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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.