Dimmu Borgir

Eonian

Written by: RUB on 06/05/2018 16:42:04

After being pretty much dormant for almost eight years, the Norwegian symphonic black metallers Dimmu Borgir are back with their first full-length since 2010’s “Abrahadabra”. To me, Dimmu Borgir will always hold a special significance, as I still remember the intensity and massive symphonic soundscape they presented on 2001's “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”, and especially on 2003's “Death Cult Armageddon”, which I used to listen to back in my school days. They’ve always had a keen eye on writing destructive-sounding black metal, but have still managed to mix in the symphonic elements to such an extent that playing live with an entire orchestra suddenly doesn’t seem that odd, which they have also shown on several occasions. Ever since bassist and clean vocalist ICS Vortex left the band before the release of “Abrahadabra”, my initial interest in Dimmu Borgir has admittedly faded, as I thought he gave Dimmu Borgir the perfect amount of symphonic and melodic edge so as to make their music go from good to great, which, in my opinion, is probably best heard on 2007's “In Sorte Diaboli”. Now, as their tenth album “Eonian” has finally been released, I have been intrigued to find out how it would fare.

Compared to “Abrahadabra”, it would initially seem that Dimmu Borgir have taken a step towards the more melodic and downright catchy with “Eonian”, as the two songs (“Council of Wolves and Snakes” and “Interdimensional Summit”) that premiered before the album’s release have literally split the waters, being either ‘too poppy’ or ‘not sounding like Dimmu Borgir’ at all. Before I get ahead of myself though, the proceedings on “Eonian” start off with an eerie intro to “The Unveiling”, and I’m literally blown away by the sheer force of the drums, guitar, and symphonic elements that it features. I quickly think to myself, “Wow, this is exactly what Dimmu’ should sound like!” But then, the tempo is driven down to a minimalistic verse, with single-stroke drumming and frankly boring, single-key keyboards. It feels so out of place, and more like something you would expect to find on a Nightwish album — not at all how Dimmu Borgir tends to use the symphonic element to their greatest advantage. However, as the song evolves, the grandiose symphony does eventually unfold in the usual style, and even the haunting, choir-based chorus helps make this a great piece despite the few misfires.

The first single and second song of the album, “Interdimensional Summit”, sees Dimmu Borgir return to form with a huge symphonic presence, which is almost the trademark of this band. It doesn’t sound minimalistic at all, and although the melodic chorus takes some getting used to, I now find myself both humming along to the words, ”To the trained eye…” and the more punch-packing line, ”The silent seeker, the seer…”. This is a great track that contains everything I love about Dimmu Borgir and therefore, I don’t mind its being a bit more melodic than what we are used to hearing from the Norwegian constellation.

With the third track, “Ætheric”, the main focus returns back to black metal. The Satyricon-style main riff makes the song sound very malicious, with the march-like drumming strengthening that sensation. Again, however, we witness the band turning the tempo down and resorting to that single-key keyboard playing, which is an odd choice for a Dimmu Borgir song at least in my book. I would’ve loved to hear the song without this, as was the case with “The Unveiling”, as it ruins the entire song for me. And although both of the songs mentioned are pretty good besides this rather small hiccup, it still makes me wonder why that particular element is used so often, given that it does absolutely nothing good for any of the songs. The second single, “Council of Wolves and Snakes” is another decent song, but the tribal-style Indian chants just feel so out of place that they make me wonder what the band was thinking. The main riff quite eerie though, and coupled with the pounding drums, it could otherwise have been a very good track, I’m sure.

The first half of the album is definitely the best if you ask me, but overall I am just not blown away by this album in the way I was hoping. It has some good passages, maybe even some great passages at times, but too many times I’m puzzled by some of the choices the band has made with regard to how they transition from one section of a song to another. Instead of relying on what they do so amazingly well, namely the grandiose and at times majestic symphonic passages, they tend to go with a more minimalistic and often downright boring option instead. On several occasions, my mind wanders and the songs make me think of bands like the already mentioned Nightwish, which is just not what you want when listening to such a revered black metal outfit.

Before I finish this wall of text then, a few closing arguments must be made. When one compares Dimmu Borgir to the likes of Cradle of Filth, I’ve always thought that the former was the better band, having managed to combine and write heavy and even quite brutal tracks with symphonic and melodic elements in a crafty way. Take, for example, “The Serpentine Offering” off “In Sorte Diaboli”; perhaps it was ICS Vortex’s trade, but that melodic passage towards the end is simply mesmerizing, and stuff like that is simply not present on “Eonian”. On the one hand, it contains several songs that absolutely slay, as best seen with the start of “The Unveiling”. But on the other, when they mix in the symphonic elements, it often falls short of what you’re used to hearing from the Norwegians, and as a result, the songs are not interesting, imaginative or impressive enough to fill the massive shoes left by albums like “In Sorte Diaboli”. They do succeed at times, and many of the songs have some really good riffs and such, and which contain those majestic soundscapes that every Dimmu Borgir fan adores. But as a whole, the album lacks that special something to make it as memorable as some of the band’s earlier works.

Download: Interdimensional Summit, Ætheric, The Unveiling, Lightbringer, I am Sovereign
For the fans of: Cradle of Filth, Septicflesh, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Carach Angren
Listen: Facebook

Release date 04.05.2018
Nuclear Blast

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