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To get the sense of this review, we need to do another silly history lesson.
Between the late 80s and the early 90s, heavy metal began to change its initial attitude. Not more just “doing something more extreme than before”, but also “experimenting in general, with no limits”. So, the 90s were a beautiful period for metal: it began to seek different paths, and a lot of new subgenres were invented during that period. Groove metal, alternative metal, funk metal, rap metal, industrial metal, post-metal, stoner metal, sludge metal, noisecore/noise metal, gothic metal, symphonic metal and so on. But then, something really bad happened. One of the various “new subgenres” spawned in those years was transformed by majors into a shitty trend: I’m referring to nu metal. Contrarily to the most common opinion on this site, I think nu metal started very well; the problem was that this subgenre was clearly more “accessible” than most other metal stuff, and the majors learned very fast how to dumb it down and turn it into shitty cock-rock. After the commercial success of the second Limp Bizkit album, tons of horrible cock-rock bands like Linkin Park came to infest the mainstream scene, under the misleading “nu metal” label. A decade of experimentations had been totally fucked up by this awful radio-friendly degeneration. So, you can understand how, at the beginning of the 2000s, everyone was sick of how the concept of metal had been totally hijacked and turned into “cock-rock with heavy guitars”. It was time to take back what majors had stolen.
So, the last decade has shown a strong return to heavy metal’s roots, concentrating especially on its most extreme subgenres (thrash, death and black). This isn’t a bad thing: it depends from case to case. After a long period of total underground, thrash metal began to live a second childhood, with very good comebacks from most of the historical bands (Sodom, Destruction, Exodus, Kreator) and the birth of many new acts. Death metal was rehashed in some new forms: bands like Decapitated, Nile and Behemoth gave new strength to the technical side of the genre, while bands like Disgorge and Brodequin empowered the basic brutal death metal formula, making it sicker and more extreme, and bands like Dying Fetus and Devourment emphasized a lot on the groovy side of brutal death, giving birth to the “slam” subgenre; melodic death metal raised great consensus too, and some U.S. bands, blending the Gothenburg sound with modern American hardcore, created the typical “melodic metalcore” sound that got so much commercial success in the following years. Black metal returned to have huge relevance, thanks to new popular bands (1349, Tsjuder, Watain and Peste Noire, just to mention few) and the massive commercial success of 90’s bands like Dark Funeral, Immortal and Marduk; beyond this, a new wave of experimental bands (such as Aborym, Weakling, Arcturus, Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room and Deathspell Omega) began to spread its wings in the underground scene.
However, not all of this was good. First of all, in few years, the neothrash wave brought thrash metal to be mostly a parody of itself (but still with some great bands beside the bad ones). But, worst of all... after the demise of nu metal, record labels understood how to rule this “old school” trend, too. They began to feed the “naivest” metal kids with watered down forms of death and black metal, or give a misleading definition/image of bands that weren’t exactly representative of a precise current. Melodeath became pretty much the only form of death metal to be recognized by the mainstream crowd (because of the success of bands like Arch Enemy, Amon Amarth, Children of Bodom and Wintersun), and the fact that some of the most important melodeath bands were dumbing down and commercializing their respective formulas (In Flames and Soilwork, I’m looking at you!) surely didn’t help (and also the “melodic metalcore” wave was being fucked up by shitty childish bands, but that’s another story). More marginally, tech death became mostly an inoffensive genre, focused more on technical masturbation rather than quality and brutality.
In the case of black metal, its most recognizable peculiarity began to represent also its worst enemy: the “satanic image” of most bands is easy to “exaggerate” in its aesthetics, destroying any consistent theoretical value, so that can be accepted by the mainstream crowd as a simple “media phenomenon” and can impress newbie metal kiddies who think to know what black metal is, listening to it just to seem “cool”. Also the “symphonic black metal” trend helped in this way: Cradle of Filth used to be a symphonic black band at the time of “The Principle of Evil Made Flesh” and “Dusk... and Her Embrace”, then they gradually switched to an excellent “extreme gothic metal” sound, still musically valid, but also more “salable” to the masses. So, even if Cradle of Filth explicitly dissociated themselves from the black metal current, the media continued to promote extreme gothic metal masterpieces like “Midian” and “Damnation and a Day” as symphonic black metal albums, giving a wrong idea of the genre.
But the worst of all were Dimmu Borgir: after three great symphonic black metal albums, their career went really downhill. After the monumental success of “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”, Nuclear Blast (which became an important label also thanks to that album) turned Dimmu Borgir into the epitome of “commercial and appealing pseudo-black metal”, mixing all the bad components I mentioned before: appealing juvenile pseudo-satanic image and fake black metal music. And not just fake, but also pretty lame for what it is, which is the worst thing of all. With pretty mediocre, pompous and extremely pretentious albums like “Spiritual Black Dimensions”, “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” and “Death Cult Armageddon”, Dimmu Borgir’s fame increased more and more. And, after having released a re-recorded version of their classic “Stormblåst” (which, I admit, was very good), they gave the final strike to become a perfect media product: “In Sorte Diaboli”.
Considering all my endless complaints, you’re probably thinking I should give a 0% to this album for the reasons I mentioned before. Not really. “In Sorte Diaboli” isn’t a HORRIBLE album: its follower “Abrahadabra” is REALLY horrible. “In Sorte Diaboli” is just painfully mediocre, boring, totally unmemorable and annoyingly overhyped. In my opinion, 50% is the best rating I could give to this album: neither shitty, just totally plain and useless, perfectly placed in the middle between good and bad. Let’s not forget one thing: differently from some other people on this site, I rate the music, not the attitude; but, very often, wrong attitude is the first step to make a mediocre album. So, this is why I’m writing this papyrus in order to discredit this record, even if there is worse stuff out there: because “In Sorte Diaboli” represents everything negative about nowadays’ commercial extreme metal, and this is enough for me.
If I had to judge only the aesthetic side of the album (artwork, production, videoclips, musicianship, promotion etc.) the rating would be much higher. Outwardly, everything about this album is maniacally tidy. The artwork is simply awesome: that satanic big goat with female boobs (yum!) and the pentacle taken from the “Death Cult Armageddon” artwork, surrounded by medieval religious frescoes/paintings (I don’t know precisely)... is just awesome. Surely very appealing for everyone who exalts himself with everything that looks remotely “satanic”, I suppose. Same thing with the videoclips: very professional and loaded with appealing satanic elements. However, also in this case, the medieval style is very enjoyable.
Musicianship is perfect too: everything is played extremely tightly and flawlessly. And, by the way... do you know who’s standing behind the drumkit? Hellhammer, the legendary Mayhem drummer, who played also on “Stormblåst MMV”! I wonder why he wastes his talent playing for these clowns: he’s an awesome musician, but he could play for better bands. Oh well, just now I remembered that, in the same year, Mayhem were releasing “Ordo ad Chao”, one of the biggest black metal failures of all time, so I can comprehend everything (and I even find myself preferring “In Sorte Diaboli” over that album, yuck).
The production is extremely pumped up and professional: the guitars are extremely heavy, loud and thin, but they’re not enough crushing and, in the end, they sound too fucking plastic: perfect for young metal fans who couldn’t handle the raw production of true black metal albums like Burzum’s debut, Immortal’s “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism”, Emperor’s “In the Nightside Eclipse” or even Dimmu Borgir’s first two albums (and with this excuse, they re-recorded “Stormblåst”); and let’s not talk about more underground stuff such as Moonblood or Mutiilation, please. This is the current mentality of most people: clean and plastic production is cool and brutal, while amateurish production is automatically shitty and doesn’t sound “br00tal” enough, just because it’s “less loud”. Fucking loudness war, damned be thy name forever and ever.
Now, finally, the music. Well, this is what matters most, and here lays the main problem. It could be an aesthetically perfect album, filled with awesome musicianship, studied for mass appealing and to be liked by a certain crowd... but if it lacks substance, it’s just mediocre and dull. Guess what... “In Sorte Diaboli” represents all of this. There’s something paradoxical about it: differently from “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” and “Death Cult Armageddon”, where the music formula was characterized by an overloaded, fragmented and excessively “symphonic” approach, this album returns to the classic old formula, where orchestrations just work as an accompaniment or as a parallel element and the songs have a solid structure instead of 25218539 useless ideas thrown in each track. This is surely a great thing; maybe, re-recording “Stormblåst” had a good effect on Shagrath & co., who understood the ineffectiveness of their current formula. The problem is that, though the guitars are a bit more prominent and the orchestrations are a bit less pompous, the songwriting is even more inconsistent than before. At least “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” and “Death Cult Armageddon”, in their formless soup of pretentiousness, possessed a bunch of cool ideas in almost each track (especially “Death Cult Armageddon”), and this still kept them above the 50% rating. On “In Sorte Diaboli”, standout ideas can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Let’s clarify one thing, once for all: this is NOT black metal. This is even less black metal than the previous albums. The metal component is mostly focused on mid-paced thrash, just with black metal vocals. This is a bad thing, because we all know that, on the previous albums, the thrash parts were the most inconsistent ones (except some very rare highlights, like “Cataclysm Children”, “Absolute Sole Right” and “Architecture of a Genocidal Nature”); and, in fact, everything sounds very inconsistent. But even when the songs get a bit more “blackish”, most of the time the result is still mediocre and half-assed. For example, the intro of “The Conspiracy Unfolds” tries to build a creepy and gelid black metal atmosphere, but the melodies are really generic and the guitars sound painfully dull and lifeless. The North-American bonus track, “The Heretic Hammer”, features some blast-beat-driven black metal parts: the tremolo riffs sound half-decent, but still pretty anonymous and difficult to distinguish. It seems like the band thrown in some random black metal riffs just to say: “Hey guys, we’re still a black metal band, heh!”, without any purpose or inspiration. Fortunately, on “The Sacrilegious Scorn”, there is some quite good semi-black riffage.
Talking about riffs in general... as predictable, Dimmu Borgir’s “bad habits” haven’t disappeared. Most of the songs are still driven by the same old “march formula”: a double-bass-driven martial pace with inconsistent and monotone pseudo-thrash riffing over it (“Death Cult Armageddon” already featured too much of that shit: when will they learn?); “The Serpentine Offering” is the best example of this formula. Obviously, you can’t forget the inevitable chugs that try to sound “heavy” and “br00tal”, like metal kiddies want them to be. Yes, it’s impossible not to notice how 2000’s metal kiddies seem to really love chugging riffage... so, let’s throw shitloads of chugs on songs like “The Sacrilegious Scorn”, “The Serpentine Offering”, “The Fundamental Alienation” and “The Sinister Awakening”, not worrying if they’re actually “punchy” or not: metal kiddies are still gonna love them! Because remember, guys: one single note is more “br00tal” than a conventional progression of different notes that forms a riff!
And, talking about actual riffage, there is a newcomer: say “hello” to groove metal riffs! Yeah, groove metal is so appreciated between new generations: Pantera, Sepultura and Lamb of God are extremely popular, so let’s put in our new songs some insipid rehashed groove metal riffs! And there’s something even worse: the paragon with Sepultura wasn’t casual at all, because if you actually listen to the catchiest and greatest riff from “The Serpentine Offering”, you notice its frightening similarity to the main riff of “Territory”, under every point of view!
The orchestrations, as said before, are less prominent and even a bit less pompous, but they still sound mostly useless and intrusive in the music formula, working as a “prothesis” for the lifeless riffage. You still find some annoying symphonic interludes, like that of “The Chosen Legacy” and, again, there are tons of orchestrations put over breakdowns and chugs, in order to mask the lack of good riffs (like on “The Sinister Awakening”); the intro of “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” seems to have been very well-received by the crowd, so this has become a “safe” formula for the band. But the most ironic and, at the same time, saddest thing of all, is that some orchestral parts deliver some of the greatest ideas of the whole album. Take, for example, the orchestrations of “The Serpentine Offering” (especially the intro): in all honesty, they’re very good and obviously far better than the guitar riffs running under them; a definite highlight of the album. Also “The Invaluable Darkness” possesses a very majestic intro (and even some good riffs, but in minor measure).
The vocals are another very bad point. Shagrath’s voice has got even worse than before, sounding like a tired frog that attempts to sing like a black metal vocalist (sometimes even parodying himself with laughable “br00tal” half-growls, another thing that metal kiddies love to death). Gone are the old “Stormblåst” times, when Shagrath’s voice, though still amateurish, sounded tortured and full of passion, and transported you metaphorically to hell. Nothing of this has remained: just a half-assed performance characterized by involuntary self-mockery, all of this for the sake of “br00tality”. I just can recognize an enjoyable catchiness in his performance on “The Serpentine Offering”, but nothing more. And this is nothing if compared to Vortex’s performance: his choruses suck even more than before, and on “The Invaluable Darkness” they sound almost like pop music (or, maybe... “cock-rock”? Every reference to previous statements is not casual). Vortex was definitely wasting his own talent collaborating with these guys, but luckily enough, he parted ways with them after this album. If you want to hear him in better contexts, go listen to Arcturus.
What else can I say about “In Sorte Diaboli”? Nothing. I just can limit myself to make a cynical analysis of the music contained on here; there’s nothing “personal” I could add about which emotions this album gives me, because this is just a cold and meticulously programmed product, devoid of any spontaneous and impressive feeling (something that black metal should always possess).
So, I conclude saying just one thing: we deserved it. So many years of close-mindedness toward innovation, and the cultivation of a strong feeling of conservationism, brought us to this. I’m not against revivals and comebacks to old forgotten roots (and, to be honest, the last decade brought us some awesome stuff too), but the hype generated around “tr00” extreme metal by a naive and ignorant crowd brought this once awesome genre to the same end that nu metal did a decade ago. So, nowadays, we’re full of average metalheads who hate everything that sounds “modernist” and breaks the “laws” of real metal, and then praise albums like “In Sorte Diaboli”, which do nothing but rehash old ideas in an insipid way. I’m not for “experimentation at all costs”, I often find myself preferring an old school thrash metal album over an avant-garde opus, but I’m sure that, in the 90s, an album like “In Sorte Diaboli” would have been completely ignored and forgotten, and no label could have used it as a “selling product”. Nowadays, things have changed, and even the extreme metal scene has “nu-metallized” itself: people want mediocrity, and they will have mediocrity, because it’s just what they deserve. So, 50% is what I give to this album, in the name of pure mediocrity and indifference.
Dimmu Borgir made quite the accomplishment with the album In Sorte Diaboli. This 2007 release to me is one of their best, if not the best. In Sorte Diaboli (ISD) was the very first Dimmu Borgir album I bought, but it was also the very first black metal, or for you technical people out there, symphonic black metal albums that I bought.
Unlike many of their other albums, there seems to be more of a "common" sound structure. With previous albums it seemed to be about heavy and fast drums, bass, and guitar. Those elements have not been eliminated, though. The band still adds those, but adds the choruses and the harmonies that are not common with most black metal albums.
The production on this album was put together very well. Sadly, this was the last album that the famous producer Fredrik Nordstrom worked with Dimmu Borgir on. To me, there wasn't necessarily a "low point" on any part of the album. Every song struck me as a strong, independent track. The composition of the tracks as well as the performance of the tracks was no less than amazing. The first track (single) off this album that I heard was "The Chosen Legacy". When I first heard it, I was still just learning about the whole black metal genre, but this track seemed intriguing, for a lack of a better term.
Unlike many black metal singers, Shagrath has the ability to get that necessary shriek/growl in there, but still makes his lyrics understandable. That is a quality that I have loved about him from the get go. Along with all of the other tracks and singles on this album, they all follow the concept very well. For those of you that don't know, the concept is all about a medieval priest discovering that there is a "new path" so to speak as far as religion and as a way to think. The lyrical content strongly shows the "left handed path" that the priest took after making his discovery.
With concept albums, everything from the sound and lyrics down to the artwork and presentation of the whole ordeal is important. The band more than successfully accomplished this. Something that occurs more than not, in the current music "era" that we are in, musicians don't create a concept to go with their album. Usually the songs are just thrown together whether they are related or not. Despite that fact, Dimmu Borgir was able to get around that and still do something that everyone loves, which is tell a good story.
However, I shall digress. The album as a whole to me is a great starting point for everyone when getting into black metal. Many fans of the genre may consider Dimmu Borgir to be "sell-out black metal" or nothing like the true Norwegian black metal bands such as the (in)famous Mayhem and Gorgoroth. That is their problem. I recommend this album along with this band to all heavy metal listeners. For those that are searching for something heavy, I have just given you the key to the door, now unlock it and walk into the unknown that is black metal.
What a complete waste of time and marginal talent. In Sorte Diaboli was built up at the time as embodying a more guitar-centric approach compared to recent protracted odes to excess like Death Cult Armageddon. Well, there are certainly less keyboards, which is undoubtedly welcome. The problem is that Galder and Silenoz fail to get any sort of momentum going when Mustis' esoteric synths drop out. The riffs are certainly creative, with a proclivity for sliding up and down the fretboard evident on "The Serpentine Offering" along with some decent hooks sprinkled here or there. Regardless, I can't help but feel like the band decided to chop up "Cataclysm Children" (Admittedly a decent song) and re-arrange it eight different ways to make the heart of In Sorte Diaboli.
First off, what the hell is going on with Hestnæs' clean vocal contributions? They sound shoehorned in and meandering as all get out. His passages often fly in out of left field when they are least welcome, warbling a bit and then disappearing just as abruptly. Take "The Serpentine Offering" for example. An otherwise rock-solid opening number, it really begins to run off of the rails when the clean vocals transition in around the midway point. "The Sacrilegious Scorn" features the most tolerable clean vocals, but even those are a shadow of Hestnæs' performance on earlier epics like "Allehelgens død i Helveds rike" and the like. Shagrath is also too much to stomach on the whole. His inflection is a bit deeper and more tortured sounding, which is a welcome nod to earlier albums, but some of his vocal lines are too corny to be taken seriously. "The Conspiracy Unfolds" suffers the most in this regard, opening up damn promising until the clownish droning robot-tones swallow the whole ordeal up bottom-first.
Despite seriously lagging in the middle, In Sorte Diaboli makes an earnest attempt at a comeback as it nears it's conclusion. "The Heretic Hammer" is the best track here, being more concise and accurate in it's recondite delivery on the whole. "The Invaluable Darkness" is also passable, featuring some of the better droning riffs and a more subdued synth presence. Shagrath recorded many of the keyboards for this album, and he has a decent unique style on the ivories that could more than make up for Mustis' absence if required. Still, even the most memorable tracks would simply fall through the cracks on earlier albums, even on Death Cult Armageddon. "The Foreshadowing Furnace" gets quite fucking heavy at times, with more of the riffing style introduced on "The Serpentine Offering", but it constantly feels the need to devolve into atmospheric sections that gut the atmosphere and inertia that occasionally accrues during the verses. Still, not a total throwaway of a closer.
The bonus track "The Ancestral Fever" has moments that tease at something grander, but it repeatedly kneecaps itself in something eventually amounting to a comedy of errors. The lyrics are the most stereotypically satanic ramblings the band has ever committed to disc. The bass is completely buried, and Hellhammer totally phones in his performance here. He is quicker on the double bass than Barker was, but he sleepwalks through the entire album otherwise. I suppose In Sorte Diaboli earns some points in dialing back Mustis' offensive presence, but there just isn't enough of the iniquitous atmosphere normally associated with the band to make much of an impact. To evoke an immortal sentiment: "What were they thinking?"
From the moment I saw the cover I feared that this might be Dimmu's heaviest and most satanic album ever. Such a fool I was... What awaited me was a mainstream metal show for angry teen kids who feel the need to be 'satanik'. If Dimmu had gone that low, I might erase them from my favorite band list. But still, even this album contains a few shreds of dignity that Dimmu once had. Few though.
The album begins with its first masterpiece: The Serpentine Offering. It has a 40 second symphonic intro with violins, choirs, war horns, war drums and everything you'd expect from the soundtrack of a battle movie. When the actual song begins, the feeling of cheesiness returns to me. It was the cheesiness that I had to endure in Death Cult Armageddon and that I hoped that had disappeared from this band when I listened to the re-recorded Stormblast. I honestly thought that their future release would follow the same pattern as Stormblast 2005, but it didn't. The guitar riffs are simple, Shagrath's vocals are pathetic and sometimes make me wanna puke, and Mustis is the only one who tries to keep this song up to its glory. Luckily, Vortex comes in and his beautiful singing saved this track and made it a masterpiece in my eyes. No words can describe the beauty of his voice, and he has proven once more what a talented singer he is. Sadly, Shagrath just thought that it would be great if he repeated the 'chorus' of the song, so he did just that, and almost made me disgusted, had I not been spellbound by Vortex's singing. But, honestly, I shouldn't have been spellbinded by Vortex! I should've been entranced by the keyboards, guitar solos and shrieks that Dimmu once used to have. But this didn't happen and probably never will again.
The next track, The Chosen Legacy, has a great double bass pedalling and really fast guitars. Sadly, Shagrath tried to growl like he did in Spiritual Black Dimensions, but what he did was to make a fool out of himself. The guitars on this song are pretty good, but honestly, this can do better than that! Just look at Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia! It seems like their good ideas are becoming fewer and fewer... Still, this song is much better than the crap you'll see in the second half of the album. The Conspiracy Unfolds pretty much has the same elements as The Chosen Legacy, but it's a bit slower than the second track.
The Sacrilegious Scorn is where Dimmu tried to remember their roots and practically succeeded. The string intro is atmospheric enough, Shagrath's vocals are actually good on this one and the song's brutality matches what they used to once do. The piano solo adds even more to the song's evil atmosphere and the following string riff makes it even more elegant. Another great addition would be Vortex's vocal part, although it was pretty short. All in all, this is one song that is sure not to disappoint the average Dimmu fan. The next track, The Fallen Arises, is my personal favorite off the whole album. It creates the whole atmosphere that old Dimmu used to have. I dare to say that it's almost as good as Det Nye Riket! With the menacing war horns in the intro, the haunting strings in the middle, the ending choir and the subterranian drumming, this song is sure to produce an eargasm to those seeking instrumentals which add atmosphere to a heavy album. If you close your eyes while listening to this song, you'll see a picture of the devil rising from hell to have his revenge, and when the choir bursts in, that's when you know that he has reached the surface.
Sadly, after this amazing instrumental, everything went downhill for this album. It gives me the feeling that they intended half of the release to be fucking fillers. Why? I don't know. The only things in the other half which are worth mentioning are the beginning riffs and the In Sorte Diaboli shouts from The Sinister Awakening, and the symphonic intro and Vortex's part from The Invaluable Darkness.
Now why did I offer this album such a high rating? Well, maybe it's because the only 3 amazing songs off it are worth at least 20% each, since all 3 seem to have what post-PEM Dimmu was lacking, even if Shagrath's vocals are a bit disturbing on the first track. All in all, if you like some of these three tracks, I recommend buying this album. If not, stay away from it.
Favorite tracks: The Serpentine Offering, The Sacrilegious Scorn, The Fallen Arises
Dimmu Borgir have never been a very stereotypical and traditional black metal band and people who claim that the band "betrays the genre", "dishonours a philosophy" or "forgets about its roots" are completely wrong. After the last albums, this step was predicatble and the music they do on this record has become their unique signature and distinguishes them from all the harsh underground bands.
There is not much black metal in it and the band heads for something greater. An epic and well elaborated concept and a visually stunning cover artwork and precious booklet are the first visible signs that this band wants to create something more serious and intellectual than ever before. This album concentrates much more on an epic atmosphere than on the songs. The album sounds very coherent and there are not many tracks that stand out. Musically, the vocals remember rather charismatic death metal vocals than black metal shrieks. The blastbeats are still present and quite fast, but the drums vary more even if their sound is buried by the high amount of orchestrations. Dimmu Borgir employ more and more string passages that remember epic Hollywood scores, catchy piano melodies and mysterious choirs that a band from the gothic sector would chose in a similar way and a couple of melodic riffs that sound more inspired than ever before. The only problem is that this concept is repeated all over the album and there is no outstanding piece, surprising track or highly addictive passage. But at least, the mixture between metal msuic and orchestrations is quite equal and much better and easier to digest than on their next album "Abrahadabra".
My favourite track from this record is the album opener "The Serpentine Offering" that defines the new sound and face of Dimmu Borgir. An epic classical introduction leads to the song itself that kicks off in a smooth and very rhythm orientated way. There are great death metal vocals but also melodic and catchy male clean vocals in the track. Nevertheless, the band doesn't forget to include a catchy and still straight guitar riff in the song and something like a gripping and pitiless chorus. The band was right to chose this song as a first output of the album and they made a great and very detailed and well crafted video clip for this which underlines the ambitious concept. "The Invaluable Darkness" goes into the same direction and is probably my second favourite track on the record and it only has a less catchy chorus and less bombastic opening than the great opener.
The great closing track "The Foreshadowing Furnace" has a lot of changes from doom metal parts to high speed blast passages and gives us a good glimpse at the overloaded future of the band even though this track is still more consistent than the whole "Abrahadabra" album. I would name this track my third highlight from this record. A part of that I must underline that the European bonus track "The Ancestral Fever" is already a great gem that perfectly fits on the album but the American bonus song "The Heretic Hammer" is even more addicting and catchy. It reminds a little bit of the "Cradle of Filth" style only more diversified and this version is really worth to be purchased. A perfect version of this album would include both tracks.
In the end, Dimmu Borgir deliver a great and ambitious concept album that buries some songs and put them into some boundaries but the sound is not too overloaded. The band hits the right and equal mixture between epic orchestrations that remind of Hollywood scores and catchy metal passages with melodic guitar riffs and many ideas. I would say that this album defines a new age and style of Dimmu Borgir and is very impressing. I would say that this record is amongst the best albums the band has ever done. The problem is that black metal purists may find this album too soft, complicated and diversified while regular metal maniacs may still have a bad idea about the band because of the cover artwork, the topics and the band's past but an open minded metal maniac may discover a very good album in here. Personally, the band got their breakthrough with this album to impress me and make me explore their whole discography and the melodic and symphonic black metal genre that I have avoided before.
I’m here reviewing again, and this time I’m looking at Dimmu Borgir’s biggest mistake: In Sorte Diaboli. Since Dimmu’s release of Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, we've seen the deterioration of a once great black metal band. They did manage to keep some shred of dignity up to and including P.E.M., but now that's all gone. This is the album where Dimmu Borgir finally scrapes the bottom of the barrel. Before doing this review, I had only heard one or two songs from the album. I knew it was bad, but I delved deeper to see if there was something... anything to make me see that Dimmu Borgir had somewhere to take their band after this...
The album opens with a cheesy operatic synth intro, played by Mustis. (Don’t worry; there are plenty of those on here). Once the guitars and drums kick in, we're introduced to the first big problem of the album: a guitar riff with only 2 chords that follows the simple keyboard riff. That’s the kind of thing that’s bad when a band is brand new, but this band has been around for 17 YEARS. It’s ridiculous to revert to riffs that are simpler than riffs from their debut album. On top of that, most of the time, both guitarists are playing the exact same riff. Shagrath's vocals come in, and they sound feeble and exhausted, no longer suited for black metal. The black metal growl he had in Stormblåst was depleted long ago, and to cover it up, you often hear his vocals being distorted by computerized effects, which is not something I like to hear in a metal album. The drumming, while done by Hellhammer, is generic and boring, focusing on being just plain fast rather than focusing on any sort of style. Vortex's vocals have never bugged me much before, since Dimmu Borgir has been using melodic vocals since For All Tid, but in this album, I think Dimmu decided to just push his vocals into random parts of as many songs as possible rather than use his voice in a constructive way that contributes to the song. I can’t even begin to tell you what bass lines he’s playing, so I’m only assuming that he’s doing the exact same thing that both guitarists are already doing. What a waste.
As the album progresses, you get the sense that a lot of ideas here were rushed and crammed together, and it makes the overall album sound like a big mess of rapid drumming, simple guitar riffs, and random "mood changes" that make the album hard to sit through and sound way too much like the first song or two. Dimmu Borgir has now reached the point where every shred of decency and dignity as a black metal band (or even a metal band) are gone. The theatrical element that is present on every Dimmu album doesn't fit with anything else that the music tries to do. I think this album was more of a way for Dimmu to say "Look at how bad ass we are, guys!" And that's something that you see in so many crap bands that are around now. It's hard to accept that such a good black metal band would sink so low. If you've heard just one song from this album, then you get the gist of what this album is like. Every song starts to meld together, and every song on the album takes the same tone.
The only song on the album that sounds any different from the others is "The Fallen Arises" which is an instrumental that sounds like left over material from the song "Fear and Wonder" from P.E.M. It has none of the majesty or power that previous instrumentals like Glittertind or Inn I Evighetens Mørke had, but at least it's short. And after that's done, we're right back to where we started: the same generic "bad ass" sound that was tired out by the second song. There isn’t much point in describing each song, because the songs sound so much alike, it’s almost like listening to a more “bad ass” version of Dragonforce.
In comparison to Death Cult Armageddon and Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropy, nothing new is brought to the table. It's like Dimmu Borgir just kept using junk material from Death Cult Armageddon and recycling it over and over. This band is way past tired out, and unless they come out with something halfway decent in the next album, I don’t see any reason why this band should continue. Sure, you’ll hear modern Dimmu Borgir fans defending this album by saying that it isn’t meant to be black metal, and that bands are allowed to evolve musically, and I agree with that (I love Empyrium and they weren’t any kind of metal in their last few years), but it’s like they’ve devolved, making every song sound like the same big sloppy mess played over and over. In short, the whole album is completely worthless. If I had to give my favorite song, I guess I'd have to go with The Sacreligous Scorn since it has the most changes and sections that sound different... although seeing the video for it almost made me bust a gut laughing at the self-parody that Dimmu Borgir has become.
Here’s the thing about Dimmu Borgir: they may be extreme metal’s version of pop, but the fucking rule at it. I'll admit it, I like Dimmu Borgir. I don't think that I'd say they're one of my favorite bands, but they keep me entertained. “In Sorte Diaboli” is what you'd expect: over-produced pop-black metal. It's a continuation of what was [somewhat] started on “Spiritual Black Dimensions”, built-up tremendously on “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”, and perfected with “Death Cult Armageddon”. If you liked those albums (particularly “Death Cult Armageddon”), then you will like this. Dimmu Borgir are like pop-black metal mathematicians. They have figured out how to write the perfect pop-black metal album. Their result this time around is “In Sorte Diaboli”.
The guitars are the usual fair. Aggressive and biting. Galder and Erkekjetter Silenoz are back with their twin-riffing attack. I'm not sure if that last thing I just wrote made sense, or if it’s even true, but it sounds right anyway. The bass doesn't really stand out that much to me. This is typical for most black metal though, even well-produced black metal (yeah, I didn't type pop this time - boo hoo). The vocals are solid, as per usual. Though, I understand there’s a lot of people who do not like Shagrath’s vocals. If that’s the case with you, you'll still hate them. If you like them, chances are you'll continue to like them. I.C.S. Vortex’s cleans vocals sound as good as ever, and I feel like he contributes a lot more vocals than on any other album, which I think is great. Mustis is really the king on this album. His epic and spiraling string arrangements really do carry this album more than anything else. They work wonderfully with the hostile guitars and they compliment the clean vocal sections too. That’s the thing though, Mustis has silently become one of the most important parts of Dimmu Borgir’s sound. I wonder if the other band members know? Seriously though, the strings and keyboards are pretty enjoyable on this album - Mustis must be having the time of his life. The only thing that’s really a whole lot different is the drums. Nicholas Barker out, and Hellhammer in (this isn't news if you've heard the "Stormblast" re-recording). Hellhammer’s drums sound really tight. Everything sounds nice and crisp. Unfortunately, Hellhammer doesn't do anything for me. He’s a very skilled drummer, but I just don't feel like he’s ever really wowing me - and at his skill level, I should feel wowed. I don't know, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Regardless though, the drums are good/well-played and overflowing with double-bass pedal. For the most part, it’s basically ““Death Cult Armageddon” II, with the same great production, the same overall tone/sound, just with more boring drums.
So while this record sounds good, and is pretty enjoyable, it’s still not a great, great record. It certainly isn't bad, but it’s definitely not one that has me salivating for when I can force it upon my friends. Dimmu Borgir has solved the equation, and they've proved that with “In Sorte Diaboli”. I'd tell them that they need to change it up soon, but then again, bands like Cannibal Corpse have been releasing similar enough material for the past 15-20 years, and I still like them. Sure, I like the average Cannibal Corpse album better than the average Dimmu Borgir album, but Dimmu Borgir are good enough (maybe just continue releasing albums every four years, and not any sooner).
There’s this old cliché that was brought up in the movie “The Crow” by the head villain that an idea loses its fire when it becomes an institution, and most who followed the early 90s Norwegian scene have bemoaned the fact that shortly after climaxing their beloved nihilistic art form went the way of every other scene before it. This was heavily the doing of early pioneers of the melodic and symphonic end of the spectrum Emperor with their second album, but the ebb and flow of events was well on its way, until what we have come to is this album, which is essentially the inevitable conclusion of an idea taken to a big Hollywood studio.
How one approaches Dimmu Borgir depends largely on how high one regards originality, as they’ve mostly adhered to standards set before them, though they were early enough in the scene to avoid becoming trend-followers in the most pejorative of senses. Likewise, how one approaches this album depends heavily on how much one is attached to the rawness that exemplified all of the pioneers of this style, a character of sound that endured even within the consonant keyboard landscapes incorporated on “In The Nightside Eclipse” and “Vikingligr Veldi”. “In Sorte Diaboli” could be considered a distant variant on the symphonic black metal model if one had really loose standards, but the extremely modernized production, thunderously crisp drums with loud clicking kick beats, and polished layering of every minimalist guitar riff and catchy symphonic theme make it a far cry from its roots to say the least.
Taken for what it is, this album is a fairly solid collection of extreme yet catchy anthems that do carry several elements typical to Black Metal. It’s greatest draw is the vocal delivery, as Shagrath’s orcish ravings and low end spoken narrations are a perfect depiction of a madman touched by spirits beyond corporeal existence. Much like the simplistic musical elements that it is entangled within, the verses are pretty formulaic and despite an obviously toneless approach, structure themselves as if following a sort of tone-like motive. The tonal vocal interjections of bassist Vortex function as a sort of chorus section, though they only occur once in 3 songs for fairly short durations. They have a sort of religious undertone to them similar to a church choir, due in part to the consonant tonality of the music that they are surrounded by, as well as the husky tenor quality they exhibit.
The ultimate strength and weakness that the album has is its soldier-like consistency. Each song adheres to a strict regiment of musical devices and avoids becoming too technically or harmonically complex. Most ideas are built off of 2 or 3 chords, with a greater emphasis on creating and atmosphere for the melodic material to function within, rather than a riff based model. Some of the turnaround and breakdown sections get a little bit Thrash-like, but nothing that would bring this nearly the level of what would be heard on a Gorgoroth or Mayhem album. The song that stands out the most is the bonus track found on the American/Box Set version “The Heretic Hammer”, which behaves as a sort of modern variation on “In The Nightside Eclipse” that sticks pretty damn close to the original. The atmosphere created by the keyboards is enough to trap your speakers within 2 inches of ice within seconds.
It is understandable that this album receives an equally intense amount of praise as it does scorn, as it essentially functions as a silver screen version of what most consider to be fodder for a small time theater, reserved only for those who care enough to join the few communities where such performance art is deemed acceptable. Taken simply by its musical attributes, it is a highly predictable yet enjoyable and entertaining listen. It is mostly suited for those who still liked Emperor from “Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk” until before their last offering before their hiatus. If you like big film scores of the likes heard out of John Williams, and if you like those big sounding productions parallel to “The Black Album”, this is the symphonic black/extreme metal version of both.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 21, 2009.
Anyone familiar with the current controversy surrounding Dimmu Borgir may be confused by the percent rating I gave, when coupled with the title of this review. Let me explain – This is NOT black metal – but, it doesn’t really try to be. Dimmu has said in recent interviews that they don’t consider themselves as black metal. Thus, it is unfair to judge this album by the standards of black metal. And, that’s a good thing, because if I rated this album by the standards of black metal it would have gotten something around a 10% - not a good score. So, instead, I rate this album on simply being good, heavy, music. And, on that scale, it gets a pretty good score.
The strong melodies in this album (and most Dimmu releases) are both the major source of controversy, and the strong point for the music. The melodic elements, mainly the keyboards, Silenoz’s wonderful singing, sometimes the guitar, and at a few times even Shagrath’s singing, carry a very ethereal quality to them, and, as well as contributing to the overall creepy atmosphere, lend a very strong hand to the pure music beneath the production and atmosphere.
On that note, the riffs and rhythms of this piece are very hard to classify. They don’t bear too much resemblance to Dimmu’s tr00 black metal ancestors, but instead, in my opinion, fit close to the stylings of black metal predecessors, like Mercyful Fate. There are places where a fuzzy speaker could trick you into thinking you were listening to Mayhem, but they don’t come often.
Structure in this album, as with almost all extreme metal albums, is very loose, and very unconventional. But, this does not mean that all is chaos. As with past releases, Dimmu has not simply removed song structure, but manipulated it to fit the music better. The songs often start strong, then, after a somewhat complex maze of not-quite-chorus and not-quite-verse, and a whole lot of other definition defying structures, end in a very apotheosis-like manner, giving the sense that either the world has ended, or just begun. However, in this album, more than others, there are occasions of songs ending in a fashion very reminiscent of someone whispering “To Be Continued…..”, that is that they end very abruptly, with little to no outro section in a very tease-like manner, daring one to listen on. But, all in all, structure is one of Dimmu Borgir’s strengths.
In this album atmosphere and production are very interconnected. This area is both its connecting factor, and disconnecting factor to its black metal ancestors. They are connected in that they both project an air of blasphemy – that the defining atmospheric characteristic is that feeling that just by owning a copy of this album you have sinned against god. However it deviates here to, as , while more traditional black metal is ‘colder’, this album has a slightly more playful, yet still solemn approach – calling forth more images of a LaVeyan Satanic ritual than of demons feasting on human flesh. The aura projected is hard to classify, containing elements of both black metal, and symphonic metal. But the real puzzler is the occasional scent of death metal brutality – not strong or overt, but there. The production is very good, and a much more distinct keyboard presence can be felt, despite the lack of heavy keyboard lines, due to the return of an actual keyboardist behind the symphonic elements rather than an orchestra – even though it sounds more obviously synthesized, it gives it more character and depth. ‘Hellish’ would be the word to describe this albums atmosphere, I believe.
All in all, it is a very solid release, with a strong presence and a downright hellish aura, and a distinct sound. While it makes it’s black metal origins known, it in no way tries to be black metal, instead evolving into a what I personally hope becomes a new sub-genre of extreme symphonic metal – hell metal! XD In all seriousness, though, this is a good album and I hope for more like it.
If you can call Enthrone Darkness Triumphant when Dimmu contracted HIV, Puritanical Misanthropic Euphoria when Dummy got AIDS, and Death Cult as their death, this is their rigor mortis.
It's when all shreds of their former glory (if you can call it that) are gone. All elements of their black metal days are gone (even shaggy's vocals sound more like Shitknot than black metal), and even the very metalness is fleeting. In this work, they start resembling hardcore (and shit hardcore at that) by doing repeated one string riffs that hammer on the low end but fail to be anything but a gimmick, i.e. "LOOK AT US WE R HEAVY LOL". In fact, one could argue that the whole of Dimmu Borgir, in all of its pathetic existence, is a gimmick. In that case, you wouldn't be far off; I see no element in this CD that isn't made to sell records to impressionable 12 year olds. Back to the guitars, I see no reason for 2 guitarists on this album. Just like how Kirk Hammett was reduced to doubling James Hetfield's parts on St. Anger, Galder and Silenoz are reduced to doubling each others' on this album, with few discernable leads compared to other more successful efforts.
The point of reviews is to say whether one should purchase the item in question; and the core argument I have as to why you SHOULDN'T buy this album isn't one of quality or commercialism; it's of originality. Dimmu do NOTHING new here. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The only new thing is that they seem to be even more shit and pretentious, trying to do a "concept" album with a concept as thin Nicole Richie in a fit of thinspiration. It's a flimsy gimmick intended to break the monotony of shit album after shit album, and it doesn't work, because this album is a shit album as well. Musically, no new ground is broken, if you've heard any of their recent three worded albums, you've heard this; if you can call making it even shittier and mallcorish, then yes, they've done something new. But I don't consider that anything new, so no, this album is completely redundant and unoriginal.
Of course, everything else is nothing to write home about. Same boring, uninspired drums (Did Shaggy literally tell Hellhammer to NOT play with any feeling, style, or hell, anything that would let the listener know that it's hellhammer playing?), same inaudible bass (why even have a bassist if all he does is get buried and do a couple backing vocals here and there?), and same basic chordal keyboards (why have overpowering keyboards if all they do is play chords with few lines or leads to speak of?) To sum up the instrumental performance, uninspired, boring, simple, mallcorish. Doing untechnical music isn't a crime; if you've got the songwriting abilities to make up for it, then all the power to you. But Dimmu don't. They're a sad example of a band that actually gets WORSE at their instruments as time marches on.
I'm not going to describe individual tracks, since they all seem to blend in each other in this sea of adulterated fecal matter, sort of a shit lagoon so to speak. The above 3 paragraphs pretty much sum up the album. So, to circle back to the beginning, why is this Dimmu's rigor mortis? It's when the aspects of the band that made them good have gone, gone, gone.
And what have we learned here? For one, dimmu ran out of steam YEARS ago and are embarrassing themselves by continuing to release albums. Secondly, thank god for torrents, because I ain't paying for this bullshit.
This is Dimmu Borgir’s seventh full-length album (eighth if one counts the original Stormblåst and the 2005 rerecording as two separate albums). It’s also their first concept album, dealing with Christianity and a man in the Middle Ages who gets fed up with it.
I find this release to be very consistent with Dimmu Borgir’s evolution and to generally be very satisfactory.
As stated previously this is a concept album about fighting Christianity and, since this is black metal (even though it’s melodic) this isn’t the first time someone comes up with this idea. It might seem quite simplistic really but it’s actually very well executed, with lyrics written in a much more intelligent way than most black metal dealing with this subject. Also this wipes the floor with the lyrical content of their last few releases…while I like those albums I still cannot deny that their lyrical content was childish. Another interesting aspect of In Sorte Diaboli’s concept is the presence of an 8-page introduction to the album’s main “character” which explains his story well and greatly helps understand the full meaning of each track’s lyrics.
As for the music itself, it really continues in the same direction that they left off with Death Cult Armageddon, with a few changes. First of all, Nick Barker’s been replaced by Hellhammer (also performing on the Stormblåst 2005 rerecording). Famous for being Mayhem’s drummer and driving force since Euronymous’ death and having also performed in more than a dozen other bands including Arcturus, his worldwide recognition as one of the best drummers in metal really shows here. His talent of very technical and somewhat unnatural drumming really fits in with Dimmu Borgir.
Secondly, one of the main elements of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia and Death Cult Armageddon was the use in those albums of an entire orchestra, the Prague Philharmonic, which gave them a very epic feel in my opinion. And no I do not consider the use of elements from classical music as being “cheesy”. It’s actually the influence that classical music has on metal that I find to be the one of the genre’s greatest qualities. Anyway, Dimmu Borgir seem to prefer using standard keyboards now, since the entire orchestral part was left out from In Sorte Diaboli. All is now done by Mustis. The decision for this is based on the fact that during their live performances Mustis was the one doing the orchestral part anyway so they dropped it from the studio recording as well. While lacking some of the more phenomenal orchestral parts of Death Cult, Mustis really makes it seem like there’s more going on than just his keyboard playing. Just listen to the album’s intro (the beginning of The Serpentine Offering) to hear Mustis’ amazing work.
The intro here is actually much better than the previous one on Death Cult but still doesn’t touch the one from Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia (Fear And Wonder).
I believe that the pivotal part of Dimmu Borgir’s new sound is their second guitarist, Galder, who joined in 2001 and was featured in the band since Puritanical except on Stormblåst 2005. Aside from his interesting and funny facial expressions during live shows, he handles his guitar with incredible talent and capacity. He basically forges what is Dimmu Borgir’s new sound. I realized this since recently listening to Old Man’s Child (Galder’s own project, on which he handles guitars as in Dimmu but also vocals, bass and synthesizers). Silenoz continues to create the usual excellent Dimmu riffs since the creation of the band and is the one doing most of the writing.
As for vocals, In Sorte Diaboli’s really an improvement on Death Cult, with Shagrath seeming to have improved his vocal skills even more (they have always been great).
Additionally, ICS Vortex does a wonderful job with his clean vocals that never fail to impress, although they’re simply not as perfect on The Serpentine Offering as they are on previous efforts. On The Sacrilegious Scorn, however, he really shines, using the total capacity of his excellent voice. Some people even consider it to be more suited to Arcturus than to Dimmu Borgir, but I can’t be one to judge, not having heard any Arcturus yet.
So this is still Dimmu Borgir, and it’s as good as ever. Great improvement with the lyrics is to be found is as well as the continued talent the band show with their other musical skills. This one is a must have for fans of Dimmu Borgir, even the older material. While not quite touching the complete perfection of the original Stormblåst, this is excellent.
As for “redeeming themselves”, I simply don’t see what they have to redeem, they’ve always been great and talented. Only slight flaw I see here is the removal of the orchestra but even that is almost entirely made up by Mustis’ work with his keyboards.
Dimmu Borgir are something of an enigmatic band in the metal world. On the one hand we have the "true believers" slating them for transcending their BM roots and on the other hand not many people can deny their knack for turning out consistent material and competent performances. Yet I doubt even fans of the band could feel any real depth or meaningfulness in their music, at least not since the terrible Enthrone Darkness Triumphant which played out more like a cell phone ring tone than a symphonic black metal metal album.
So with that in mind, you could be forgiven for thinking that they could turn out an album with a bit more depth this time round - seeing as they proved they still have it in them to inject a bit of passion into their music with the surprisingly masterful re-recording of Stormblast - and with Hellhammer (not known for half-arsing a job) in the ranks, what could go wrong?
In Sorte Diaboli is a concept album about a priest who sees the light or rather, the darkness of religion. The plot is unfortunately rather un-complicated and most listeners could be forgiven for not realising that this even a conceptual work at-all as it is ultimately forgettable and lacking in direction. Two things that make a good concept album are a passionate performance and of-course consistent song writing. Unfortunately the band suffers in both aspects here.
Both Hellhammer and Vortex having worked together since '97 in Arcturus have brought considerable influences of that project to the floor this time out, now that Hellhammer is full time skin basher. That influence is no more obvious than on "The Sacrilegious Scorn", whilst it maybe one of the greater moments of the album with a theatrical keyboard intro and Vortex's voice leading in some places, it still sounds like an Arcturus B-side and totally out of place. Shagrath, despite having a good BM rasp kills off any semblance of passion in the lyrics with his over use of vocal effects, thus sealing the album's fate.
The main flaw however is apparent right from the opening track; it's Hellhammer's drumming! “The Serpentine Offering” starts out with the usual symphonic build up we are used to... but then... where are the riffs?!? Indeed there isn't a single decent riff in the opening number till the last seven or eight seconds. In short Galder and Hellhammer are not working together fully. Hellhammer has the ability to play at the same (yet mostly faster) pace as previous hitter Nick Barker, but when Barker played, it sounded as though he was playing to the limit of his ability. This worked excellently with Galder's technical guitar assaults, sounding both hard and aggressive, whereas Hellhammer has a style which can tend to flow more than anything else. Where Barker was a human drum machine, Hellhammer is a perpetual drumming god, sounding too relaxed even at the considerable unfaltering pace of this record. The result is a rather dulled down attempt on Galder and Silenoz's part to fit any riffs around the unsuitably non-aggressive drumming. This makes for a lack of decent riffing, which was once the one thing the band could through in the face of its many detractors.
Galder does however show some ability to balance his technical style with Hellhammer and pull off some brutal yet subtly melodic numbers like "The Chosen Legacy" and "The Conspiracy Unfolds". Too little too late though.
Whilst the album has it's moments to keep the fans on side, there is really nothing we haven't heard before and is over-all a waste of the collective talents of the band. This record is easily one of the best examples of a band making lacklustre music for the sake of contractual obligations rather than to innovate or evoke feeling. Better luck next time...
Dimmu Borgir are notorious for having as many fans as they do haters. It's taken more than a few years but they have returned with a new effort that's sure to divide the fans and non-fans even further apart. I'm not a huge fan but I've always enjoyed Dimmu for the most part and will do my best to give an unbiased review of "In Sorte Diaboli".
The first thing you may notice is the lack of the vast orchestral sounds in this album have been pushed to the back, with guitars, bass, and drums at the front. I like orchestras and such but I think this is a good decision on the bands part. There were tracks on "Death Cult" where the organ was right at the front of the sound and almost completely drowned out the other instruments (save for vocals).
While the symphonic influence is still present in most songs, namely "The Serpentine Offering", "The Sacrilegious Scorn", and "The Fundamental Alienation", the songs are almost all guitar driven. This gives Galder and Silenoz a chance to show off their skills as talented and competent guitar players. Vortex's offerings are also more present than ever, as he gives a solid bass line for many of the songs. It should also be noted he gives a great performance as a background singer, although I was disappointed he was only used three times.
The drumming is as you expected. Fast and...well its fast. Hellhammer is a far more accurate drummer than Barker and he shows why he is one of black metal's most important musicians. Admittedly his style isn't obviously distinguishable from any other drummer, but he delivers a tight and accurate performance throughout the album none the less.
I've never been a big fan of Shagrath's vocals as he sounds like he's croaking a lot of the time. But he does what he has to, spitting satanic and misanthropic propaganda into the face of the listener. As far as we are on that note, one of my few complaints is the lyrics. They aren't bad, they just aren’t very creative. The album isn't devoid of chant along parts, but in the future I would like to see more creativity in the words.
All in all this is a solid release from a band that obviously has a few tricks left up their sleeves. Fans will love it, black metal purists will hate it, but if you can look past the name and enjoy the music for what it is, every metalhead should find at least one positive things about this album.
Yes, I said it! Quit your bitching! You all look down upon this album solely for the fact that the name "Dimmu Borgir" is on the cover, and you immediately stereotype it. Then you listen to it with the same closed minded opinion and automatically judge it as worthless and a waste of time/money/bandwidth.
You all fail to realize what an AMAINGLY good improvement this has been for Dimmu. DCA and PEM were decent albums, and the re-recording of Stormblåst was spellbinding -- In fact, Avmaktslave and Sorgens Kammer Del. II were my first hint that Dimmu was starting to shape up. The production was great (but as always, anything coming from Nordström is amazingly produced), the music was spectacular and the structures and storyline were a very fair effort at creating this "CONCEPT" album.
I understand that the song titles were ridiculous. Yes, they were a tad awkward. But the lyrics -- though not entirely portraying a story -- were better than random crap Silenoz threw together on the past two albums (Not Stormblåst 2005). Here, it seems, he's gone and read the booklet inserts of past albums, and realized how good of a lyracist he really is. Now, when it comes to story-based albums, I always think of King Diamond, Cradle of Filth's "Cruelty And The Beast", and Symphony X (as well as Disembowelment), so sure, this is quite a transition from this type of expectations. But it doesn't change the fact that the lyrics are great, and fitting to the storyline -- if you can figure it out by reading them.
One thing that really stood out about this album was that Galder and Silenoz are not using fruity new-age Black metal riffs dressed up with good distortion, treble and reverb -- no. These riffs are something I'd expect to hear in Melo' Death Metal, which is interesting because the riffs seem to truly take Dimmu Borgir to a new stage of aggression, specially when Hellhammer starts blasting beating.
Speaking of Hellhammer... what the fuck? In the middle of one of the songs, I hear Hellhammer... gravity blast? As much as I like Hellhammer, I hope I never hear him Gravity Blast again. We all know he can play the drums well, but the gravity blast was too much -- what was wrong with the simple blast beat he was doing before? It was fast enough! It kept pace! But why? All in all, the drumming on this album was spectacular -- though as a previous reviewer said --, there's not too much of a difference between Mr. Blomberg here and Nick Barker from previous albums.
I'm glad to see, on a more positive note, that Dimmu have not used Orchestra on this album. This, also, seemed to be hinted to me when I first heard the re-recorded Stormblåst. It's not that the Orchestra was terrible, but it was a little too much. It kicked back a lot of the beautiful melodies provided by Mustis. If anything, I like to think of the Orchestral albums (DCA and PEM) as Dimmu Borgir's 'experimental stage'.
Shagrath's vocals have really impressed me. Unlike DCA, he's practically ditched the vocoder, which only makes minor appearances on the album. I did enjoy, however, his display of overdubbing his vocal tracks with low-high's and high-low's. Really provided a dark feel for some of the songs.
So, again, I say it! Stop blamming this album because of the band! This album is an intense improvement from Dimmu Borgir -- and the charts happen to agree with me (#1 in Norway; first time a Black Metal band has EVER achieved such a feat'.)
As we all know, after the excellent Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and the quite enjoyable Spiritual Dimensions (thanks to Nagash and Astennu, most likely), things really got out of control with Dimmu Borgir. I am not going to explain the downfall through all subsequent albums, as probably everyone has, even though we all ‘hate’ the band so much, checked out whatever they’ve been up to. (Remember, the adagium of keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer still is valid).
But whenever a band uses an entire orchestra to back up boring riffs, or re-styles and re-releases an entire album which was fine to begin with, it would seem like the proper time to think long and hard as to what you want with your band. I do understand that once you’ve chosen a specific path, i.e. musical style, it is hard to deviate from it, especially if a band is a six-man cash cow in its own right, but is it too much to ask for something demanding?
So, on this point of the juncture, we are graced with the release of In Sorte Diaboli. And now I will grace you with my observations and complaints in random order of appearance. I wish I could assert otherwise, but the songs on In Sorte Diaboli are simply boring. The intro for instance; what is that? Another reviewer hit the nail on the head when he said that the intro sounds like a computer game. It sounds like the music to a War Craft orc attack on a village. We couldn’t live with Gorgoroth’s Mario Brothers keyboard interlude on their penultimate effort, why should we accept it as an intro here? Besides, since when does an intro repel in stead of draw you into a new album?
Then there is the use of annoying keys: take for example The Fallen Arises, an instrumental song somewhere in the middle. Judging from the title, I presume it is about the priest coming to realise that his transfer to the anti-Christian side has come full circle or something. I don’t hear it. Never mind the intended message of the song; it is absolute filler material!
Shagrath has supposedly made some headway with his vocal delivery, but where, I ask you? I still hear the same rasp with vocoder effects. ICS is as always a breath of fresh air between the croaking of Shagrath, but on In Sorte he does not fit in. If only he had remained with Borknagar. What a performance that was on The Archaic Course. Now, he is just being pulled from Dimmu’s sleeve whenever songs need some diversity.
As for the lyrics and idea behind them; isn’t the whole concept a bit childish? A clergyman who decides that religion isn’t his cup of tea. Shiver me timbers, how exciting: “Let’s see, now. No, no, I am definitely fed up with Catholicism, let’s summon the Dark Lord and see if he has a job opening.” I read somewhere that Silenoz was of the opinion that the concept was sure to produce some dark music. This may be true for some, but if anything, it makes for uninteresting song titles (The Sacrilegious Scorn, The Fallen Arises, followed by The Sinister Awakening, The This, The That) that are supposed to have a storyline in them.
Speaking of (some of the) songs, what about The Sacrilegious Scorn? An Arcturus rip-off! Compare it to the first four songs on The Sham Mirrors, especially the song Collapse Generation. Then, there is The Sinister Awakening, which has this chant in it, where some sort of diabolical chorus shouts ‘Anti-Christus’ or something alike. Why? It sounds so obviously evil. I mean, isn’t the overtly satanic image getting a bit old (along with those hilarious spiked boots Shagrath and Co. have taken a shine to)? Well, it will probably make for a nice shout-along during concerts.
When I heard Hellhammer would lend his abilities to spice up the Dimmu crew, I knew beforehand that lots of people would hail his jumping aboard without any complaint whatsoever. And I was right; look at the reviews below. While this is all fine and dandy on account of Hellhammer being one of the best drummers in extreme metal, it is not okay to pretend he has such a great influence that he has single-handedly lifted Dimmu Borgir up to a new (or should I say ‘old’) level with In Sorte. It may be a better album than its predecessor, but it still is not really good. Sure, Helhammer shows his skills on the kit (such as during the little drum break in The Foreshadowing Furnace), but for the most part, I cannot spot the difference between Barker and Hellhammer. So, while Hellhammer is superb, please do not give him credit beyond the fact that he performs as always.
Isn’t there anything that may be worth your money on In Sorte? Difficult question. Would you spend, say, 18 to 20 euro/dollar/whatever currency (depending on where you are, off course) on something you probably already have in a better and more convincing form? I didn’t think so. Yes, In Sorte sports great production, has some brooding melodies, and great musicianship (this does not relate to the ability to write good riffs or songs, mind you), but what does it matter? It just does not do anything. On the other hand, if you are really a fan or have this nasty compulsion of buying everything a band releases, please go ahead and buy it. Maybe after the umpteenth unnecessary buy some people will realise that it is not essential to own all albums by a band, and that it is better to be critical.
To get a taste of this album, checkout YouTube for the single, "The Serpentine Offering."
What's remarkable about this album to me is the extent to which it's driven by heavy guitar riffing and drums. Dimmu Borgir's music is notoriously keyboard-driven, which had the effect of making the music symphonic and complex. Here, the complexity and nuance that came with keyboard-dominance is gone and what remains is demonic, sometimes heavy, sometimes melodic, riffing. The keyboards are still there, but they are in the background and their role seems to be in filling gaps and embellishing on the main melodic ideas rather than being the driving force of the music.
Fortunately, Simen is still doing is amazing clean vocals. I believe this works even better with the stripped-down sound of the album because they provide a melodic counterpoint to Shagrath's growling and help balance the heavyness and intensity with Simen's emotive melodic singing. This is especially important because of the diminished role of the keyboards.
The speed of the music ranges between fast and mid-paced. There aren't a ton of blastbeats here, which to me is OK because when bands overuse them all of the songs end up sounding too similar for my taste. Instead, it seems the band tried to make the riffs interesting and unique. The time changes within the songs are well placed, making each song fairly dynamic in its own right.
One good thing about the album is that I didn't find any weak tracks that I would end up skipping in the future (there are tracks on Death Cult and Puritanical that I skip most of the time, partly because there aren't any/enough time changes, making the whole song sound the same).
I've only listened to it a few times through now and it may grow on me. Even though the tracks are consistently good, none besides the single rise to greatness. Their last two albums I think were better but there was more inconsistency in the quality of the tracks. I would recommend this for anyone who liked their last two albums.
I think that a word that defines this album perfectly is “different”. Dimmu haven’t changed their style (they will keep improving their formula for years), but they haven’t made a carbon copy of Death Cult Armageddon neither. Maybe the remake of Stormblåst has changed their point of view. In the end, the situation is as it follows: they haven’t left behind their economically profitable style, but they haven’t made a “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” remake.
Is it worse than their old albums? I think that it’s like comparing two different bands. Some people don’t like their old albums; other can’t stand their new efforts. But let’s get into the music.
The album opens with the single The Serpentine Offering, after a epic intro that lets us see the abilities of Mustis (they haven’t used any orchestra this time). The keyboards still have an important role in this album, but this isn’t any Damnation And A Day. In fact, the riffs are more important in the mix than in DCA.
In this album they have taken advantage of the abilites of Hellhammer. In Stormblåst 2005 his efforts were sometimes boring, seeming an average drummer. Now, they have caught some speed. Galder’s influence is still important: a lot of riffs have been written by him. And the presence of Vortex in vocals is still present. It gives force to the sound, although it can sometimes sound too close to Arcturus.
The choice of writing a concept album is a correct one, in my opinion. Although they are somewhat propagandistic (you know, “fuck the christians, I’m the only intelligent person in the world, I’m going to kill the world and offer it to Satan…”) they are OK with the music. What I miss here are some songs in Norwegian. I admit that it would have broken the story, but I think that it was something that made DCA shine sometimes; and that was cool in their old stuff too.
Maybe they could have exploited the concept in the lyrics more. Sometimes I thought, while listening to it, that every song was lyrically the same. Maybe they should have written a more complex story. But what is really important in this record is the music, so we can forgive them.
Dimmu Borgir will never be as aggressive as Napalm Death, as atmospheric as Burzum or as original and capable as Mithras; but they’re good at what they do. The songs are more varied and enjoyable than the ones we found in DCA, and there’s a medieval aura present at the bottom of the concept, a thing which I always enjoy in an album (black metal or not, it doesn’t matter).
So what do we got here? This is not the album of the year, the best Dimmu record, nor a “tr00” black metal band… But does it really matter? Mozart will always be Mozart… But we don’t stop listening other musicians because he was the best. The important thing here is to bang our metal heads and, this time, Dimmu Borgir have made it.
I came late into loving Dimmu Borgir’s material, so one could claim that I am a “newer” fan of the band. With this mindset, In Sorte Diaboli is quite frankly…amazing. Dimmu Borgir may have changed their sound a few albums ago but with this most recent release they have perfected and fine-tuned their noise.
Granted most metal elitists do not consider Dimmu Borgir to be black metal any more (or to begin with in some cases) and I would have to agree with them at least on the more modern albums. In Sorte Diaboli is not quite black metal. I would say that it is more on the lines of melodic death metal. It’s not raw enough for me to really consider it black metal at this point. Dimmu Borgir has refined their music to break out of black metal stereotypes (even if they still look and perform live in that style). There are still moments of pure black metal and one can definitely hear the influence of black metal in the music.
In Sorte Diaboli is full to the brim with monster riffs and awesomely haunting guitar melodies. The riffs are super fast with sinister sounding and most of the leads on the album are tight with some awesome trade-offs. The slower parts of the albums are epic and haunting with the guitars taking a back seat the massively impressive keyboards. The guitars don't pull much melody on In Sorte Diaboli but what parts they do have are well thought out and quite emotional (something in black and death metal you don't have very often.)
The epic sound that is presented on In Sorte Diaboli is in part mostly because of the jaw dropping keyboard and synth lines that lace most of the music and for some of the tracks are as aggressive as some of the guitar lines. The keys surround a lot of the music like a heavy fog and really support the traditional instruments.
For the structuring elements, the bass work is top notch (once you can pick it out of the many many many layers) and it is quite fast even if it only has a few moments to shine in the music. The bass does its job and really gives that extra foundation symphonic sounding music needs.
The drumming is simply the most impressive part of this album. That is saying quite a bit considering all the great presentations on the album. Hellhammer is simply one of the best metal drummers of all time and his work on In Sorte Diaboli is...it defies words. His cymbal work is stunning and his bass drum speed borderlines breaking the speed of sound. His use of variety and technicality really push him out even if the production kind of pushes him back. If anything this album is great of a listen if all you do is listen to the drum parts.
The vocals are normal Dimmu Borgir guttural half thrash, half death vocals. Shagrath puts one of his best performances on this album and with the variety presented with some light touches of choral work and an increased use of the guitarist’s soft vocals (3 songs now he makes an appearance) really work to fill out the music. There is even some distorted spoken parts that help give the album a great rounded sound.
In Sorte Diaboli is a concept album. The story is actually rather interesting and well laid out as the album continues to play. Dimmu Borgir has always tackled relatively controversial topics - but this album presents topics such as anti-religion and death in a polished and sophisticated way. Once a person is able to decipher the lyrics, a whole new layer is added to the album.
I didn't know if Dimmu Borgir could have topped Death Cult Armageddon but once again in 2007, I've been proven wrong. In Sorte Diaboli is not going to appeal to fans of early Dimmu Borgir material but for fans of the newer material this is an almost perfect album.
Songs to check out: The Serpentine Offering, The Sacrilegious Scorn, The Foreshadowing Furnace.
At long last I am noticing why Dimmu's last few albums have been eliciting cries of "sellout" in Metalville these last few years. After defending them in the past I am starting to see the decline in the quality of their music, and it is disturbing and disappointing. This album really nails it home in that respect, quite honestly.
This album is just...there. Even after several listens that ended up being laborious and difficult in my efforts to find redeeming qualities, it does nothing for me. It's like bland wallpaper or wall paint in an asylum designed to not provoke reactions from the inmates as opposed to being attention-getting and exciting and eye-catching. The production is thin and washed out with one of the worst drum sounds I've ever heard; typewriter kick drum noise and a flat snare that's about half the volume of the kick drums.
And the vaunted Hellhammer sounds as though he totally phoned in his performance, too, doing nothing terrible exciting at all. This whole album feels lethargic, a collection of riffs randomly thrown together with pretentious titles and uninspired lyrics that a 16-year-old could've scribbled in the back of his high school classroom. Simen Hestnaes' outstanding clean vocal prowess is severely underused, too, what's more. It bored the hell out of me, ultimately. No really memorable riffs, no real feeling of excitement, it just sits there and says "Meh," just like I did after trying to like this album. Mustis' keyboards are just a wash of sound over the proceedings, nothing special at all, as if that were not enough.
Don't get me wrong, each song has at least one cool moment, like Hellhammer's insanely fast double kick at the end of track #2, but the disgustingly overtriggered kick drums set my teeth on edge. And one cool moment per song does not a cohesive album make. And no appreciable solo spots make this more tedious as well; I miss Astennu's stunning leads like at the end of "Dreamside Dominions" on "Spiritual Black Dimensions". Galder is no lead player, and this makes the album more dull without even anything like that to lift it out of the doldrums for even a few moments.
All in all, Dimmu have done far better in the past and seem to be sitting on their collective derrieres resting on their laurels. Maybe the Ozzfe$t kids will love this and think it "evil" enough to piss off the parental units, but not me. I think it's sad that these once-mighty veterans have allowed themselves to sink so low in terms of the quality and intensity of their music and compromised their integrity in order to crank out uninspired product like this. How the mighty have fallen...
Let's face it, from a perfectly objective and open-minded perspective, Death Cult Armageddon and Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia were pretty bad. Not because they weren't "tr00/kvlt/gr1m/whatever," but because, quite simply, the music sucked. They had their moments, but they were just too cheesy, too overproduced, and too overdone to be quite believable. The band tried way too hard to be evil, and the end result was so fake that anyone (with the exception of stupid Slipknot-worshiping teenagers) could see right through it.
Now, after a semi-successful re-recording of their debut (which I think did fair justice to any album that really wasn't all that great in the first place), they're back with their first new material in four years. My expectations were pretty low, but I gave it a listen anyway.
I noticed that they've finally abandoned their practice of stringing three random words together and passing the result off as an album title, instead using a Latin title. I thought perhaps this might signify a move toward true black metal, but it doesn't really. What they offer on this album is their trademark style of symphonic extreme metal, sans some (not all) of the bullshit.
In Sorte Diaboli kicks off with the first single "The Serpentine Offering," which begins with a somewhat sinister orchestral/choral intro that sounds very much like soundtrack music (in fact, I could almost swear I've heard something similar in a movie I've seen recently, but which one it was escapes me. Then the "riffs" start just about a minute in...and I use the term "riffs" loosely, because the opening guitar part really doesn't qualify as a riff - it's just palm-muted chugging over double bass. There are a few decent riffs on this album, but nothing to get excited about.
The opener isn't a bad song, but it's not very memorable, either. Nor is the next song. Nor the next one. The album's main flaw is that nothing really sticks out as track after track just washes over the listener. There are interesting parts, but no song really stands out as better in terms of its coherent whole.
There are no surprises as far as the individual performances: Shagrath still sounds like shit, but at least he doesn't rely on the cheesy, distorted, "evil" vocals quite as much as he used to; the guitarists (they don't really play many leads, so why the hell do they need two?) chug out their riffs and non-riffs and don't really add nor take anything away from the whole; Vortex is, of course, inaudible on the bass, but makes his contribution in the obligatory Dimmu Borgir clean-vocals parts - he's the most talented member of this band, and his powerful vocals on this album make me wish he would rejoin Borknagar; Mustis just does his thing on the keys, not really adding anything the symphony couldn’t have picked up; and Hellhammer is in fine form (as usual) on the drums.
It's also worth noting, for those of you who may have wondered, that yes, the lyrics do still suck. But come on, it's Dimmu Borgir, what did you expect?
Bottom line: this album is definitely a continuation of the PEM/DCA sound, except that it isn't as flagrantly bad as those two albums were. If you liked them, this one will probably blow your mind; if you didn't, then you may still be able to handle a few of these songs. I can only ever listen to a couple of them at a time - and it doesn't really matter which ones since they're each about as mediocre as all the rest. On the whole, I rate the album only slightly above mediocrity, and that's because the orchestra is actually used tastefully, which is always a plus.
'In sorte Diaboli' is ... I don't know what. It's either a desperate attempt to get the former glory of black metal titans back, or simply a masterpiece, perfectly disguised and shrouded in mystery. Either way - it's not exactly what it should have been. I personally like all Black Metal styles - Nu, Old-school, melancholic and so on and so on. But every time I listen to this album and I imagine that it's meant to be black metal, I go to the bathroom and I throw up. But if I listen to it, without such thoughts I actually enjoy it. Not tremendously but it still doesn't sound that bad.
Therefore I cannot give a percise score of the album. It either sucks or it's great, depending on how you look on it just like DCA. I can look inside the components that make it an album however. And more specificly :
Vocals - Shagrath's growling is in a way satisfying and in the mean time - disappointing. He performs masterfully on several songs, while he sucks on the others. According to me this can be explained with the effects added to enhance his voice. But compared to many other bands and songs I can't say that he's utterly bad. Just not that good as he's supposed to be. I think this is a good time to curse Silenoz or Vortex. I don't know which of the two of them exactly but one of them for sure. The reason is the pathetic clean vocals used on half of the songs. They are disgusting. They ruin whole songs. I mean I liked them in 'Death cult Armageddon' but here they are just horrific. Especially in the song 'The invaluable darkness' around the second minute. What in Lucifer's name is this ? For f*ck's sake ! Come on, you can do better than that. Their tones were so mistaken. And just as I was going to say that I like the song. And Shagrath isn't that perfect to make up for their failiure.
A little PS here : The clean vocals in 'The Serpentine Offering' are G-R-E-A-T.
Guittars&Riffs - Overally pretty good. Few exceptions though. Oh, wait, cancel that. I don't think there are exceptions. Actually the more I think about it the more I understand that the guittars and perfect. Perfectly tuned and great riffs. It would be a huge mistake to even say a bad word for them.
Keyboard - Good performance on almost all the songs, especially I liked the little instrumental in the middle of the album. I don't know why it's there, but it sure is good. It's going straight to my ambient-orientated collection.
Drums - Hellhammer's performance is ... astonishing. He's hitting those drums like a lunatic, a maniac. An unstopable force of destruction. Like he's stabbing his worst christian enemy with a ceremonial dagger.
Lyrics - I always leave the 'best' part for the ending. We have all been told that the album will be the first one with a concept. Yes. It does have a concept. A pretty poorly written one at that point. For an album of such a class, the lyrics had to be written like it's the end of the world. The lyrics from DCA were a thousand times better than these. This is why I give this album 50 points and not 90. Only because of the lyrics. I'm really sorry to say it, but I couldn't find the desired links to some phrases. This only goes to several songs. Like the line 'Time has come to step up and take back what you took from me'. Now what in Sheol's name is this supposed to mean ? No logic whatsoever. I just like to say that I am a lyric-maniac so don't go asking why I'm making this big a deal of the bad lyrics.
I shouldn't say more of this album. I am sure that the album is not as bad as I described it, because I am being sceptical to the point of devastation. Like I always am. But that's how it can be improoved. ]:)
In other words - Buy it. I do not intend to ruin DB reputation. If you liked DCA - you'll love this.