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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!