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The End of an Era - 91%

MaDTransilvanian, May 19th, 2010

After three consecutive excellent albums, one wonders what the hell happened to Dimmu Borgir during that mid-era crisis that is most visible when looking at the utter incoherence of the whole of Spiritual Black Dimensions and the latter half of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. Released right before that first crisis album (SBD), Godless Savage Garden doesn’t provide much of an answer: it’s basically just as good as everything that came before it.

This EP contains the staple material for this kind of release: two new songs, two re-recordings, a cover and some live tracks. It’s just that, at 10 tracks with the re-issue and just under one hour, it’s pretty damn long for an EP. That should however not be read as a flaw, since most of the material here just plain rocks.

In terms of new tracks, Moonchild Domain opens up the EP with the usual Dimmu Borgir signature sound of streamlined black metal with a massive infusion of keyboards. This is basically the classic old-school Dimmu Borgir line-up, with the notable curiosity that Shagrath handles the keyboards here. His work is however exemplary, creating that epic atmosphere so inseparable from the early Dimmu Borgir sound. The guitar work on this particular song is great, with a technically impressive and long solo near the end, while Shagrath performs some amazingly good vocals. Chaos Without Prophecy, the longest track at over 7 minutes, is similar in terms of quality except perhaps a bit slower in terms of tempo. Another high-quality solo is inserted in the middle of the song, and the entire effort comes off as being sincere and impressive considering the band’s next few years of strangeness.

The re-recordings both hail from the band’s more Norwegian folk-inspired debut, For All Tid. These two tracks demonstrate the earlier Dimmu Borgir sound as a more contrasted mix of real black metal and more classical-sounding keyboards, made to resemble piano playing as much as possible. The main difference here, of course, is the vastly cleaner production job done. While the effort might indeed have removed a small part of the original versions’ authenticity, the new versions are pulled off with remarkable skill and they essentially remain true to what they were. Overproduced they are not. Of particular note here is the classic melodic track Raabjorn Speiler Draugheimens Skodde, likely the best track off the debut and an instant highlight both there and here.

Speaking of highlights, the next one is just around the corner: the extremely well chosen cover of Accept’s Metal Heart. While it might not have the original’s classic atmosphere, mad soaring chorus or general badass sound, this cover is a great song in its own right. The first thing one notices is that the aforementioned original atmosphere was replaced by a modern Dimmu Borgir high production-value sound, while the entire song has been given a black metal casing. The chorus is well performed by Shagrath but, again, it’s not as good as the original. The awesome leads and the solo during the song’s latter half are more audible here and their performance is excellent, but overall the original still has this beat. Still, the cover’s a worthy addition to the EP and a guaranteed highlight.

Finally comes the second half of this EP, consisting of the five live tracks. They’re of variable quality. The unrelenting highlight is definitely the rendition of the monumental Stormblåst title track. This live version is everything that such a track should be: without losing any of the original’s epic atmosphere or intricacy, the live setting renders the whole thing even more energetic and powerful, thanks in part to the production values. This is the kind of live album I want to hear and the kind of concert I want to see. The other four tracks are all taken from Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and, while great in terms of performance and atmosphere, tend to drag the EP on towards the end (four live songs off the same album is a bit too much). At least the Mourning Palace ending is strong as hell.

Looking back, this is one hell of an EP. Few actual flaws can be spotted here, except for the aforementioned slightly too large quantity of live tracks and the general annoyance (not directed to this release in particular) towards the band’s habit of naming all their releases with three seemingly randomly chosen words which rarely make a lot of sense when put together. I suppose Godless Savage Garden is the least bad in that category, since the idea makes sense, somewhat. In any case, this is truly a gem containing some of the best material that Dimmu Borgir ever recorded: it’s on par with the three preceding albums.