The Rickety Old Shack

Dimmu Borgir — Eonian

album cover

After a lengthy, 8-year hiatus, Norweigan symphonic black metallers Dimmu Borgir are back with a new full-length studio album. Despite the black metal genre's recent explosion, and subsequent splintering into sundry offshoots — depressive, atmospheric, post- and regionally folk-influenced — Dimmu Borgir never seem to catch a break for their dabbling in outside genres. Even harkening back to the days of Stormblåst, there was a strong contingent of detractors maligning the band for their heavy use of synths and keyboards. While none of this criticism seems to have discouraged the band, it has nonetheless failed to dissipate despite the strength of the band's ensuing discography.

I first came across Dimmu Borgir by way of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, after a fellow writer at an old web-zine gave the album a glowing review. I was thoroughly convinced, ordered the album online despite having heard precisely none of it, and was blown away when I received the physical CD in the mail. Since then, I've been a huge fan of the group, and have enjoyed the subsequent albums that followed my introduction. Each record kept one foot firmly planted in the core black metal sound, while expanding the production quality and song-writing depth. It wasn't just that the Dimmu Borgir were remaking the same general concept since 1993's Inn I Evighetens Mørke, the material was evolving in scope and nuance with each iteration.

The core elements of black metal aren't very numerous, and Dimmu Borgir has dialed them back in recent years as they've incorporated more orchestral and non-metal elemets into their material. There is still a underlying tone of darkness and nihilism, though the studio polish and increased emphasis on melodic psssages and anthemic refrains has certainly taken some of their edge off. Eonian is still a very heavy record, though it also features a lot of studio polish and hews much more towards the symphonic side than any of the band's prior work. That said, I'm not surprised whatsoever by this and can't summon any empathy for anyone who feels 'disappointed' by this album.

Dimmu Borgir have never been a kvlt black metal band, there has been no betrayal of any dorky scene ideals — they are the same band they've always been. The real change has been the band's evolution as song writers, and the increased quality and capability of their audio production. There are plenty of other no-frills, stripped-down, black metal bands who record grainy-sounding demos on sunburnt cassette tapes — I see no reason to hold Dimmu Borgir to a standard which has never applied. The marked reduction in intensity over the years is understandable, as the material has grown to include the symphonic elements as more than just an additional layer to otherwise guitar-driven songs.

There are a lot of clean and group and clean singing, and Eonian easily features the least wretched vocals of any Dimmu Borgir album, though I find it gives the instances where they appear additional weight. There is still plenty of tremolo picking and double-bass drum fury to keep this album firmly in the 'metal' category, it's just woven into a framework more reliant on melody and deep grooves than all-out brutality. What Eonian lacks in raw intensity, it more than makes up for by presenting the band's most complete compositions to date. Eonian is a welcome addition to the band's catalogue. For those who enjoyed Abrahadabra, this record should be well received, likewise those wanting to delve into the black metal genre but are turned off by it's more caustic sonic elements. The closing track, "Rites Of Passage" was a nice surprise in that it was an instrumental — something I'm always happy to hear on a metal record.

Summary

Nearly a decade after Abrahadabra, Dimmu Borgir drop 10 tracks of their now trademarked symphonic black metal sound. This is easily the band's most melodic offering to date, though far from a mainstream pop album. Eonian features a refined, precision heaviness intermingled with orchestral arrangements and a strong dose of keyboards. Dimmu Borgir have always had an epic, anthemic quality to their material and this album continues in that vein, though with a maturity gleaned from the 8 years since the band's last studio album. Unless your requirements for black metal are at odds with strong production values and heavy doses of melody, this album is worth a look. And if you're not into black metal, Eonian is a good place to start without being overwhelmed by the genre's more discouraging qualities.

Album Information

Release date: May 4th, 2018
Record label: Nuclear Blast Records

Shagrath — vocals, bass, keyboards, orchestral arrangements, effects
Galder — lead guitar, bass
Silenoz — rhythm guitar, bass
Daray — drums
Gerlioz — keyboards, additional orchestral arrangements

Track Listing

  1. The Unveiling
  2. Interdimensional Summit
  3. Ætherlic
  4. Council Of Wolves And Snakes
  5. The Empyrean Phoenix
  6. Lightbringer
  7. I Am Sovereign
  8. Archaic Correspondance
  9. Alpha Aeon Omega
  10. Rite Of Passage (instrumental)

Link: NuclearBlast.de

—by Derek

Published: August 15th, 2018.