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Decent Beginning, More or Less. - 72%

woeoftyrants, April 10th, 2007

Dimmu Borgir were certainly a different entity in their early days. No one now could call their music black metal by a long stretch, and even though For All Tid is very naive and undernourished in its full presentation, it shows a very different side of the band that may not be totally black metal by standard definition, but is definitely Norwegian. Before they became the international poster boys of extreme metal, Dimmu Borgir were just a group of guys who took to making rough, but atmospheric Norwegian metal.

For those who may have not heard early Dimmu before, you're in for a surprise. The production on this album is a far cry from the polished sound they now; instead, it's a suitably dry and hollow mix, with heavily reverbed vocals and thin, buzzing guitars. It's hard on the ears at first, but its charm eventually does grow on the listener and helps things out in the long run. After all, it is a debut album, so there's some natural growing room for just about everything. The biggest difference, however, is the music itself: primitive but atmospheric metal that is only defined as black metal by the vocals. Everything here has a very Gothic and yet folkish flair here, as illustrated in the heavy use of synthesizers here. There is a definite natural Norwegian element to this album, almost a nocturnal and melancholy atmosphere. It could be the entire use of Norse language for the lyrics, somewhat cheap-sounding but ghostly keyboards, or the power-chord driven riffs that echo of the old-school black metal wave. The band's skills as musicians and composers were clearly underwhelming; the drums remain on the edge of sloppy throughout, the keyboards only playing what the guitars play, the vocals coming off as a hoarse and underdeveloped croak, and the very typical and predictable song structures are a definite throwback to the vast scope of even what we would see on Stormblast.

Though the guitars are painfully simple in their approach, there are some fairly good rhythm passages; "Glittertind" has near-aggressive sections driven by fast picking accented by folkish leads, and both the slow, soft title track and "Den Gjemte Sannhets Hersker" feature highly atmospheric solos. "Hunnerkongens," which would be re-recorded, shows the more metal side of the band with a more upbeat tempo with charging riffs. There are a lot of clean-picked passages, and even some acoustic guitars to add more homeland flair to the sound. Other than that, it's power chords all the way. Which is forgivable, as the band was young and was unsure of their instrumental skills.

Brynjard Tristan's bass sticks out quite a bit in the mix here, which is very much a good thing. Sometimes he'll accent the more powerful passages by following the guitars, or he'll strike off on his own and weave some lines around the existing parts, creating a rich, warm atmosphere. This is best seen on the beginning of the title track; the guitars softly pluck at minor chords, while the bass plays a lower octave of the same thing. It may not seem like much, but it helps to wrap the listener in the dusk-like feeling of the song.

Stian's keyboards are what create the atmosphere here; it's pretty crude in production, sometimes adding a cheap-sounding wall of sound to the existing problem of underproduction. But for the most part, cheese factors aside, the keyboards create a very open atmosphere that could only come from Norway. The cover art can best explain it; it's like seeing wide open fjords and mountains, and entering a vast castle, where melancholy takes the role. All of this can be summed up in "Den Gjemte Sannhets Hersker," where a 4-chord sequence repeats itself over an almost tear-jerker solo. "Det Nye Ricket" sets the standard for the rest of the keyboards on the album, which wash and drone their way through gothic chord progressions, the occasional folk instrument, and quasi-classical pianos.

As previously mentioned, the drums are really nothing special. There's some pretty driving double bass on "Glittertind," and the occasional mid-paced blast beat. Otherwise, it's fairly tepid timekeeping that is too out in the air for its own good. The beats aren't really consistent, and it's clear to see that there are some struggles are staying in time with the metronome. But, again, this can be somewhat forgivable due to a general lack of experience. Furthermore, most bands in the genre only use the drums for the sake of being "there." The problem is, the drums use a fairly good, kettle-like sound; maybe too good, and too obvious in the production.

The vocals are really one of the bigger negative aspects. Silenoz definitely wasn't ready to step up to the mic; "Under Korpen's Vinger" is almost painful to listen to with its grating, nasally vocals, which stay at the foreground of the mix. Later songs do get better thankfully, with the title track being one of the smoother, more tolerable things to listen to. And to further this paragraph, I'll say that the clean vocals on track 3 are definitely an acquired taste, and will probably cause many to hit the skip button with urgency. So, beware of Norse opera singers...

All qualms aside, it isn't a bad album. Dimmu showed themselves competently on this album, and though it's incredibly undernourished, the atmosphere given off beats out the lack of skill in musicianship.

Favorite tracks: "For All Tid," "Raabjorn Speiler Draugheimens Skodde," "Den Gjemte Sannhets Hersker."