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A product from the start - 5%

doomknocker, August 12th, 2014

As years go by, I find it harder and harder to reconcile Dimmu Borgir's level of legitimacy within the greater black metal scene construct. Before they exploded around '97 or so they were just sorta there, also-ran wallflowers keen on making enough noise to be noticed amidst the fawning for the greater and more important bands, very "little brother seeking approval from his elder siblings" in approach. The whole bulk of the act and their antics back then reeked not so much of "poseur" as "wannabe", as kids are wont to (they WERE kids when the band was formed, of course); black metal was dark, mysterious, and big in their neck of the woods, and all they wanted was to take the field as well. Of course, post-explosion that very same belief comes into play as their rise to worldwide stardom (within reason...) came at the price of whatever stylistic dignity they had left, but that's all been well chronicled at this point. But if you ask me, their level of genuineness was suspect even during their earliest of days, and even in spite of that I gave their debut album "For all tid" a run for its (and my) money. And let me tell you, it ain't good. Or real, for that matter...

This isn't by any means a well-performed album at all. This is about as sloppy and unkempt as Dimmu's EVER sounded, coming off less as a cohesive album and more like a professionally recorded rehearsal tape, a smattering of ideas and concepts they'd been toying with. The fact that something this demo-like was a signed and released legit full length in the first place is cause for concern as is, and as a result of that and the iffy level of playing much of the musical output is hard to take in and appreciate. It really does feel like the band was just winging it during the production process with no sense of heart or soul during their escapades; just hit record, let's do this and be done with it. Maybe if they put a little more effort into sounding like a real band with real aspirations versus some guys with instruments making an album this wouldn't be as bad as it comes off as. Then again, maybe not...

As well, the songwriting itself was already showing the problematic limitations Dimmu's been unfortunately bogged down with, namely the middle-of-the-road pacing, the replacing of bitter anger and rage black metal teems with with that odd sense of sorrow and remorse this, "Stormblast" and portions of "Enthrone..." would contain and, worst of all, the insistent repeating of riffs and ideas with no realistic sense of building progression. But then again, it really seems hard to soak up the atmospherics the band made their bread and butter even back then with such a significant lack of real keyboard lines. Now I'm not gonna say that Mr. Stian Aarstad is a veritable Chopin on his electric ivories, but you'd think a dude with synths as grandiose as his appeared to be would do more than simply bash single notes or double-octive chords in accordance to the guitar riffs, especially since we get a literal face-load of his skills during "Det nye riket". It definitely feels very out-of-character for what the band would strive for in the years to come. Truly, if folks out there getting into Dimmu with their later outputs (like, say, "Spiritual Black Dimensions") gave this doozy a spin many a confounded head would be scratched. .

One could point to the weak songwriting and disengaged performance as to the biggest factors of this album's ultimate failure, but I'd like to think that the actual line-up itself played a pretty significant part. As we all know, this was the album in which the line-up was kinda mixed around, with Silenoz taking lead vocals (and doing some WEIRD voices all throughout) and Tjodalv on guitar, but most glaring of all is future front-dude Shagrath tackling the drumwork, to which I question such a motive and action; I know the dude comes off as a multi-instrumentalist, but up against the more talented likes of Ihsahn and Abbath his skills on said instruments are elementary at best, be it guitar, keys or, worst of all, drums. For his one-time appearance behind the kit Shaggers was a horrifically shitty drummer, barely able to keep a beat let alone unleash the blasting the heavier sections required, and the rest of the group suffered for it. Every once in a which a sudden increase or decrease in speed would result in everyone working on the fly to keep it all together (the cringe-inducing clean yowling section at the start of "Over bleknede blaner til dommedag" is the best example of this. Give it a listen and prove me wrong.). Under-rehearsed, underwritten, just plain UNDER in just about every aspect. Thus is this album's biggest sin.

But in the end this just doesn't feel like a true and blue black metal album so much as a grainy photocopy of a style made to fit in and look cool. It has all the prerequisites and expectations of what a black metal band/album is supposed to have and shoot for, but there's no heart, no soul, no nothing that made them stand out in the crowd. I found more legitimacy with the likes of Ancient than Dimmu Borgir, even at their worst. Partake only if you're a sucker for gallows humor.