multiple times, but it's not as annoying as the one "Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse", and there's a really nice riff at 0:22 into the song, I love that riff.
The rest of the album seems to eh.. plod along. It's Dimmu Borgir. You've heard this album before. Generally, the riffs throughout the album are boring, generic, and uninspiring. The drumming is, as I stated earlier; drumming, again, you've heard it before; in just about every other Dimmu Borgir song.
I do not recommend this album to anyone, Dimmu Borgir have gone for overkill now, they've flogged the dead donkey one too many times. I hope for everyone's sake this is their swansong, or that Shagrath or someone dies in the near future, because no good is ever going to come of this band again.
For my first review on metal-archives.com (I've done a lot of jumping around sites doing reviews here and there, but this site has caught my attention recently), I thought I'd review the often-maligned Dimmu Borgir. This is a band many place in exactly the same space as their also often-maligned peers Cradle of Filth. I personally enjoy both bands (usually preferring Dimmu), but I can see very clearly why they receive a lot of hate, and for the majority of their releases wouldn't get myself into any real fuss if someone was to call them shit, cheesy plop. However, I feel that I may make an exception with this, Dimmu's best album (so very easily claiming the title)...Death Cult Armaggedon.
Dimmu Borgir has long been a band with a hell of a lot of unrealized potential. After the second coming of Dimmu Borgir, which began with decidedly average Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, I've felt that Dimmu have always just missed out on making that awesome, ultimate album that fully expresses the good things about their sound. Since Enthrone the cheesy synths have always brought the songs down, making them sound a lot less dramatic and evil, and, well, crappier than they deserved to be. I felt that Spiritual Black Dimensions had good songs, but was really choked to death by the completely overbearing synths, that made the sound become a real sonic mish-mash. The production of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia was extremely clean and clear, but unnecessarily mechanical, lacking any sense of organic timbre, thanks in no small part to the monstrously electronic drums.
Finally, with Death Cult Armageddon, we have a Dimmu Borgir album that has nice sounding classical instruments instead of Casio synths, organic sounding production in which the drums aren't too dominant and perfectly compliment the other elements, and guitars that blend into the overall texture without becoming a drowned out mess. Everything has finally found its place in the sound. Far removed from the stark, weak crappiness of Enthrone, through to the ungodly mechanical sound of Puritanical, Dimmu has finally overcome the production problem.
Then we have the songs. The orchestra is perfectly implemented into 11 tracks of yummy metal goodness, with great riffs and grooves popping up all over the place. The drumming is just amazing too. The album opens with a weird crackling sound, and after a little bit of subdued guitar and feedback effects we jump into the action. Allegiance has an incredible sense of momentum and energy, with Shagrath sounding as powerful as ever. The lyrics concern war and destruction, and are simply cool: 'How it was like to kill? So cold and necromantic'. Mwhaha. The orchestra ain't too lazy, jumping along excellently with the band.
Progenies of the Great Apocalypse is an epic-hollywood-disaster-film score written as a metal song. The orchestra shines here, with bombastic flourishes and some great clean vocals from Simen Haetnes (sp?) (who is tragically underused on the album, one of my main complaints). It is like Wagner metal, truly epic and enjoyable.
Other highlights include the truly pummelling songs Vredesbyrd and Allhelgens Dod I Hellvends Rik, both with Norwegian lyrics. The drums are absolutely crushing and massive, and still not overbearing, and the riffs are consuming, driving, and exceptional. Cataclysm Children gets my vote as easily the most crushing Dimmu song ever written, with the band absolutely churning forward...take note of those awesome keys, the groove the band gets into near the three minute-mark, and that cool, climactic harmonized solo. Eradication Instincts Defined gives the orchestra a two minute intro on its own, highlighting the great musicianship on offer here and providing a menacing, and epic atmosphere.
That's about enough about the songs, here is the bottom line: Dimmu Borgir have never sounded so good. As far as I'm concerned they have had an album like this in them for a long while, but have just missed out. The sad thing, to me, is that people are gonna not like this just because it has the name 'Dimmu Borgir' on the cover. Even if you hate Dimmu's past efforts (I would fully understand if you do), I urge you to give this one a chance...you might be pleasantly surprised. Although the songs occasionally feel like they blend together stylistically (especially in the case of lesser, blander songs like For The World To Dictate Our Death or Heavenly Peverse, which are hardly very interesting in context of the rest of the songs), this does give the album a great cohesiveness and consistancy (as opposed to a monotonous, repetitive feel...the awesome songwriting and arrangement keeps it away from this). Highly recommended, symphonic 'black metal' (using the term cautiously), that through it's quality spits in the eye of all the Dimmu naysayers. If this band is so gay and shitty, how did they make an album of this quality? Something to think about, hopefully.
Bottom line: Dimmu Borgir's best album, and it is a scorcher.
Hearing this album, it's blatant that Dimmu Borgir is still sticking with the same message they held back in the release of For All Tid and Stormblast. Anti-religion, destruction, etc. That is one of the aspects of this album I deem admirable. They still play for the same reasons, they still have the same motivations.
Other than that, I can't associate this album with black metal, sound wise. Many of the riffs remind me of *other* bands, bands that aren't at all associated with black metal. That disappointed me.
At times they seemed to push it too far, too many gimmicks. Sirens wailing, helicopters and planes flying overhead, soldiers marching and chanting "Hail Satan", and their leader saying, "gentlemen...destroy.", prior to breaking into a good song, full of energy. It wasn't *too* bad, but I find it to be unnecessary. It brings to mind Cradle of Filth, and the silly stiltwalker at the show I saw. Totally unnecessary.
Overall, if one is looking for a good black metal album from Dimmu Borgir, look to For All Tid and Stormblast only. Those two are masterpieces, hefty slices of Scandinavian black metal.
Most of their later albums I equate with something an immature kid would listen to in order to try and be rebellious.
Call me paranoid, but I fear that black metal, with albums like this becoming so popular, may be exploited by the mainstream, copied and made meaningless.
Amazing what a year or two will do for a band in that it will either see them change radically or refine their sound or not even change at all. Dimmu fall into the last two categories with this album, which is actually not altogether a bad thing. After the usual grandiose intro, which is much shorter this time than last album, opener “Allegiance” kicks into super-speed mode as only the (now-departed) Nick Barker can deliver, goes into a variety of tempo changes within the first two minutes of the song, and drags you right into what follows. Which is a good, strong, well-written album of black metal with their usual, dare I say it, highly intelligent satanic lyrics. That is one thing I really like about Dimmu is that they do not resort to the usual overdone satanic claptrap most black metal bands use in their lyrics; they actually take time to write lyrics that have substance.
They really sound like a unit on this album too, and it shows in the coherent yet complex song structures, and the symphony orchestra they hired on this album really adds an extra dimension of depth and substance to their long tunes. While long and involved, the tunes are also very involving, they draw you in before even know it.
The production this time around is better too, thicker and fuller, with a meaty bass guitar, and ICS Vortex really plays his ass off, too, as well as contributing his usual fine clean vocals—he really has a sound of his own which I happen to really like. Even the kick drums are not as obnoxiously triggered as last time around, and the snare drum is louder in the mix, so Nick’s drum kit finally sounds balanced, as opposed to last time when all you heard was constant annoying clicking kick drums and machinegun toms. Of course, it can be argued that all he is is hyper-fast and machinelike (he is), but he still has his own unique character to his playing.
Call them whatever you want, Dimmu Borgir are veterans and have earned their stripes, and the right to do whatever the hell they want, and I am pleased with the direction their music took from “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” onward—the English language lyrics, the increased musical ability, the faster and more aggressive tempos, the increase of depth and dimension in the music. Some would call them consistent, some unimaginative; I call them excellent and high quality. All you “tr00 kvlt” types out there can go listen to whatever trendy ultra underground noisemakers are in this month and whine about how Dimmu are sellouts all you want—y’all are just player haters. So pull out “For All Tid” and shut up already, I say.
So here it is, the most hyped-up album in Nuclear Blast's history, the follow up to the controversial "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia". As a long time Dimmu Borgir follower, I had high expectations, as fans were promised a lot of good stuff here. Yes, they would use a bigger orchestra, Abbath of Immortal (R.I.P.) would guest on some songs and yes, even some Norwegian lyrics would be brought back.
Sounds like a real treat. How come than after hearing this album PEM sounds so much better to my ears?
I'm really beginning to think that all this frenzy for using a real orchestra instead of synths turned out to be a double edged weapon, with the sharpest edge aiming at the most important element for a good record: the songwriting. Yes, of course arrangements become a lot more hard to handle when you work with a real orchestra, comprised of many different elements all to be taken care of at once. So Dimmu, as they already showed on PEM - alonf with their newly orchestra-laden peers Cradle Of Filth and Stratovarius - found the brilliant solution: cut the depth of the songwriting to have simpler arrangements to work on.
In a way, it works. DCA has a killer sound, and the arrangements are very well done. Sadly, there are very strong musical ideas to be found. However, this is not a problem, as kids go mad for anything that has a killer sound, no matter that beneath the shimmering surface there is no musical valour whatsoever to be found. The whole mallcore wave generated from this thought, and just look at all the money making that followed. It seems that Nuclear Blast, who had a pretty bad year in 2003 when it comes to selling rates, dived head first into this philosphy, and used arguably the biggest name among its roster to play this wild card. SIX different editions of DCA have been released (standard jewel case cd, limited digipack cd, book shaped cd, cd box, double vinyl and audio dvd); this is definitely enough to prove it.
Of course DCA is not as worthless as mallcore, but still it siffers in comparison to older Dimmu material... and the material I mean is not so old: just dating back to 1999, when "Spiritual Black Dimensions" was released.
The first thing we notice when the cd starts is that one of the best features on PEM, namely an orchestral intro, was promptly removed in favour of a loop of random noises I'm not quite sure about. However, the guitars come in quickly, and after a minute or something, the song begins, rather abruptly. The first riff is actually pretty good, although a bit repetitive, the blastbeats don't last forever and during the verse the rhythm switches to a more thrashy pattern, which keeps the interest higher. Sadly, Shagrath's voice appears once more garbled by too many effects once again. The rest of the song flows nicely, with the orchestra making some appearances here and there. A good beginning, if anything. Enter track 2.
Ah, "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse". The song Dimmu filmed their first ever video for, the "ultimate masterpiece" that so many people seem to have wet dreams about, the "Symphonic Black Metal doesn't get any better than this" tune. I have listened to it for quite some time now, and I still don't find anything to justify such an orgasmic response. Sure, the orchestral hook which opens the song and returns twice more further on is nice to listen to, but take a little time to analize the music backing it, and you will discover that there is exactly ONE chord playing, and the whole orchestral part is a series of tricks and variations upon that one. Of course it sounds great; didn't I mention the "great sound for great sound's" sake already? Nice, of course, but nothing so overwhelming. As for the rest of the song, the riffs in the verses are effetive but quite awkward key-wise; it's however clever how the same riff is backed by a very square 4/4 ryhthm in the first verse and by a more groovy 12/8 in the second. Abbath makes his first appearance in this song, and it's good to note that the band didn't give up to the temptation of overusing his very peculiar voice. Vortex also makes the first of his two clean vocal contributions in the entire cd, and this is not good at all. Hell, his vocals appeared more on SBD when he was just a guest! It's not his fault anyway, and here's the reason: I pointed my finger at how the key shifts in the verses of the song sound awkward at times. This is because Dimmu, who apparently went striving for a "grim, evil and violent" atmosphere for this cd, fell into an overuse of minor chords which kills variety in first place, and the symphonic scope they were also trying to get right next. Minor chords only might work with Dark Funeral (that's what they have been doing since the very start, actually), but if you're trying to create a deeper sonic feeling, you have to include major chords. Note that I'm not saying major tonalities, but mere chords, and any minor scale, unless you alterate it in some weird way (Dimmu themselves did it with so much better results on SBD), has to include major chords in determined points, it's a fundamental rule of music. This lack of "proper" melodic passages resulted in a serious lack of space for Vortex to showcase his wonderful voice. On "Progenies..." his part kicks in when a major tone riff forcefully comes into the picture, and that's about it.
So all we have is a nice but extremely overrated song.
Moving on to "Lepers Among Us", things don't get any better. This song severely suffers of the "we have Nick Barker beating our skins" show-off syndrome, which had already plagued much songwriting on PEM. Basically, here we have a bunch of riffs built on Nick's drumming stitched together, and the worst part is that most of these riffs consist of ONE chord with just a small passage into another chord right at the end of the bar. Even more sadly, we get too much of these in DCA. Nothing memorable to be found here.
"Vredesbyrd", the first of two songs featuring Norwegian lyrics, opens with a pretty speedy and neat riff, with even more cool guitar work showing itself after the verse. Here, the "minor chords only" obsession seem to work better, as the slower sections of the song have a dark but great to listen to feeling that almost reminds of SBD. One of the better songs here.
"For the World to Dictate Our Death" is yet another "see what our drummer does" number; it has some nice riffs but the faster sections end up sounding fragmented as a burning meteor because of the abuse of drum rolls a blasting for the hell of it. The lyrics are kind of funny though, especially the "Pure fucking armageddon" line; is it just me or it sounds kinda familiar? I'll go back to the lyrics later anyway... Oh yes, and what is it with Hitler's sampled speech near the end of the song? Trying to make the atmosphere more evil with that? Ok, to be honest, there are other war speech samples to be found in the song, so maybe it's just a part of a larger picture, but I can't deny that they could have spared us this one.
Enter "Blood Hunger Doctrine", the so-called "experimental" song of DCA. Now, there already was an experimental song on PEM, namely "Puritania", and despite many fans loathing it it turned out pretty good: short, groovy and different from anything else Dimmu had done. What do we get here instead? The song opens with a mid- paced riff which is actually pretty cool, with the orchestra backing it nicely... but then everything falls apart as the rhythm slows down and a lame three (minor) chord riff comes in and just drones on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on................................. D minor, A flat minor, D minor, B flat minor, repeat to sickness. True, as the song goes on some more elements such as a guitar melody or some "orchestral licks" join in, but the effect is still just plain boring. The only thing I could remotely find experimental is the even more overt abuse of electronic effects Shagrath butchers his (once?) powerful voice with, and if we think about how such effects are annoying enough on "normal" songs, it's not a very good thing. This thought conjures in my mind the image of the band playing with buttons and faders in the studio, going "hey, hear this!", "and have you heard how it sounds like if I do this?", "oh, look what I found", which induces chuckling and cringing at the very same time. The first riff comes back again at the end of the song, but it's too late to keep me from saying that this is arguably where DCA hits rock bottom.
"Allehelgens Død i Helveds Rike" resurrects some much needed grove once more, and turns out to be one of the better songs here, though using the same sampled sound Satyricon used in "Repined Bastard Nation" (that kind of "breath" noise that appears in teh first half of the song) in the very same rhythmic fashion (on the first upbeat of every bar) was slightly unwise. Vortex contributes for the last time on the album with his vocals, and does quite a fine job which sadly is somewhat buried in the mix. What the hell has he done to the band to be so unceremoniously banned from contributing more?
Moving on, "Cataclysm Children" has a nice thrashy opening followed by an extremely short and very cool guitar break which obviously doesn't appear again, replaced by yet another one chord only, "made in DCA" dull verse riff. Luckily, as the song goes on, some more good riffs come in, saving it from falling into the anonymous filler category.
And here, ladies and gentlemen, comes the REAL highlight of DCA: "Eradication Instincts Defined". THIS is how the interaction between band and orchestra should sound like: their sounds must complete and not kill each other. There are more interesting riffs and melodies here than on the rest of the album altogether, just check the opening orchestral part: you can hear a quick and clever switch from a standard C minor to a C 7+, an dthen back again, something you don't hear everyday and works pretty damn well. The rest of the song is also interesting, with the orchestra effectively backing the cool riffs. "Progenies..." might be a nice teaser, kids, but this is what the whole thing is all about. If the whole album could have been as good as this I would have been blown away.
And here comes a HUGE mastering fuck-up. What? You see, between track the aforementioned song an dthe following we get a weird collage of war noises, people murmuring "hail Satan" and God knows what else. Where did they place it? At the end of track 9? Too easy. In the "reverse" seconds between one track and another? Too clichèd.
They put it at the beginning of track 10, yes, so if you want to hear the song you have to go through 90 seconds of this random noises. However, the tenth songs we're talking about is "Unorthodox Manifesto", which after a promising opening riff turns into yet anoher tiresome deal, so it's nto even worth fast-forwarding your way through the noise garbage. Jut skip to track 11.
Track 11 is "Heavenly Perverse", and it's pleasantly listenable: after a slow intro a very groovy and cool riff comes in, with Abbath singing the verse. It's good. The rest of the song isn't as good, but still decent. At least we close on a high note.
If you get one of the 5 limited editions, you also get a bonus track in the form of a Bathoro cover, "Satan My Master", which is inevitably cool (you can't go wrong with old Bathory) despite the once more dumb vocal effects. the fact that a cover version, however, is one of the album's highlights proves that there's something which isn't working.
All in all, what can be said... the music is as what I said... as for the lyrics... all I can say is: "Look, we already know you guys dislike the Christian doctrine, WE REALLY GOT IT!! There ARE other things you can write lyrics about!". This is what you get in the lyrical department. Also, since SBD Dimmu started to fill their lyrics with overly complicated words. Used sparsely, such words provide quite an effect. Overused, the whole affair just becomes tedious. End of the story.
Vortex's lack of space on the album is also a huge gripe. With his vocals reduced to a ridiculous minimum and his bass (which was very audible on PEM) buried in the mix, I don't know how he can ever be satisfied with this album. He'd do better by leaving and fronting another band, he definitely has the talent and skil to do that.
In the end, what a pity... 70% because this review was written around Christmas time, and I feel more good and generous.
This is my first review over here and I'm glad I'm reviewing Dimmu Borgir's latest album. Why? Simple. Because it's one hell of an aural attack making 'Death Cult Armageddon' one of the best and interesting releases of this year. I must admit that I didn't think I was going to like this album, at least not this much. I think that 'Death Cult..' is a big improvement from 'Puritanical Euphoric Misantrophia', and I'm comparing it to this album in particular because both have maintained the same line-up.
The 11 tracks are straightforward metal. Forget about an instrumental opener for that is past for the Norwegians. The first track, 'Allegiance', begins with samples and guitar distortion then at 1:20 kick in a series of blast beats leaving you breathless. And while in subject I must say that unlike 'Puritanical..' the drums here sound the way they should. In fact the overall production in this album is a very good one maintaining a polished sound throughout the whole record. The guitar riffs are very heavy and Mustis gives a great performance on the keyboards, giving the atmosphere a feeling of a movie soundtrack. I must admit that even though I'm not a huge fan of Shagrath's voice I think that his voice has improved from past releases, though I'm still partial to certain voice-overs.
Overall I think that the album maintains a very good standard of musicianship and that 'Death Cult..' is possibly thier best release to date. It's my favourite for sure!
Look out for the following tracks: 'Progenies of the Great Apocalypse', 'Lepers Among Us', 'Blood Hunger Doctrine' and 'Cataclysm Children'.
NOTE: My second review of Death Cult Armageddon
I have recently listened to the music from the retail CD release, while earlier I reviewed it based on music from the promo CD (or tape?). I thought the sound quality of the retail CD would be the same as on the promo tape, which had a bit of a 'muddy', thus this has changed my mind about some things, and I also want to express some things better.
Dimmu Borgir is currently probably the most controversial metal band, and one that always has split opinions. Let us look past the exhaggerated satanism, corpse paint and pretending to be black metal, and concentrate on what matters; the musicianship. To me, their history is full of highly interesting developments, as they started out as a more traditional black metal, then becoming a lot heavier, later experimenting with pop-ish melodies and finally, adding the orchestras. Because they have been so experimental, some of their songs have turned out to be very entertaining, while others have fallen into the category "failed experiments". While many seem to prefer the early Stormblåst style, I think the entire past of Dimmu has been a hit-and-miss affair. Stormblåst was musically the richer but lacked the heaviness of their late-90's music, then again many songs on those albums were repetive and poppish like "In Death's Embrace".
Using orchestras in metal has rarely been completely successful IMO - Cradle of Filth has its moments, Stratovarius turned out one good song only, and the way Metallica's S&M sounds disgusts me. Rhapsody blended it pretty well, even if I reject to that kind of 'gayish' power metal. Dealing with so many ingredients easily result to putting too much of one ingredient, and the mix is easily over-saturated. Dimmu's pre-PEM releases often sounded muddy, because there's simply too much stuff going on at the same time, and most orchestral tracks on PEM sounded like they threw in too many ideas at once and the components sounded uncompatible. That's why I preferred the songs of Puritanical Euphoric Misantrophia where they don't use orchestras ("Hybrid Stigmata" was a success though).
Death Cult Armageddon is the sequel to Puritanical; like the Indiana Jones sequel it's "more action, more adventure & bigger, badder..." They've learned to blend the orchestra with the metal sound better, and this album is not filled with many bastardized songs which sound completely crap. They stick to that sound, and don't take as many risks here as they did on Puritanical; even if some of the "risks" on that album turned out to be complete turds (like "Puritania" and "Kings of Carnival Creation"). Vortex also understood to use his backup vocals only where they fit in well (he only sings on 2 songs), and his song melodies sound much better than some half-arsed PEM attempts.
Note that if you want pure raw heavy metal, go get something like Slayer or Maiden instead. Occasionally this album sounds more like it belongs into my collection of film and videogame soundtracks, but I've greatly enjoyed many songs on this album, because I enjoy much orchestral film and videogame music.
The album kicks off with "Allegiance", which is one of the heavier tracks. Shagrath sounds good, as I enjoy his nowadays voice more than his old growl - on Stormblåst he sure sounded evil, but nowadays he sounds like maggots crawling in a rottening throat! And guess who's back - Nick Barker, who's drums sound less sampled here. Forgive me for liking chunky blastbeats, but I love the style of thrash where they're used, as long as it's moderate. Even as I mostly like Nick's work, in some songs there's too much of that triggered fast drumming, and can sometimes get monotonous. "Allegiance" has some evil-sounding riffs, which make it an entertaining song, but a bit repetive. Rating: 3/5
"Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" - wow, this is over-the-top cool. The beginning sounds just like music from a Batman movie. After the evil stuff, it evolves into a beautiful melody with Vortex singing better than ever before, and the orchestra sounds like the best stuff from John Williams, and sounding like Waterworld, or something. This must be the most massive song I've ever heard, and it works on so many levels. Dimmu Borgir's greatest masterpiece to date! 5/5
"Lepers Among Us" doesn't rely heavily on the orchestra, concentrating more on thrashing, and thus is one of my favorites. Very cool riffs, and I love the words spoken by a woman ("Satan called himself God"). 4/5
"Vredesbyrd" is speedy but also very repetive, thus it only deserves 2/5.
"For the World to Dictate Our Death" throws out incredibly catchy thrash riffs -best song here after Progenies, 5/5
"Blood Hunger Doctrine" (where do they come up with these kinds of names?) is a slower track, which gives some welcome variation to the album, but is less interesting on its own. 2/5
The lyrics of "Allehelgens Dod I Helveds Rike" sound cool cuz they're in norwegian, but the walzing orchestra sounds like more of the same shit, and "Catalysm Children" is also a repetive bore, so they both deserve 2/5.
"Eradication Instincts Defined" is the second-most massive track on the album; majestic riffs and great chanting 4/5.
"Unorthodox Manifesto" is heavy and actually has much variation, and there's even a good amount lead guitar work. Maybe I've been listening to this album for too long now, but these riifs sound a bit too familiar, and there's too much stuff going on at once, but it's still good enough for 3/5. "Heavenly Perverse", not anything really special, kinda sucks Shagrath's evil balls. 2/5
The Bathory cover Satan My Master sounds like Catalysm Children; they're speedy and they don't use the orchestra, but the riffs are boring unlike the great Absolute Sole Right and IndoctriNation of PEM which thrashed without an orchestra.
The bottom line... a very entertaining album, with some of the greatest songs Dimmu Borgir has ever created. Some of the songs sound too much like each others and can be repetive, but many of them rock. It's way better than Puritanical Euphoric Misantrophia, which had many completely awful, far below mediocre songs, and it slays Cradle of Filth's contemporary orchestral album. If you don't like any songs on this album, then you probably don't either enjoy film and videogame soundtracks like I do.
Before, we could have got a good Dimmu Borgir album by taking the best songs from each album and put them together, but this time we've actually got a complete album which is good. That is to say, best album of Dimmu Borgir!