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Profane mistress, captor of sin. - 70%

Diamhea, February 22nd, 2014

Godless Savage Garden is a passable-enough EP that serves more importance as a historical precursor. Being the last Dimmu Borgir release to feature Aarstad on keyboards, the band's cryptic atmosphere would take a drastic turn afterward and never return to the grandeur of its earlier damp sorcery. In hindsight, the only reason you might actually care about this release is the inclusion of two tracks that are unique to itself: "Moonchild Domain", "Chaos Without Prophecy". Being the last two studio tracks to feature Aarstad's enigmatic synths, they serve as a bittersweet end cap along with embodying decent B-sides of Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. "Moonchild Domain" has a bit more of a fire lit under its ass, and features a few of the recondite hooks normally associated with Dimmu Borgir's oft-lauded 1997 release. The short melodic tails tacked on to the end of every measure sound wholly out of place for the band, but Aarstad's foreboding piano textures pull everything back together just when it begins to lose structure.

"Chaos Without Prophecy" is certainly the more interesting of the two from a compositional point of view, but this one does little for me personally. The keyboards sound garish and trite, much like the style Mustis would infect the band with starting on Spiritual Black Dimensions. Look to the riffs for most of the appeal, but even they can only do measured damage due to the thin guitar tone. The solo is a nice touch, but there is just not enough going on to justify a track length of seven minutes. The band found the need to include "Hunnerkongens Sorgsvarte Ferd Over Steppene" off of their debut and give it a more modern sheen here. This one always gets called "punky" but I certainly don't hear it. Being more riff-driven it certainly has an appeal, and hearing it competently played definitely helps (which apparently was a huge issue for the band on the debut). It doesn't overstay its welcome, features a decent gloomy mid-section, and resurrects some of the band's early atmosphere; cool.

My gut reaction upon seeing "Raabjørn Speiler Draugheimens Skodde" in the procession was "What, again?". There is actually a little history behind this one. While naturally being an early composition that appeared on For All Tid, it was re-recorded for Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. That version of the song (which is the same as here) was meant to be a bonus track, but due to some sort of oversight it appeared on every version of the album. As such, its inclusion here comes off as somewhat redundant in hindsight. Still, it is an absolutely sublime instrumentally-driven piece with sporadic bursts of distortion. The cover of Accept's "Metal Heart" is certainly an atypical decision on the part of the band, which earns them my respect at the very least. It is transposed well enough through Dimmu Borgir's distinctive somber style, but the constant refrain of "Metal heart!" during the chorus can be very tiring.

Finally, three live tracks featuring Mustis come along. "Stormblåst" and "In Death's Embrace" are obvious inclusions, but "Master of Disharmony" is a nice rare choice on the band's part. Since these keyboard arrangements were written by Aarstad, Mustis needs to do little but play in order to sell their esoteric brilliance. Shagrath also sounds otherworldly here in the live arena. I understand that he gradually moved away from this vocal style, but it really sells the aggression of the material here. As for the live mix, it tends to waft a bit regarding the drums and bass, but is passable otherwise. Not too bad, since the band was much more potent live without a wall of orchestrations swallowing up the performances.

For those fond of the band's sound circa-Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, Godless Savage Garden is essentially a must-have. For the rest of us? You can certainly do worse by Dimmu Borgir standards.