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January 1996: a new creature was born. After the beautiful debut “For All Tid”, Dimmu Borgir created their best album ever: “Stormblåst”. Released by Cacophonous Records (the same label which produced Cradle of Filth’s debut and the “Vempire” EP), this was the album that consecrated Dimmu Borgir in the realm of symphonic black metal, and after this album they would have signed a contract with Nuclear Blast.
Let’s be honest: “Stormblåst” doesn’t overcome “For All Tid” too relevantly; it’s just a SLIGHTLY better album, and I wouldn’t even change my rating from the previous record, since they’re on a very close level. However, the differences between these albums are clear: while the debut was more focused on medieval and folkloristic atmospheres, “Stormblåst” is more “symphonic”, in the literal sense of the word. While before the keyboards were more used mostly for background atmosphere or for individual parts separated from the rest, now they play a concrete part in the music, still keeping coherence with the rest and not overwhelming the other instruments.
Examining the album in its entirety, there’s a weird thing that you notice immediately: differently from most black metal (including the symphonic subgenre), “Stormblåst” isn’t focused on fast paces and blast-beats; it’s even less fast than “For All Tid”. There are exceptions in some parts of songs like “Dødsferd”, “Vinder fra en ensom grav” and the beginning of the title-track, where you can find some blast-beats, but ultimately, this album is focused mostly on slow and solemn rhythms. Obviously, I’m not referring to the usual formula used nowadays by the band, which is just boring and repetitive: on “Stormblåst”, the structure is obviously more creative and entertaining, and to be honest, this weird mix of “extravagant” slow paces, melodic riffs and majestic synths makes the whole album sound almost like a sort of “black metal waltz”.
So, it’s obvious that the music is even more melodic, passionate and epic than before. Don’t be fooled by those who say that keyboards are the only force of this albums and don’t give importance to the riffs. Songs like “Stormblåst”, “Når sjelen hentes til helvete”, “Dødsferd” and “Vinder fra en ensom grav” will offer you a lot of excellent melodic tremolo riffs which seem to be strongly influenced by Dissection (“The Somberlain” era) and maybe even by Naglfar (the similarities with “Vittra” are pretty clear, even if the melodies sound less “over the top” in comparison to the well-known Swedish band). An anomalous case is represented by the last song, “Guds fortapelse - åpenbaring av dommedag”, which sounds slightly more “evil” and could even remind you to Emperor. On the opposite, when the songs tend to get slower and less focused on tremolo riffs (like “Broderskapets ring”, “Antikrist” and “Da den kristne satte livet til”), the guitar parts get somewhat “muddier” and more decadent, but still keeping faith to the main nature of the album, sounding almost like if Varg Vikernes decided to give a more “melodic/romantic” vibe to his early masterpieces.
The keyboards and the synths have lot of room to express themselves on this song-structure, and they play an important part on this album, but still with good taste and leaving space for the rest. The synths are often used over the epic marches (“Broderskapets ring” is the most obvious example, and “Antikrist” needs to be mentioned for the presence of a flute for the second time in Dimmu Borgir’s career), and they contribute to enrich the melodies with an almost “classical/baroque” feeling that, differently from the horrid mess of pompous cliches featured on “Abrahadabra”, fits well with the rest and doesn’t sound redundant or ridiculous in any way. The keyboards are still often used for “personal” parts, like the intro of the first track and the instrumental track “Sorgens kammer”; it’s well known that the moments I mentioned were ripped off from classic operas and videogames, but in all honesty, they fit very well the epic atmosphere of the album: “Sorgens kammer”, in particular, sounds very melancholic and comes close to bring tears to your eyes; it seems that old Amiga videogames used to have damn excellent soundtracks. Unfortunately, some ideas tend to be inserted in the music in a quite forced way: the sudden piano interlude of “Når sjelen hentes til helvete” is a good example of it. However, this is not nearly as disjointed as most material of “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”, “Death Cult Armageddon” and “Abrahadabra”, and despite being not the most cohesive music ever created, it’s pretty damn fine and really wonderful.
An element of the record that I really love is Shagrath’s vocal performance. Yes: on this album, Shagrath became the main vocalist. I have to admit that his screeching vocals on this record are really powerful and emotional, and I particularly love the weird contrast between the haunting atmosphere of the music and the passionate screams, which at the same time contribute to empower the melancholic feel of these songs. Nowadays, things are totally different: to make an interesting metaphor, I’d say that Shagrath now sounds like a sort of goregrind/brutal death vocalist which inhaled a huge quantity of helium from a balloon; so, instead of guttural vocals, he makes pathetic croaks that sound vaguely similar to black metal raspy vocals. Luckily, this principle isn’t applied to “Stormblåst”: this record features only true black metal vocals!
You have surely guessed that I really like this album. But, between all the great songs featured on here, there is just one song that I really love with all myself. It’s not just the absolute highlight of the album, but probably even the greatest song ever written by Dimmu Borgir. I’m referring to the opener “Alt lys er svunnet hen”, a track that embodies all the best elements of the album and brings them to their maximum expression: after the piano intro that I mentioned before, the song begins with a slow and elegant pace, switching between many different epic riffs that are occasionally enriched by beautiful synth lines. Then, around 3:20, the absolute peak is reached: the song speeds up with an incredible melodic riff, accompanied by other synth lines that emphasize on the most epic sides of the melody. This is, by far, the greatest riff ever written by this band, no question. Even “Master of Disharmony”, “Guds fortapelse - åpenbaring av dommedag”, “Under korpens vinger” and “Glittertind” should bow in front of this, and there’s no paragon with the pseudo-riffage of crappy songs such as “Puritania”, “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” or “Gateways”.
So, if you’re a fan of Dimmu Borgir’s latest albums, such as “In Sorte Diaboli” and “Death Cult Armageddon”, and you have never listened to “Stormblåst”... BRIDGE YOUR GAP! Maybe you’ll dislike the weak production, because modern Dimmu Burger have accustomed you to hyper-pumped bombastic productions to hide you their weakness, but don’t worry: if you can’t stand lo-fi black metal productions, Dimmu prepared for fans like you a re-recorded version of this album, produced by the metal god Peter Tägtgren, which is surprisingly very good (but not as good as the 1996 version, and it’s a shame for you). On the contrary, if you hate Dimmu Borgir’s latest releases and you have a massive prejudice about the band, check out this album and you’ll be totally blown away, because there’s nothing to bash here. No pseudo-satanic bullshit, no weak chugga-chugga riffing, no plastic MC Donald brutality, no pompous and ridiculous orchestrations: just poetry and art.
What a fine, fine mess we have here. To be fair, Dimmu Borgir shuffled the cards up quite a bit following their abominable debut, increasing the presence of Aarstad and solidifying the lineup into something that at the very least resembles cohesion. Stormblåst has it's moments, but still manages to kneecap itself more often than not, no matter how diabolic and vile the band wants you to think they are. It's like the outcast kid in high school who shows up to school one day wearing a black trench coat, only to trip on it in the hallway in front of everybody. It's just awkward for everybody involved.
The band tries to summon such a dank and sinister atmosphere, but can honestly only get away with it when Aarstad is highlighted. Take the opener "Alt lys er svunnet hen" for example. Despite the keyboard intro being ganked in exactitude from Magnum's Chase the Dragon, it admittedly fits well into the atmospheric confines of symphonic black metal. Enjoy it while you can, because this vibe will only last for the first three minutes, at which point the first of Silenoz's absurd roars crackles through your speakers and neuters the atmosphere. I get that most fans prefer Silenoz's more traditional rasps over Shagrath's robotic warbling, but I honestly have trouble deciding which one of these stark-white dolts offends me more.
Being severely front-loaded, Stormblåst manages to rumble along without necessarily getting much worse all the way through the end of "Sorgens kammer". Somewhere, hidden under mountains of forced obscurity and obfuscation, these are well written and solid songs. The 2005 reissue all but proved as much, even if the production here still leaves much to be desired. "Sorgens kammer" is one of the few highlights of the album. Much fuss has been made over Aarstad's plagiarism, but he definitely knew which melodies to ape to earn great atmospheric returns. This isn't an exact transposition of the Agony tune (which was accidentally programmed a step up in the game itself), but it still works extremely well. "Broderskapets ring" might be the only song that revels in the lo-fi production values enough to impress on all fronts. I'm not sure which version of the song I prefer, as it is a truly malleable piece of work that hits all of the right ambient marks while coming across as genuine in it's misanthropic delivery. It certainly summons a glimmer of hope deep within the cerebrum.
...and then the band flops over and dies for virtually the entire second half of the album. The only song that doesn't fall entirely flat is the title track, which stormblows it's load early but still gets by without flagging too much. The rest is wholly ineffective. The feigned agony of the vocal performance, the machine gun drums, the meandering riffs, it all merges into such a limp-wristed and feeble whole. It actually reminds me of some of the more offensive moments on Limbonic Art's In Abhorrence Dementia, which was equally bombastic without anything of marked substance behind it.
Dimmu Borgir earns a few brownie points for shifting Tjodalv to drums, as he is a huge improvement over Shagrath's mess of a performance on For all Tid. For some reason he lacks the ability to blast properly, but he tries to keep himself busy on the top end of the kit and gets a pass. It's obvious that the band put a lot of effort into learning their respective instruments in the downtime between the debut and Stormblåst, but they so rarely put their newly-acquired chops to good use. It would almost be disappointing if they didn't later prove that they can stink it up on both ends of the spectrum. Dimmu Borgir managed to hit the magic formula on Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and to a lesser extent Godless Savage Garden, but they quickly lost the plot again afterward. As overcooked and laughable as their later material may be, don't let anybody tell you that Stormblåst is the band's true masterpiece. Get the re-release instead, which gives this material a well-deserved facelift.
Dimmu Borgir learned that too much experimentation can hold back the songwriting process, especially considering the fact that their musical experience isn't that great. Also, the songs from their previous album sounded the same, mainly because they had the same tempo and formula: the same ambient keys, folksy guitars, drum patterns and whispering vocals - no diversity, except for a few tracks.
For this album, which the band had been working for two years (since August 1993 until September 1995, according to their booklet), they have considered that they needed an album more dynamic, more diverse and more suitable for their message - singing about Satan and massacres of Christians and playing folksy guitars with ambient keyboard melodies doesn't sound very well, except maybe for the intention of sounding like psychopaths, but I guess that wasn't their intentions from the beginning.
So, what was the result? Well, in part, they have succeeded; the evolution is clear: the drums are played with more confidence, fills, greater dynamics and less sloppiness. Clear evidence is that Tjodalv, unlike Shagrath, uses double bass more often and as a one key element in the song structures. Some blast beats are to be heard in the title track, which is amazing, whoever would try to shit on it! Dodsferd is another example, as well as Når Sjelen Hentes Til Helvete and the last two track of the album.
I will review the keyboards, so to get them out of my way! From my tone, it is clear that I'm not a fan of them. Why, you may ask? Well, for one reason, the man is holding the band back. Yap! This album is too aggressive to incorporate the same ambient melodies as used on the previous album; well, into the whole album, anyway... The title track, Dodsferd and Når Sjelen Hentes Til Helvete are probably the only tracks where are used properly. Antikrist is quite tra-la-la - really, I can NOT take it seriously! And, while I like Dvorak, the last track has too much piano in it. It’s like composing black metal with only a part of the band smoking weed - way too out of place! I will not say something about the plagiarized compositions, because they are not the band's works and not covers, so... pass....
The guitars are stronger and more thought-through; you can here more effective power chords, tremolo picking (but in smaller quantities) and the melodies are no more folk-based, but metal-based. Alt Lys Er Svunnet Hen has a speed metal vibe, while the last track has, at the middle part, a doomish part; no need to mention the title track - no wonder it was one of the most played song during live performances (from 1995 until 2008)!
The bass is audible, but it mainly follows the guitar lines and not the drum patterns, as was done on the previous effort. One exception is the joyful track Antikrist, where it has a lead part, between the verses, but it sounds better on the re-recording.
The vocals are quite interesting - this is the first time Shagrath sings on this album, but is barely noticed! Only in Dodsferd and Vinder Fra En Ensom Grav you can hear him and, while it should have been expected, he uses vocal effects. The result: he sounds bad! Even if he has a good voice, the crappy vocal effects and the even crappier production clearly ruin his performance. No wonder they've decided to re-record the album! Now, letting the jokes aside, Silenoz improved and even screams like a banshee, but his vocal effects are also pain-inducing. Come on, guys! Leave the fucking effects and cigars and just use your lungs!
Well, that's about it! 10 tracks with plenty of filler material and drawbacks! Letting Shagrath on guitars and Tjodalv on drums was the best choice the band made but they should have replaced Aarstad with someone more competent on keys or just hire a session member: the man, while competent, doesn't know how to adapt to different styles of composition. While I don't blame the band for the production, the vocal effects are misused and ruin otherwise good performances. And, last but MOST important, it’s not O.K. to sing about bloodshed and Satan, while having a tra-la-la atmosphere or a smoking session!
Conclusion: try the album, but I don't find it essential! Try the title track, Dodsferd and the plagiarized tracks, and if you just want to listen calm metal music, no matter the lyrics or the name of the band; otherwise, it's just not well done!
This was my first black metal album, and the one that opened the gates to a whole new genre of music for me to enjoy. Every last second of this album was priceless: from the first key note of the piano from Alt Lys to Shagrath's last shriek on Guds Fortapelse. No wonder Dimmu Borgir was so highly regarded in the black metal scene once they released Stormblast. The only thing I regret is the fact that Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and Spiritual Black Dimensions weren't recorded like this album. If they were, maybe they would've had even more atmosphere! Now let's get down to the review.
The album starts with a piano solo which is accompanied by a synthesized flute and orchestra. This sets perfectly the atmosphere for the chaos which will soon follow. It's just like the calm before the storm, or the menacing storm clouds slowly covering the sunny sky. Once the piano ends, the rest of the instruments kick in, playing a fast riff, afterwards slowing down things, and just then, Shagrath and Silenoz welcome you to the Norwegian land once more, this time with a shriek which would make weak hearted ones have a heart attack for sure. The rest of the song continues on a fast note, with the symphonic keyboards remaining proeminent. Near the second half, Shagrath begins his shrieking, this time with Silenoz on backing vocals. And thus this masterpiece ends with yet another symphonic riff which makes you feel as if you are going deeper and deeper in the cold nordic mountains as the storm turns wilder and wilder. This song is in one word a masterpiece.
The next track, Broderskapets Ring, slowls the things down a bit, having mid-paced drumming and calming and emotional guitar riffing. It also features a narrated Norwegian speech, courtesy of Aldrahn. The song is pretty much monotonous and atmospheric, and it remains that way until it fades away at the end. Nar Sjelen Hentes Til Helvete bumps in suddenly with a keyboard riff and drums and guitars in the background. Once the keyboard finishes its job, the guitars play some riffs which are more than candy to the ear. Shagrath jumps in once more with his demonic shrieks, but just as you get used to it, everything stops and you have a second of silence. Then Stian Aarstad comes in with a piano solo which just adds to the tension. No wonder, since the lyrics tell about the journey of souls to hell. And when the piano slowly stops playing, the guitars bump in once again with their raw riffage, and the two vocalists join in with their hellish screams. The song ends as suddenly as it began.
Sorgens Kammer is a 6 minute piano song with an orchestra and special effects in the background. This song slows things down even more, but also adds even more atmosphere to the album. The over all feeling is of sorrow, darkness and solitude - as if you are caught in a dark room and all you can hear outside is the raging winter storm. You are left all hopeless to drown in the darkness. The perfect feeling for this genre, I must say! Too bad that Stian Aarstad ripped this song off a video game :( Da Den Kristne Satte Livet Til begins and ends like Nar Sjelen Hentes Til Helvete, but this song has less keyboards and focuses more on the brutality of the raw guitars. Shagrath and Silenoz are beasts in this one, bringing loud screams of fury against the Christians (I noticed that most of this album's lyrics are focusing on hating Christianity). The only notable keyboard in this song is the short symphonic solo near the end.
And thus we reach what I believe to be the best black metal song ever: Stormblast! Words would not be enough to describe the epic feeling that this song gives me. It starts with a thunder sound and then the guitars come and play a fast riff, everything seeming normal. Just then the keyboards play an epic symphonic riff as Shagrath and Silenoz both growl in the song... for 17 seconds! Then the epic symphonic riff comes once again, and then the keyboards switch the sounds from strings to choirs. That's when Shagrath begins narrating in Norwegian the epic story of the Soria Moria castle. The keyboards contribute to the atmosphere even more, wether they're orchestral strings, choirs or pianos. The song even features some clean vocals from Aldrahn. The second half has some melodic guitar riffing with choirs in the background, and near the end Stian Aarstad honors us with another piano solo. This song is practically epicness defined - just close your eyes and you will find yourself climbing the Soria Moria mountain on a journey to the Dark Castle on its top (after all, Dimmu Borgir means Dark Castle), all while it's raining upon you and menacing lightnings threaten you. But this song offers you the courage you need to continue the journey, and you know that you will succeed in the end! For this I congratulate you, Dimmu Borgir. You've made the black metal song I've been waiting for.
Dodsferd begins with the drums galloping and having the guitars and keyboards in the background. After 30 seconds Shagrath joins in with a growl that seems other worldly. The song is pretty much fast paced and features raw guitars, blast beat drumming and Shagrath's growl. Though near the end they slow down the rythm a bit and Stian Aarstad joins in with his symphonic keyboards to add more feeling to the song. And thus the song fades away. Antikrist is pure pleasure to the ear. It starts with the guitars and drums, the bass being the main instrument this time, offering us a catchy riff. Then the strings join in as Aldrahn does a narration with a deep evil voice. Afterwards Shagrath kicks in with his high shriek and makes the song more chaotic. But just as he finishes screaming, the keyboard plays a beautiful flute song which adds more to the nightly atmosphere. An owl singing in the background while the flute was playing was also a nice idea. After this, the guitars play another fast riff while Shagrath shrieks some anti-Christian stuff. The song then repeats this pattern once again, and ends with Shagrath screaming: "Jeg er ondskapen! Jeg er Antikrist!" - "I am evil! I am Antichrist!" What an epic feeling this song offers me! It almost makes me imagine the Antichrist taking control and ordering his armies to slaughter the Chirstians from a nordic village on a full moon night - everything being observed through the eyes of an owl.
Vinder Fra En Ensom Grav features some tremolo picking typical for melodic black metal. It also has some keyboards in background, and Shagrath doing his shrieking thing. This song makes you feel as if you are a tired knight which is about to return home from a war which didn't have any winners. Truly epic indeed. And thus we reacht he final track: Guds Fortapelse - Apenbaring av Dommedag! It starts with a 20 second symphonic intro which was taken from Dvorak's works. Then Shagrath comes in with his shrieking and tells us how God shall be defeated in the Judgement Day and how Satan is the true ruler, etc etc. If you ignore this childish aspect of their lyrics, this song is actually awesome. It features blast beats, melodic tremolo picking and of course epic strings. The song even has a piano riff near its end, which adds even more atmosphere. The song ends all of a sudden with the instruments stopping and Shagrath doing one final scream, adding the same feeling I had when I finished For All Tid - the album is over, but the darkness is there to stay.
Over all, I think this might be my favorite Dimmu Borgir release. It has all the conventions of a melodic/symphonic black metal album and features many masterpieces. I would pretty much recommend this album to anyone which would like to get into black metal, but don't know where to start. This might be a good starting point for them. Now if I were to write my favorite tracks, I'd probably have the whole album in there, so I'll put in the recommended tracks instead: Alt Lys Er Svunnet Hen, Nar Sjelen Hentes Til Helvete, Sorgens Kammer, Stormblast, Antikrist and Guds Fortapelse - Apenbaring av Dommedag.
Hahahaha…haha…ha…oh, so it isn’t a joke when people say this album is good; why am I not that surprised? I mean I have heard legions and legions of people saying that Dimmu Borgir used to be good. And like most cases where a band’s new work absolutely sucks ass, the old stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. Dimmu Borgir…what an insipid joke of a band. I know they have a lot of fans and all, but I’m just going to say it: they suck. They have always sucked. They have a lack of any kind of quality that would redeem the flaws in their songwriting and presentation. And with that, let’s just review Stormblast.
This is a very clean and accessible take on the black metal sound, except it can’t even do that right. The clean guitars roll out majestic sounding melodies and walls of relaxing riffs, the vocals croak like a frog and the synths are present enough to be a noticeably large part of the sound, intended to add atmosphere and provide another dimension to it. The problem is the songwriting, which is just dull, dull, dull. Nothing flows well with the rest of the components of the sound, and thus the album cannot achieve the atmosphere it is no doubt going for. The vocals are the main offender there, as they are a flat, featureless croak that does not inspire any kind of emotion. They aren’t fearsome, they don’t sound sad and they don’t particularly evoke any atmosphere. They’re just there, laid on top of the music like an old rag. On “Antikrist,” a song which is mostly lost to a dense, impenetrable fog of laziness, he lets out some lion-like roars that honestly could not be any more embarrassing. This vocal performance just lacks any kind of ferocity and any kind of bite!
The riffs are just boring. I can’t even state that enough. It’s practically a black metal Iced Earth in terms of riff craft. The band slogs through third rate riff patterns that fail to cook up any kind of pulse. They’ve used a typical black metal riffing style here, with fast, droning riffs that were very likely intended to sort of build on top of one another and create layers of sound…but again, like the vocals, it doesn’t work. It becomes evident from the very first track, “Alt Lys Er Svunnet Hen.” The riffs are haphazardly thrown on top of one another like bricks laid by a lazy carpenter, and as such, they don’t have any kind of balance, and they quickly crumble, falling down and mostly just sounding like a shambling mess. There’s no atmosphere. A style of riffing intended to create an atmosphere, provides no atmosphere at all.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe this is what we call FAILURE! But hey, maybe they’ll improve on the next few songs. Maybe the first one was a fluke. Oh, wait, what’s that? Every song on here sounds the same? Well, fuck this album then.
Oh, except when they put a 6 minute instrumental piano piece in the middle of the album with no real flow or reason for it. I guess “Sorgenskammer” is a decent enough track, but why does it need to be there? What effect does it have on the rest of the album? Nothing. Nothing at all. It just pads out the album from an acceptable 42 or 43 minutes to a bloated 49 minutes of hacked up, third rate black metal. Joyous, isn’t it?
This band’s real problem is that they do not have the artistic vision to really express whatever it was they were trying to get across with this. Their ideas just aren’t that great, and their songs do not captivate me. They conjure up some things like the opening guitar and bass combo on “Dodsferd” that should sound riveting and exciting, but the band’s presentation of it is bland and unassuming, not calling attention to it when it should be highlighted and performed with vigor. On songs like the title track and “Broderskapetes Ring,” they aim for epic and stirring, but instead the combo of synths and guitars comes out as lazy.
The thing is that I don’t even think they know what they want the listener to feel about their music. Look at “…Ring,” for example. The riff is simple and clean, washing over with a smooth, round-ended sweep that should be majestic, but instead it just sounds…uncertain, like the band didn’t know what they were doing. And there’s this weird narration in the middle that mostly just makes the song sound silly. Well, that’s okay, then, isn’t it? They were a pretty inexperienced band at the time. Logic has it that they would later improve and find their own unique voice and style later, and thus gain a more confident sound as a band. Right? Right?
…I’m just going to spoil it for you after listening to their new “Gateways” single and say no. No they have not. In fact, this whole band is shit from beginning to end, inside and out. The whole core is nothing but undiluted talentlessness and hack-work. Nothing about Stormblast is compelling, interesting or at all worth listening to. This is never unpleasant, but at the same time, it is so stale and whitewashed of any kind of flame or emotional connection that it is completely despicable. This is the kind of unassuming, watery tripe that you listen to and pretend to like because you can’t really get a feeling for it either way, and you don’t want to write it off completely for fear of “missing something.” Newsflash: there’s nothing to get. This album sucks, this band is trash and I can’t wait until the day when I don’t hear about them anymore. This is not so much a Stormblast as it is the musical equivalent of a kid squirting you with a water hose.
So apparently, according to vast amounts of metal purists, both of the black and multi-colored variety, this is DIMMU BORGIR's magnum opus, that one little nitch of originality before descending head-first into the "sell-out" pool. Time and again it seems people trip over themselves when it comes to the lauding this album seems to perpetuate, from its original inception to the howls of protest upon its re-recording back in '05. As for me, I was a little late in getting into the "Stormblast"ing as its original Cacophonous form is quite hard to come by here in the States, but was able to procur a copy nonetheless and gave it a shot.
And in the end, I found better and more entertaining ideas found in the ever-so-controversial "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant"...
In all fairness I gave this album many different tries, and instead of being thunderstruck time and again, I fell further and further into an ennui that bordered on clinical. For all it's worth, for all the incessant badgering from the black metal fanatics, I found "Stormblast" a lifeless, plodding, dead-end album with little to no meat on its bones. Every song I came across had the same problem over and over again; a flat, airless production that squashed everything down into a mild slap as opposed to the intense blow-to-the-face black metal tends to be; slow-as-molasses guitar riffing that suffers from a general lack of interest, energy, and original ideas; stiff, cardboard-thumping drums that don't have any sensation of pomp and circumstance; and rhythmless croaks that apparently pass off as demonic vocal work. If anything presented in this mess of instrumental ineptitude shows any kind of detrimental interestingness it would have to be the keyboards, which isn't too much of a surprise as with this and successive albums the in-your-face style synth arrangements more than make up for the middle-of-the-road guitarwork. Such ideas exist in small droves in the likes of "Når sjelen hentes til helvete", "Da den kristne satte livet til", and "Antikrist", though even then it doesn't warrent enough thought-piquing ideas to block out the drudgery the rest of the band would espouse. Each time I sat through the album, I couldn't really get more than half-way through each song without skipping to he next piece, only to be treated to the same riffs, arrangements, and Norwegian gobbledy-gook that make me so disinterested in the first place. Althought I will say the pictures of the band in total black metal regalia was a pretty cool polar opposite of the evilness so lacking in the album.
In the end this didn't quite live up to the hype in my book. Uninteresting, two-dimensional, and as bland as a supper of rice cakes. For me, it wasn't until the yoke of Nuclear Blast came around their necks that the DIMMU clan started to kick some serious ass. Thumbs down.
The metal scene has a bit of a fixation on this album, either heralding it as Dimmu Borgir's finest work or yet another crap entry in their fecal annals. The former probably isn't that off the mark; Stormblåst is probably one of (if not quite the) best works by the band, but at the same time I wouldn't call it an absolute classic of black metal by any stretch of the imagination. It's good, verging on very good or great at times, but overall I'd call it a third-tier footnote in the overall pantheon of the style, a decent look at what an ultra-poppy version of melodic black metal looks like but otherwise not entirely remarkable.
Dimmu Borgir's older style of music is fairly different from their later material, yeah, but I'd say it's no less poppy or accessible than the later material is; in a lot of ways I'd say it's more appealing. Really, what's a more difficult listen: the dogmatic orchestrations and chugging guitars of 'Death Cult Armageddon' or the plaintive piano and very simple and direct melodies of 'Broderskapets Ring'? I'd really say the latter, though the music being accessible and poppy isn't necessarily an indictment of its worth. I'd actually say that a tremendous amount of this album can be found on a lot of the viking/folk records that are churned out by the dozens these days; it might have degraded production and screechier vocals, but the resemblance is right in your face every time the band drops below a brisk thrash beat. Don't go into this album thinking your going to find some bleak black metal classic; half of these melodies can be heard on the latest Moonsorrow disc without a lot of mental gymnastics.
I suppose this music is black metal after a fact- a hyper-melodic and verging on saccharine variety of it, but black metal nonetheless. Dimmu Borgir essentially took the more outwardly unique elements of Emperor, added an additional burst of Norwegian folk, and decided to overdrive the combination until you have this album before you. It's rather sporadically successful; there's as many awkward and cheesy moments as there are good ones (though the good ones are really, really good) and overall some of the songwriting can come off as a bit half-baked, with certain songs clearly being very intensely written and others rather haphazardly slapped together in the interest of extending the album. At the same time though, it has an undeniable charm for those who can get past some of the more absurd moments (or even revel in them), and so it's a worthwhile release for those with the capability to suspend their disbelief a fair amount.
'Stormblåst' mostly alternates between relatively fast (though not quite blasting) tempos and a crawling mid-slow pace; the latter are generally far superior to the former. When the band operates at higher tempos, they have a tendency to craft melodies that are overly tinkling, simple, and lacking any significant texture, and I think that a lot of this blame can be laid at a relatively childish and undeveloped keyboard performance, which has a rather odious tendency to stick to meaningless scale runs and only occasionally burst into a more interesting performance. The riffs, of course, aren't entirely blameless as the keyboards are a harmonizing instrument for the most part, so it's not like the guitars are tending towards anything with a great deal more significance where the keys are present.
A substantial amount of the music, however, lacks keys, and it's generally at these moments that the riffs are at their best. When in tremolo mode, the guitars do at times lack significance and weight, but are generally solid when not led astray by keyboard backing, occasionally busting out with an almost daringly thrashy number or sticking with more conventional Emperor-derived tunes. At the same time, calling this Emperor-derived, while relatively accurate, is still something of a stretch. The melodies this album uses are sort of abstractly linked back to Emperor, but even that band in its cheesiest moments was never as openly poppy as this music is; there's nothing really resembling 'I Am The Black Wizards' to be found anywhere on this disc. I can't say that the melodic basis of this music is as simple as a straight mixture of trad and black metal, either; Bathory is something of a point of reference, but overall I'd say that the melodic sense and riffing style of this album were, at this point in time, fairly unique.
Vocally, this seems to be a blend of Ihsahn's dramatic and sweeping style with a bit of Abbath's nasal tone; the result is actually pretty cold and evocative and helps bring out the power that hides in some of the more lackluster riffs. These unclean vocals are backed by very occasional cleans which, at least in my estimation, don't contribute a whole lot, though are generally inoffensive. Like the keyboards, they probably could have been left out in all but the moments where they would be absolutely effective and 'Stormblåst' would have been a better album for it. Additionally, the drum department is somewhat unexciting; it's more varied than a Bathory album, yeah, but doesn't have a great deal of style or passionate flair behind it (not that later Dimmu Borgir fairs any better in this regard).
However, despite all the complaints I've put forth about this music, it really is a case where the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. Individual instrumental weaknesses tend to be balanced out by the surrounding instruments, so if one passage's riffs are a bit weak, the vocals are particularly grandiose, or if the drums are a bit tepid, some quality neoclassical keyboard work will fill in the gaps. Moreover, what makes the best parts of this so great is that the band does have a clear grasp of songwriting when they're feeling motivated. Despite what seems like Dimmu Borgir's best efforts at times, they actually are fairly capable songwriters and are able to craft professional and evocative pieces when granted the proper passion and fire.
The best track, and really a microcosm of the best parts of this disc as a whole, is 'Broderskapets Ring', which is in all honesty one of the best melodic black/viking metal tracks I've ever heard. Every element of this song is so perfectly in place it's unbelievable, exactly what one would want from metal that could, in theory, be played on the radio. Powerful, striding guitars with richly textured riffs sway under a deft and hook-laden keyboard performance, while a waxing and waning vocal accompaniment establishes a pendulum swing of emotion for the track to ride on. It's Dimmu Borgir at their best: unabashedly poppy and melodic, bordering hard on cheesy, but when all is said and done, completely gripping and beautifully crafted in all respects.
'Stormblåst' isn't composed solely of tracks like that one, but it comes close enough that it's worth investigation from black and viking metal fans. It's probably the closest thing to greatness that Dimmu Borgir ever came up with (though this isn't necessarily the material at its very best), and as such is sort of a gem in Dimmu Borgir's wildly inconsistent catalog of releases. It's hardly 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' for the goth crowd, but is it worthwhile and at times stirring? Most certainly.
This is a very good album from a band that would draw the ire of my derision in albums to follow, especially in recent times with a direction that at best sounds like diet Emperor and at worse can be described as blackened power metal to my ears at least. Enjoying this album makes me hate Dimmu Borgir even greater as a matter of fact. If only because it left me wanting more of the structured melodic darkness that Stormblåst provided in which, as we all know too well, would not end up being the case from here on out.
The piano while a fine instrument in itself has by and large always turned me off when it is found in this genre of metal. There are of course exceptions when it is used for good effect and on this record I found it to be sufficient with its aim for symphonic darkness. This brings me to the starting track of Alt Lys Er Svunnet Hen. It opens with a haunting mood piece on said instrument to which then the song kicks into gear with a fast and demonic presence of guitars and triggered drums taking the lead from the keys. The first three and a half minutes of this cut is very impressive but the rest of the song doesn’t quite stay in tow with the tide once the vocals come in.
Broderskapets is an extremely melodic second song with an underlying rhythm that can even be whistled to. The slow drum beats take point nicely with a warm depth on the bass and precise timing on the ride cymbal. It’s a very logical pace that does get upstaged some with the piano bits in the middle. The vocals alternate nicely between hissed growls and clean spoken voice of the epic presentation. Judging from the title, I assume that a Lord of the Rings feel was an inspiration which is a nice touch to align the presentation if not entirely successful.
Nar Sjelen Hentes Til Helvete goes with a mid paced beginning melody that proceeds similar to the opening track but again, the piano interlude in the middle of the song disrupts its momentum. Sorgens Kammer is an instrumental that goes on too long but I can tell what the band was trying to accomplish in setting the calm of foreboding weather. The percussion is the only part I liked in this song eith its resonant gong.
I was glad the next number put things back on track though. Da Den Kristine Satte Livet Til breaks the silence nicely with crisp distortion on the guitars and the vocals were growled in a key that streamlined the progression. It is rather short and slices perfectly into the title track.
Stormblåst is the second best on the namesake. When that epic clap of thunder sounded, I knew I was in for an awesome journey into northern frontiers. Everything was in place to set the stage for the last half of the record. The drums were a barrage of beats in good time and the soft tremolos were refreshing to hear in the beginning. The ending finally gets the melody undercut correct for once and it stood out for the right reasons.
If Dimmu Borgir can ever be said to have crafted a traditional black metal song, then that song is Antikrist. This is by far their best and I can’t help but go for seconds once it ends. The weaving of harmonies between the bass and Silenoz’s riffs do much to establish the accent of Norse aggression. Shagrath’s vocals are nails here. His grim, brow-beating screeches definitely evoke a heathen conviction. A fluency in Norwegian to the listener is not necessary when he conveys spite and hateful Christian aversion. I found myself concurring with his “Yay” for Antikrist. Never again was I to be as impressed with a song from them as I was here.
The last three songs are tight follow-ups in the production though they are clearly a winding down to an album that is Dimmu Borgir’s best. The overall feel is appropriately stormy and rugged in keeping with its title. You do get the feeling that the band had a yen for the majestic and knew how to focus it musically in its most hateful form. I recommend this to anyone looking for symphonic black metal as long as you check your prejudice for this band at the stormy gate.
Once upon a time, over 10 years ago, Dimmu Borgir was considered to be one of the best and most respected bands around. In 2008, if you were to say that, in light of what they have released over the last 5 years or so, it's completely laughable. Stormblåst (Storm Blown) is taken from when Dimmu Borgir was actually releasing some pretty good music, which was influenced by the likes of In the Night Side Eclipse and wasn't influenced by such faggotery ala COF.
If Dimmu Borgir were ever, Satanic, it's here. If you listen to Dimmu Borgir now and 100% honestly think "wow these guys are real Satanists" then kill yourself now for being such a retard. Dimmu Borgir probably takes the whole satanic thing as a joke now. They're probably somewhat jaded by the whole Satanic, anti-Christian theme by now. Don't believe me? I once watched an interview with Dimmu Borgir on youtube (don't ask me why) and at the end Shagrath was a bit like this "Lulz Hail Satan ahahaha". Yep, he's about as Satanic as the pope himself. Hell, even Emperor got tired of it, but at least they didn't continue on with being pseudo-Satanists in the final two albums.
Anyway, this album is probably an indication of what Dimmu Borgir could have been. This album isn't as good as Enthrone Darkness Triumphant in my opinion, but it's still pretty damn good. The riffing on this album isn't as heavy as it was on later releases. Also, the synths in this album seem to overshadow the guitars a bit, but the guitars are still audible enough to be heard. Unlike on later releases the symphonic parts of the music aren't so cheesy that it makes you cringe in agony. Probably the reason for this was Stian Aarstad, Mustis; his successor isn't half as good as him and can't compose a good symphonic arrangement to save his dying mother's life.
Stian Aarstad's synths on this album are pretty good. Very dark and evil sounding kind of like what you can find on Limbonic Art's music, except to much lesser extent. Stian Aarstad is a great at playing keyboards to, even though he ripped off some other bands on this album, he still plays some very dark and interesting stuff on this album. He probably was the best thing going for this band and when he left you notice a massive decline in quality from this band. Yep, he gets far less credit than he deserves.
The drumming found here is OK. Nick Barker and later Hellhammer would join this band from drumming duty and they were way better than Tjodalv, but hey, he gets the job done so I can't really complain. Just don't be expecting any cool drum solos.
Vocals are pretty good on this one. Shagrath (probably the worst black metal name ever btw) started off being a pretty good vocalist, but, on the following albums you notice his vocal ability declining. On DCA, his vocals were terrible and were almost like they were being spoken. I haven't heard one song of In Sorte Diaboli and I don't think I'd want to. It wouldn't surprise me if I found him rapping on that album. This is the fate of so many once, good vocalists, take Legion from Marduk from example, but hey at least the band did the world a favour and replace him.
If Dimmu hadn’t fallen in love with money, would we have another Odium or Limbonic Art on our hands? Doubtful, but had Stian Aarstad stayed around for a while longer and Galder (gallstones) not joined the band, they might have released some other solid albums. Even here we notice Shagrath's faggothery and his desire to be a woman...Long black finger nails? His desires probably wouldn't have transpired if the band hadn't sold out.
It's a shame Dimmu Borgir's first three albums are somewhat overlooked now because of the elitism in black metal. I can't say they don't entirely they deserve it however. Marketing their image pretty much sounded the death knell of any quality and integrity to be found in this band and with every subsequent release, they just piss on their somewhat overshadowed legacy more.
Conclusion: The above is recommended for purchase or download.
Dimmu Borgir has been the center of critics every time they decided to put out an full-length, no matter if it was a good or a bad one, somehow this band got a sudden attention for their unique and attractive melodious sound that evolved with each release into something more commercial and less memorable than their previous work. If you're tired of hearing how great and amazing this band is, but have been a little disappointed from some tracks downloaded recently or in the past, then I suggest you give Stormblast a chance because is the pinnacle of what Dimmu Borgir once stood for, symphonic black metal the way it should be.
Stormblast is an album you're gonna listen to completely every time you decide to play it without having to worry about skipping any bad tracks because there isn't any to begin with. This cd is like you're favorite new series that whenever an episode has come to an end, the viewer can't just wait to see the next one, same happens here with the songs, they drawn you more and more as time goes by and before you know it the most of the music has already passed which can be a downer at moments because you might expect it to be a bit longer(and actually is), yet its so good it seems short to the listener.
The music here beautiful, sorrowful and enjoyable to say the least. Shagrath vocals are raspier and screechier than any other Dimmu Borgir release which is probably 1 of my favorite parts of Stormblast. The guitars and bass are simple and slow most of the time, but the keys give them the depressing feeling that overwhelms the listener with attractive melodies and memorable riffs for almost an hour in which you probably lost yourself listening to this gem of an album. My only complain would be that the drums can be barely heard at times which takes a bit off the atmosphere, but its only a minor issue since everything else is so well done people might not even notice nor care for it.
This album is a classic, everyone that enjoys symphonic black metal at its peak should give Stormblast a chance, might give you a little unexpected surprise. P.S It's also great as background music for video games, specially MMORPG'S.
Many improvements were to made over Dimmu's debut album For All Tid. The cheap, rough, gritty production and underwhelming musicianship made it a tedious listen, and the typical songcraft didn't help matters either. Fortunately, some essential changes were made and we are left with Stormblast; a huge step up for the band, who would do a total 180 on the album succeeding this one.
As a band, Dimmu have gotten slightly heavier and have also become admirable songsmiths. The boost in balls can be seen clearly on the energetic drumming of "Alt Lys Er Svunnet Hen," or the tremolo riffs throughout "Antikrist." At the same time, Dimmu also payed more attention to dynamics by balancing the sound with the keyboards. The famous "Broderskapets Ring" sees the band revisiting the more morose, mid-paced territory of their debut, but with a new sense of melodicism and atmosphere. Each of the song formulas is clearly more epic and evolved from the naivity of For All Tid, too; every structure seems more narrative and dramatic, with attention paid to melodic emphasis and a wintry atmosphere. The title track is a classic example, and "Dodsferd" is another beautful display of this evolution. Each band member has stepped up dramatically in their skills as a musician; the guitars, though wholly based on power chords, use some short leads and are much more melodic than before. "Nar Sjelen Hentes Til Helvete" shows exactly how much the band have stepped up; it was probably their heaviest track at that time, and the keyboard break in the middle is a perfect pacebreaker.
Tjodalv's drumming really gives the album a boost. His confidence behind the kit blows Shagrath's away, and he uses more fills and double bass to help prevent some of the plodding that was present on the debut. It's never "brutal," but does guide the songs through various passages that would otherwise seem rather empty. "Vinder Fra En Ensom Grav," my personal favorite, shows some impressive blast beats, and many other songs display Tjodalv's ability as the perfect drummer for the old Dimmu Borgir sound.
Stian's synths, once again, set the atmosphere; this time, though, everything has a very wintry atmosphere, perfectly illustrated on the title track and the heavier number, "Da Den Kristne Satte Livet Til," as well as the beautiful opening of the album's opening track, where tumbling pianos and flutes lead the way to synthesized string arpeggios. The synths actually sound decent this time around, and don't wash out the guitars upon their entrance. Instead, it does its correct job as serving background ambience and mood, which shift from epic and mountainous to melancholy, as seen on the instrumental "Sorgens Kammer."
Silenoz certainly sounds worlds better; his voice is more polished and scream-ish, instead of the irritating, lifeless rasp that ran on the first album. There are a few double-tracked vocals here and there, and even some spoken-word (in Norwegian) on "Broderskapets Ring." "Antikrist" shows some of his fiercest screams, as does "Guds Fortalepse." Unfortunately, his improvement doesn't really matter in context of the fact that Shagrath would rip him apart on their next album. But hey, at least he sounds better here, like he actually attempted to convey some feeling here.
Unfortunately, Stormblast suffers from one of the same things that the debut did: production. However, instead of being too raw or underdone here, it's hampered and weak. The guitars have a bit more beef to them, but are cut short with a buzzing overdrive instead of roaring distortion. And even though the drums sound better performance-wise, the muffled snare drum and clunky bass drum sound leave the songs somewhat lifeless and plodding. Of course, another thing that mars this release is the fact that Dimmu's landmark album would follow this and single-handedly shatter all previous efforts.
Those who don't find new Dimmu appealing may enjoy this, but I would be wary of the things mentioned here.
Favorite tracks: "Alt Lys Er Svunnet Hen," "Broderskapets Ring," "Stormblast," "Vinder Fra En Ensom Grav."
This album is usually the one that is seen as Dimmu's finest. I figured I'd give it a chance. After hearing they're later works, I was a bit hesitant to check this out, but I must say it is quite different from their later works. First of all the production is pretty low key, and fits very well unlike their later album which are, in fact, overproduced. The band puts forth pretty decent performances. It's nice to here Shagrath without 100 different effects on his voice, he actually has a decent Black Metal rasp. Nothing special, but decent enough.
There's some stuff here that you could say is symphonic, but in all reality some of those parts aren't far from Emperor's style. There are some really nice melodies here. The riffs are themselves are okay; every once in a while they are somewhat punkish. For example in the first song. The guitars have a punky feel to them. "Sorgens Kammer" has some nice piano work in it. Apparently it was ripped off from a video game, but it is quite a nice piece. The piano/keyboard work on this album is actually very nice. It doesn't overpower everything, and dumb the music down, nor does it seem to come out at random times for no reason like later Dimmu's work is full of. One flaw here though is that some of the songs are too long and feature minimal ideas. That would pretty much sum this album up though. Some nice melodies, a bit of a somber atmosphere. The guitar work is just a bit on the boring side every once in a while.
Highlights would probably be the title track, and despite being too long, the piano cover song is quite nice. This isn't something you'll pull out to listen to often, but it's nice to hear this band not completely suck.
I've never cared much for Dimmu Borgir, the main reason being that they usually put too much on the symphonic part and very little on the metal side, making the band sound almost like cheesy classical music with blackish vocals. As much as I love symphonic metal (like Therion or Haggard), I'm not really found of bands joining black metal - which is supposed to be raw and EXTREME - to symphony - which is supposed to be MELODIC.
However, Stormblast is different. This is quite enjoyable, a very raw form of symphonic black metal from when the gender was still developing. The production is, obviously, crappy, which is probably why this album sounds more like black metal than their later stuff. It has a very special atmosphere, with the rawness of the guitars joining in a screaming contrast with the melodic classic-sounding keyboards, in a surprisingly listeneable cacophony. The keyboard is, in my opinion, Dimmu's worst problem, cause they tend to overuse it. In Stormblast, they also overuse it at times (the track "Sorgens Kammer" is a totally based on keyboards, which makes it a little annoying), but the general atmosphere of the album and its strategical poor production prevent that symphonic sound from getting out of hand.
Shagrath's vocals are the finishing touch. Decent black metal screeching, not very good but a lot better than what he sings now. No clean vocals in here, only plain cruel and grim grunts and screams. The lyrics are very probably satanic, even if I don't understand anything of norwegian. It doesn't matter anyway; Dimmu Borgir prefer to envolve you in their mystical and cold music than have you paying attention to the lyrics.
Resuming: raw sounding and powerful guitars, melodic keyboards for everyone, barely listening (but decent) drumming, and a relatively good singer make Stormblast one of the best and most metallic albums of a genre which is now dying from selloutness.
The contextual format of this release is that of harmonic disturbance, it draws you into a state of vertigo while stemming out into the voids of aesthetic, the neoclassical predominant art form is what makes this release so favorable and easily listenable. Its coherent melodies are overly sweeping to the sense while sometimes revealing themselves to be a bit on the cheesy side, though this does not detract from the actual music it has never suited my listening style, it does not make me biased to the fact of what this album really is though.
The piano is the most preeminent instrument to these songs, while the drums not in minimalism keep a steady pace in the same rhythm, only to change to suit the songs needs. This in essence helps to single in the other instruments, such as the likes of the electric guitar and bass. Preferably the electric guitar is what I notice most in the string instruments, its passages seem to embed in my mind while the keyboard lies dormant until it penetrates the surface of the atmosphere in the chords and percussion.
In the presence of being played there is synchronized chaos, the melodies form throughout the music, yet never overpowers or hinders the listeners experience, while formation of other percussions sweep through the harmonies of tracks like Stormblåst
and Dodsferd. The instruments work beautifully to perform something with a hidden scent of melancholy and hate while keeping a grasp to it all.
Another corner to this music is its strange romantic like instrumentals and performance of instruments throughout. It’s almost to most people’s un-liking but I fear for that to be of their biased opinions that have now been formed because of the path that Dimmu Borgir have taken. It may be easier said then done, but if you can exempt yourself and just strive to concentrate on what is being played without the bone splitting effort you can easily be induced into the aforementioned state of vertigo that sweeps you over. I for one enjoy this release because of this reason alone.
The keyboards, the keyboards on this album add to everything, the symphonic like textures to this is almost effervescent and bubbling; to overflow from the edges of where it was created. Its palpable marrow is what drives the songs, the instrumental track Sorgens Kammer is the very essence of this description that I speak of, it leaves with you a feeling of just drifting in an ethereal void of nostalgia and incoherency of depression. The striking ability for everything to be built upon everything makes this what it is, amazing.
Vocals here are very favorable and quite addictive, it’s chanting like qualities seem to flow into the stream of aesthetics that it so wishes to create (while drawing you in deeply). Though the essence of these vocals do not really falter into another style its purpose is made clear. The echo effects of the in spontaneous screams are my personal favorite; I appreciate the fact that it is done in a manner which happens to relinquish any cheese that might have befallen in the matter of the vocals being expressed.
This album though littered with dark undertones of melodic passages and rapturous and immediate yet only in second lasting screeches performs quite well to coherency and incoherency. Though with this all being said, the album holistically is simple and not in need of anything complex. To take away or add anything may have been disastrous, but to my delight it kept its bondages and did not try to expand into something indefinably ugly as the future musical career of Dimmu Borgir began to shape its final forms.
Preferably without the cheese (which once again does not detract from this album) this is easily one of the more prominent albums in my collection, it may not be something of the likes “Quintessential” in essence but it holds it own in the weight of time and I will enjoy listening to it for many years.
A lot of people maintain that this band sold out, that they started out making music with integrity and lost that in the face of commercial success. While this might be true, don't be fooled into thinking this band was ever anything good. That's right, even on their first album, released on the infamous No Colours Records (hard to believe, isn't it?) back in 1994, Dimmu Borgir's music was basically a steaming mass of dog feces. That debut was one of the most painful musical atrocities I've ever had to endure, and I suppose I should be happy to report that this sophomore effort is better in most respects, while still being weak, tenuous and badly put together.
The first track starts off with a nice piano and keyboard intro. The recording somehow makes this sound…old; there's no other word for it…and this is actually a cool effect. Of course, I've heard that the intro is stolen (it wouldn't surprise me, based on one of the later tracks, but I'll get to that), but as I haven't heard the original source and can't vouch for the accuracy of that statement, this is actually not a bad start to the album. It isn't dark, nor is it evil…in fact, this entire album pretty much falls into the category of "nebulous" in terms of atmosphere, and I don't mean that in a good way. The lyrics are intended to be evil antichristian rants, I suppose, but the music sounds rather good-tempered and cheery. Anyway, the end of this intro illustrates how badly constructed this album is. The intro quietens, there's a breath, and you expect the music to expand on the theme generated by that keyboard piece…but no. Instead it abruptly changes key and feel entirely, without any kind of sensible juxtaposition or real pause. It's jarring in the worst way possible, and although a band like Sigh, who purposefully create their music to be unsettling in its shifting of musical styles, can pull this off, Dimmu Borgir certainly cannot. Another awkward moment occurs in track three, a typical loping Dimmu song of this era, until everything suddenly stops and there's a sloppily played, utterly pointless piano break that seems to be weakly striving for classicism but serves no purpose whatsoever. For one reason or another the band decided to begin their final track with a clip from Dvorak's New World Symphony, which again seems completely at odds and disconnected from the music around it, and all I am thinking is that they could at least have chosen a better motif). Track four is a snoozefest of a piano instrumental that, as everyone who detests this band never ceases to point out, is partially ripped off a musical module written for the Amiga in the early 90s. It's certainly true; I used to collect these things, and I had the .mod file long before I had even heard of Dimmu Borgir.
But enough about the keyboards. There's a little more to this music than that. Thankfully, the guitars aren't the barely present buzz they were on the debut, and actually have a pretty interesting, warm sound to them. Most of the riffs aren't very arresting, however, and they don't seem to have too many ideas to work with, yet for the first half of its playing time this album isn't really that bad, ignoring some of the gratuitous keyboard wankery for a moment. One amusing facet of the music is the band's seeming affection for ¾ waltz time. The rhythm crops up again and again throughout the album, and it makes me think of a bunch of dapper Norwegian gentlemen strutting around a ballroom or something. This is interesting because the same rhythms crop up in plenty of other Norwegian black metal bands, yet the mental image conjured is seldom so incongruous.
There is actually a highlight, too, and that would be the second track, "Broderskapets Ring", which, despite some cheesy sounding spoken word stuff, has some well-crafted melodic ideas and ends up being rather evocative, though I still couldn't tell you exactly what atmosphere this music is going for. This one track is probably the only reason I haven't parted with the album already, as it seems to evoke a strange send of fondness with me. Not that it's particularly different from the rest of the music on offer here, and there lies most of the problem I have with this album. By its second half, it really begins to drag, because one has really heard all the ideas Dimmu Borgir had rolling around their little brains already, and the rest of the music is really just weaker recyclings of those same ideas. The album is only forty something minutes long, but there's really only enough going on here to justify about half its length, and the better half isn't exactly anything earth shattering, either. It's sort of calm and relaxing music, oddly enough, not something usually associated with black metal, and seems to have the same effect as some meditative/mood music in that it's not really emotional or deep, it just kind of serves to instill tranquility in the listener, ironic given the supposedly antichristian rantings of the lyrics and the band's imagery. Maybe Dimmu are actually spies of the Judeo-christian order, masquerading their music as rousing anti-christian hymns but secretly intending to lure us all into a tranquil stupour so that the axes fall from our hands and we kneel meek and conquered. Don't be fooled by this heinous plot!