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Of Romance and Wretched Agony - 85%

TowardsMorthond, June 18th, 2012

In the feverish passion of the romantic spirit, Dimmu Borgir capitalize on the core beauty of black metal by emphasizing its melodic and atmospheric qualities, with progressions dictated by the flow of the music’s melodies, presenting an idealistic form of poetically evocative black metal. Portraying epic splendor in vivid atmospheric imagery of grand mountains surrounding gothic castles beyond vast forestlands, Dimmu Borgir use keyboards with as much significance to the music as guitars to illuminate the music’s expression of beauty, which, along with piano and guitar melodies, harmonizes the contrast of violent rhythm and evil vocals through the resolution awarded by descriptive, story-tale composition.

This composition as being the definition of metal songwriting is here indulged with an elegiac depth which manifests the grandeur and adventure of living in the awareness and acceptance of inevitable death, with frequent dramatic transitions in rhythm marked by an isolated riff or keyboard passage, guiding the listener into another scene of existence in which the range of possibility is indefinable, yet intuited in the understanding of the nature of universal forces.

Though structure is often complex in the style of progressive rock sectioning merged with classical sequence of dramatic events, riff patterns are a basic black metal stream of ambiguous flowing rhythmic melody, with varying degrees of extension based on the requirements of the particular thematic representation, with occasional clean tones and acoustic guitars used to provide depth in resonant tone. Reflective of this idea is the phrasing of vocals, which are mostly the shrill shriek or trollish croak of black metal, with dramatic narrative and heroically melancholic singing added for expressive diversity to accommodate the musical theatre, each style arranged to both add communicative urgency to rhythm and to enhance the music’s atmospheric mood with tormented human emotion in the act of transcendence into the universal.

The rhythmic movement of this music is fluid while maintaining a peculiar equilibrium of roughness and graceful motion, with adequate drumming directing tempo with a slightly understated presence in the music, particularly during faster passages, and a prominent bass guitar adding undertones of melodic bass lines, especially effective during slower sections where these lines are easily discernible between drum beats and in the spaces between riff phrases. Though the production is raw and unbalanced in favor of guitars and keyboards, the music’s presence is vivid and far-reaching, with just enough rhythmic force to keep the sound from drifting astray into the netherworlds of pure ambiance. Affection for folkloric significance to modern existence and the imagination awakened through ancient legend inspires the lyrical direction, translated musically with the appeal to dramatic experience in the form of unexpected alterations in mood and development, in the interest of creating a soundworld defined by the inflamed passion of the spectrum of melancholic and violent dark emotion. This dramatic quality elevates the music beyond its creative impulse into a stimulus for full, unrestrained living in the face of artificially constructed consequences; the music wants the listener to become overwhelmed with the inspiration to feel life deeply and painfully through actions that intensify the reality of existence in the heart of the individual.

Flowing through these songs are romantic riffs and folk melodies generated by guitars and keyboards, but also echoed in the rhythmic motion, as melody defines cadence on this album in a way that emphasizes black metal’s romanticism. Strikingly beautiful passages contrast sections of aggressive violent attack, and then unite to demonstrate the universal harmony of light and dark, and while this is not always carried out in the full conception of the band’s intention due to a few songs sounding incomplete in their finality, when it gels it does so with profound resonance. Clearly, Dimmu Borgir have learned a thing or two from Emperor, and though not nearly as majestic, instrumentally proficient, or compositionally articulate as that band, they certainly have a talent for bringing grandiloquent visions to life within the stylistic context in a way that captivates and inspires. It does this through a high level of melodic and atmospheric awareness within structures designed to build up to moments of emotional climax, the quality of which is the sublime glory of looking out over a brilliant landscape from a cliff edge, the noble sorrow of defeat in honorable confrontation, and the rage of violence in the heat of vengeful justice.

When Dimmu Borgir’s music is allowed the transitional and dynamic patience and concentration, and the attention to structure necessary to realize the depth of its power and beauty, it reaches such glorious heights that can produce truly transcendent results, but there is a rushed feeling to some of these tracks that diminishes the album’s potential as an entirety, meaning that its moments of excellence are inconsistently presented. Though not exactly originators of this style of flowing melodic and romantically atmospheric black metal, Dimmu Borgir have built upon the foundation laid by bands like Emperor and Immortal to offer an album of beautiful music that as a first result of their creative inspiration is impressive and overflowing with potential for greatness.