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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.