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Dimmu Borgir at the peak of their popularity - 90%

The Clansman 95, May 31st, 2018

Well, what to say about Dimmu Borgir? As I stated in a previous review, they're a controversial band within the metal community: the fact that they're famous, that they play huge live shows, that they're commercially succesful and that they progressively abandoned their original black metal sound and opted for a symphonic and sometimes experimental approach to their music, earned them a wide number of fans, but also a lot of detractors.

"Death Cult Armageddon" is Dimmu Borgir's most famous and commercially succesful album to date: having sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide, and having even entered the Billboard 200 when it was released, this is definitely one of the most "mainstream" extreme metal releases to date. It was even nominated the 6th best album of 2003 by Revolver Magazine. Now, for some people the sole fact that a black metal record could be considered "mainstream" is pure blasphemy, and a valid reason to call a band "sellout"; personally, I can't see why: as I always said, it's all about the music, not the band's image or adherence to a specifical canon. So, this is one of the most reviewed albums on the site: why would someone bother to write another review for it? Well, because, in my opinion, it gets a lot of unneeded hate, as showed by the ridiculously low average rating score; considering the music is really good on this one, I thought it definitely deserved some justice. Now, off to the real review.

"Death Cult Armageddon" is generally quite similar, stylistically speaking, to Dimmu Borgir's previous record, "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia", but this time the band decided to put more emphasis on the symphonic elements: for the recording of this album, they made use of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, a 72-pieces ensemble that made it possible for Dimmu Borgir to bring their evolution to the next level. To give you an idea of what this album sounds like, I'll say it would make a perfect soundtrack to the apocalypse: the demoniac screams of Shagrath, the razor-sharp guitar riffs, Nicholas Barker's insane drumming (how can someone phisically endure such an amount of killer blast beat and double bass drumming sessions is beyond my understanding) and the beautifully haunting clean vocals of bassist Vortex are exremely well-complemented by the orchestral arrangements, making the music sound more epic than it ever was. There is still an alternance between more symphonically-oriented songs, for example "Allegiance" and the incredible "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" (Dimmu Borgir's most famous song, and also the most symphonic song they ever wrote) and guitar-oriented songs ("Cataclysm Children", "Lepers Among Us"). This album features an even wider use of samples and vocal effects, giving a vague industrial touch to certain songs (think to the two epics of the album, "Eradication Instincts Defined" and "Unorthodox Manifesto", which, by the way, are among the best tracks on the album); the production is perfect, as expected by Nuclear Blast. The guitar work is still top notch, although it's generally a bit more restrained if compared to "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia", to amalgamate to the orchestral parts.

Personally, I consider "Death Cult Armageddon" occupying the third position in Dimmu Borgir's "best albums" rank, after "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" and "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant"; it shows evolution from the previous outputs, although not sounding completely different from the previous album; it's really well-written and inspired, both lyrically and musically; it sound very, very epic, and, all in all, it makes a really pleasant and interesting musical experience. Again, it's very different from traditional black metal, but that isn't a bad thing, as long as the music is enjoyable. Be open-minded and don't give credit to the unneeded hate surrounding this album, and you will be pleasantly surprised.