The three and a half years that have passed since their latest release, "In Sorte Diaboli", have not been on the lazy side for Dimmu Borgir. It has more resembled a sope-opera, with accusations, fights, members joining and leaving, and mostly, somewhere in the distance, the somewhat distant idea of recording a new album.
You would think that all this distraction would have caused the core of the band; Silenoz, Galder and Shagrath, to lose hope and focus, but apparently not. For not only does the band match up to the expectations, but they exceed them. After all, after the (in my ears) rather weak preceeding album, I was unsure whether they would be able to pull off a better one that would be able to catch my attention.
It starts off slow and powerful with Xibir. Tuvan throat singing, choirs and strings are used to create a landscape of terrifying beauty. We then plunge in to the merciless riffs of Born Treacherous, which immediately sets the standard for the album. Dark riffs, blast beats, epic harmonies and basically everything that Dimmu Borgir stands for.
Gateways gives us a guest-appearance from the harsh vocal abilities of Agnete Kjølsrud, and the last minute of this song could be the most powerful piece of music the band has ever produced. It makes me want to stand with my arms far from my body, like some sort of messiah, preaching my gospel of destruction. Empowering.
The song that stands out the most on the album would have to be "Dimmu Borgir". Not only for its name, but also for its rather ironic way of not sounding like Dimmu Borgir at all, given a melodic, orchestral theme and parts that could have been ripped from the latest Nightwish-album.
This goes on for most part of the album. Every song has something new to offer to the Dimmu Borgir sound, and Shagrath never fails to take his chances of experimenting with vocal styles, incorporating voices never before heard from the abyss of his chest. Bravo!
Overall, it seems to me that the guys really had a good time making this album. The song writing is creative and hungry, but perhaps a bit too hungry. I would agree that close to all parts in all songs are great, but the construction of songs could have been done much better. There is sometimes a great lack of coherence in the songs' structure, making me tighten my fist when the first minute of Renewal, after a great (maybe the bands first?) guitar solo, changes tempo and complete feel. Why?
For this album, the band chose to break its long time band with Studio Fredman, and seek refuge in England with producer Andy Sneap. Andy has managed to do a good job, mostly in adding a more natural drum sound, and one of the best bass-sounds I've ever heard in this kind of music.
However, the clash of elements between the band and the orchestra can sometimes be rendered to the level of only hearing drums and orchestra. When the guitar is banished to sit in the corner of your speakers to sob a bit while the big orchestra-bully eats his lunch, it feels like you yourself has been robbed of you egg-rolls. I want fierce might to breed from the mating of these elements, and the best way to get there is mutual place in my ears. And by the way, the throat singing in the end ties neatly to the intro. Nicely done.