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Dimmu Borgir Death Cult Armageddon

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Monday, December 29, 2003 @ 3:42 PM


(Nuclear Blast)

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With Death Cult Armageddon, Norway’s Dimmu Borgir have pushed the envelope of darkness ever further by engaging the 46-piece Philharmonic Orchestra Prague to create music that is somewhere between Opera and Black Metal -- which is beautiful, amazing and as sensual as it is aggressive. Darkness remains enthroned triumphant within DCA, and Dimmu Borgir are as sonically pleasing and exciting as they ever were. Never mind changes in line-ups; Silenoz is the Steve Harris of DB and all the power and glory remain intact. Shagrath’s vocal prowess is both gritty and awesome, and backed with a choir over soaring crescendos of horns and strings, it is majestic. With this album, DB is either re-inventing its own sub-category of metal, or simply creating a whole new genre of music. Orchestral Black Metal? Black Classical? Whatever name it hangs beneath, one thing is certain: nothing can obfuscate the blazing power of rock within. It might well be heard on a classical station as well as metal-radio, which is not to suggest they have softened, but rather evolved …

Or continued to evolve. Take the opener, “Allegiance,” which clicks and whirs with industrial buzz, until drummer (Cradle Of Filth) Nick Barker’s thundering hooves kick up the bones of the vanquished as the charge begins into the song. A minute-twenty in, the headbanging begins in earnest, and it is full-throttle into the rock from here on out, with a symphony gloriously melted over it all.

Heavy, dark, punishing music steeped in poetic verse is this band’s forte, and without succumbing to self-parody, DB manages to eclipse their previous CDs by offering much aggression and bombast wrapped within the trappings of an unseen opera/nightmare. “Cataclysm Children” riffs out like a Ride The Lightning lost-track… and then there is this amazing keyboard break that smolders into leads and crushes back into itself -- a killer fucking song. There is just so much going on within this disc, each listen offering something new. Audio clips are sprinkled throughout: the sounds of flies buzzing; marching armies; chanting; sinister voices pronouncing evil, etc. “Unorthodox Manifesto” is pure power-riffing over monstrous drumming beneath a cloak of organ-keys, and a haunting choir chanting in the background.

But it is the standout tracks with The Philharmonic Orchestra that are far-and-away the reasons to hear this CD. The tracks “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” and “Eradication Instincts Defined” are beautiful and enigmatic, with lush sweeping arrangements that could have been lifted from the John Williams’ Star Wars score evoking Darth Vader (think the first Star Wars soundtrack) or “Klingons” from any Star Trek movie (Star Trek VI main title comes to mind). But for those who don’t care for such references, the point is: the bad guys are here -- and this is their theme.

DB masterfully blends everything together, and keeps it heavy and enthralling. Two of the tracks are in their native tongue, the blazing “Vredesbyrd” and, “Allehelgens Dod I Helveds Rike,” which features a beautiful piano-sonata with choristers in the midst of relentless thrashing rock; and both of which prove how intensely compelling this music is -- they could be singing about rainbows and puppies and it wouldn’t matter. (Well- Dimmu fans, take heart, they still sing the ‘evil’. )

How in Hell’s name are they ever going to top this? This is sheer perfection.
Amazing, amazing, amazing.

I love this band.

* * * * *


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