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prometeus, November 22nd, 2015

I once thought this was their best album, given the many performers' highlights. Now, I believe this was when their sound matured, and the experimentation was at its highest and at its best usage. In fact, after this album, everything this band has done was just refining their compositional skills and integrating their newest members, when the situation presented itself. The first success of this recipe came in 1998 is this release, which saw Astennu's and Mustis' songwriting debuts.

First, I need to say something about the two (then) newbies' tenure in the band. While the dispute between the Borgirs and Mustis has left me stone cold, there is something I never liked at these guys. Some may think they are cool dudes, open minded and even some sort of Motley Crue clones of black metal regarding partying, but they have some sort of revisionist tendencies when it comes to their history. Of course - your band, your decisions, your mess, and your success, but being assholes is just being assholes! This album (and partly, its successor) shows clearly how much did the two now ex-members contribute to the process of making this album. Astennu was the "death metal guy", while Mustis, the classical trained one, and it's not O.K. to claim after their exits that they really didn't do shit!

The opener, The Promised Future Aeons, Dreamside Dominions, The Insight and the Catharsis (not cool that they don't play this song anymore!), and a couple more show how incredibly talented is Mustis. People complain that he overuse the keys and is to pompous or that he tries to be as evil as possible, but the fact is he steals the show, and the band loved his ideas. Indeed, the blackness and harshness were sacrificed a bit, in order to let his contributions breath, and the dynamic between the piano lines and quite death metal-esque riffs managed to keep things interesting. Added to that, Shagrath's vocals were the most dramatic and natural they've ever been or would be, as the screams are more impressive and selective in their appearance; clearly, a very good performance, if only for the right usage of the right technique for his vocal register.

Astennu, as said, had a big contribution to the sound, making this band effort seem more like a symphonic blackened death metal one, and it worked! There is no incredible sophistication in the riff department, but compared to the previous effort, the blend between genres and influences is more homogenous, but not to the point of everything sounding like a repetitive mess. EDT did not have that feeling, but it was way too chaotic structured as a whole, and the balance between the guitar riffs and the keyboard ones fluctuated a lot from one song to another. Spiritual Black Dimensions, however, has a solid foundation, baring little flows. Some are a few guitar riffs, notably where the keys tend to dominate, but Astennu saves the day with his dramatic solos, some almost just licks, while others, a display of incredible skills and imagination.

The rest of the band fairs well, with Silenoz finally stepping out as a vocalist (he still sang on two tracks from EDT - I'll let you figure out which is the second one). His rhythm playing is tight, but rarely gets a thumbs-up, as he doesn't stand out as much as Astennu. Nagash's bass is extremely low in the mix, an unpleasant fact, since he was about to leave the band. His contribution was more obvious and larger on the previous effort, but here, you might here some additional vocals from him. It's a shame that the band let him go and never attempted to bring him back, as Vortex will never be as good of a composer as he was for Dimmu, who need someone like him.

Tjodalv was the old school black metal drummer in this band, and this is shown when he tried fast blast beating (he sucks here, by the way). I believe if he hadn't been fired (yes, he was fired!), he would have become a great drummer in Dimmu Borgir, not in Susperia or elsewhere. Just see the live gig at the March Metal Meltdown (his second last with the band), where you can judge his performance with a better sound than the mess on this album. His performance here was castrated by the production and you can barely hear the bass drums. I think he deserves some redemption with the urgent remixing of the album.

Lyrically speaking, some say that the band opted for incomprehensible words, others, for a gothic theme, but the signs of maturity reached this department as well. The best example is The Insight and the Catharsis, pretty satanic stuff, without the demons and devils which plagues enough metal bands from this crappy planet. The lyrics depict clear evidence of a found identity, where the occult and the satanic philosophy would influence Silenoz in the future to establish a direction of writing and for the band as a distinct entity.

Concluding, this effort would serve as a template of sorts for what was to come, even if it was not as developed as the follow-ups. The fact that again, almost half of band would leave afterwards proves how much of a stepping stone was this album for them, as they finally believed they had a future with Dimmu Borgir, and nothing could stay in their way, but themselves. As for the rest of us, the listeners, if the production is not off-putting and if the piano can be tolerated in a metal band, then this is listenable.

P.S. This album was previously reviewed in august 2008, and was my first one on this web-site, but I deleted it without any logical reason. It's still my favorite album from Dimmu, though...