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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.