The once prolific-ish Dimmu Borgir, Norwegian black metal hegemonists, have taken quite some time to deliver a new studio record. Nearly eight years have passed since ‘Abrahadabra' but, finally, here we have 'Eonian', and people's patience has been rewarded with an epic, darkly atmospheric gem of symphonic metal grandeur that sees the band at their very strongest. Ironically, it sees them abandon the paradigmatic black metal modus operandi that's charatcerised much of their work over the years. This is progressive black metal, and introduces a degree of exhilarative innovation back into the genre that Dimmu helped define in the first place. While some might lament this departure, others will undoubtedly welcome the musical and mood-driven heterogeneity that characterises songs on 'Eonian'.
However, it's still reassuringly Dimmu Borgir, but succeeds in being refreshingly diverse, simultaneously. The stylistic palette from which they've forged their songwriting is more expansive than it’s ever been. While there’s enough Dimmu familiarity to satisfy their ardent followers, they've also diversified their creativity to incorporate all kinds of compositional quirks and divergences - through guitars; voices; a different take on choral infusions; and songs’ general arrangements. This is not to say they've abandoned their black metal roots entirely. Quite the contrary, in fact. Black metal idioms are firmly intact throughout, and burst forth sporadically, often in unexpected ways and hard-hitting when they do. Just take the frenetic tremolo-picked passages that punctuate 'Council of Wolves and Snakes'. In fact, although it’s difficult to select standout tracks from an all-round incredibly strong album, this particular one is utterly stunning through all of its diversely fused elements, shifts and transitions. Remarkable stuff!
Apparently, the core Dimmu trio - frontman Shagrath and guitarists Silenoz and Galder - have been composing for ‘Eonian’ as far back as 2012, so perhaps the long gestation period has led to the album’s diverse underpinnings. In fact, time itself is a central theme of the album; or, more specifically, the illusion of time. Kind of ironic then, I guess, that there’s been such a long gap between albums… it’s all illusory!
Another departure for Dimmu is that there’s no grand orchestral intro piece to open the album. Instead, there’s a dissonantly-defined passage that’s incorporated into the opening song. However, almost as if inverting their tried-and-tested album structure, the final piece, ‘Rite of Passage’, is a sonically epic instrumental that feels like a closure, of sorts; one that most definitely belongs at the end of the album.
Fleshing out the compositions alongside the band’s trio (for they have remained a trio, effectively, ever since the unamicable departure/firing of ICS Vortex and Mustis) are longtime session guys Daray on drums and keys guy Gerlioz, with Gaute Storaas assisting with the choral parts via the Schola Cantrum Choir. There’s no mention of a bassist in the press blurb issued with this promo, so I’m unsure who else might’ve been involved in the recordings. But, it must be said, the recordings themselves, production-wise, sound utterly magnificent. The main trio opted to produce themselves, with the ever-reliable, seemingly ubiquitous Jens Bogren engineering within the comfort of his own Fascination Street Studios.
So, then, twenty five years into the band’s existence (albeit with just two members intact since their inception) and Dimmu Borgir have delivered a career-best work. ‘Eonian’ is magnificent in every which way. And “every which way” is a more than apt phrase here, as they’ve taken their music in all kinds of different directions, while perpetuating what people have always loved about the band in the first place. The near-eight year wait has been worth it.
Review by Mark Holmes
4th May 2018
1) The Unveiling
2) Interdimensional Summit
4) Council of Wolves and Snakes
5) The Empyrean Phoenix
7) I Am Sovereign
8) Archaic Correspondence
9) Alpha Aeon Omega
10) Rite of Passage
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"While there’s enough Dimmu familiarity to satisfy their ardent followers, they've also diversified their creativity to incorporate all kinds of compositional quirks and divergences..."