Dimmu Borgir - In Sorte Diaboli
Nuclear Blast
Symphonic Black Metal
9 songs (42:46)
Release year: 2007
Dimmu Borgir, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Dylan
Major event
Whether you feel like laughing at their over-the-top theatrics, scoffing at their huge, over-produced sound, or damning them for the accessibility of their symphonic black metal style, you have to admit that these guys put a huge amount of work into what they do. Lauded by some for the epic, melodic, and aggressive qualities of their music, they have also managed to draw some spiteful scorn from those who feel they are a cheap and easily accessible form of black metal. In Sorte Diaboli is the ninth (counting the Stormblåst re-issue) and newest addition to their diverse catalogue, and is somewhat of a step away from Death Cult Armageddon; which those who wish to see the band take a less symphonic approach should count as a step forward. While this isn’t really a contender for album of the year, doesn't top past albums like Enthrone Darkness Triumphant or Puritanic Euphoric Misanthropia and won’t win over many newcomers, it is definitely a well-put together slab of big-budget black metal that any fan of the band should be proud to own.

To start things off, the sound of this record is straight-up massive. Fredrik Nordström was turning the knobs on this one, and it is among his best work, production-wise. The guitars sound crisp and razor-sharp, the drums (which are handled by Hellhammer of Mayhem fame), are up-front and punishing, and the keyboard sounds fantastic. Shagrath’s vocals are loud and raspy, but are also heard going through synthetic modification numerous times throughout the album, which becomes distracting as the disc spins on. It’s safe to say that the keyboard and symphonic elements take a back seat to the roaring guitars and pounding drums on the album, acting like reinforcements to add some extra meat on the bones of the band. The fact that the keyboards, choir vocals and other non-traditional instruments are used sparingly make them that much more effective, as opposed to having them compete with the rest of the band for musical dominance.

The Serpentine Offering and The Fallen Arises are really the only two songs where strings and brass are a dominant force in the song structure. This is a big plus when it is used to the fantastic effect as heard in the former, combining with the metallic fury to create an opening track that is brimming with orchestral might and thick heaviness. This is the type of song that is a vivid aural representation of what it must sound like when there is an army of ve demons approaching you. It also features the shimmering vocals of bassist ICS Vortex, which seems to guarantee the awesomeness of whatever song he decides to use them on. Using an echoing, chorus effect on his already majestic voice makes the contrast between him and the much harsher voiced Shagrath even more dynamic. This is used to great effect in The Sacrilegious Scorn, which also boasts a nice mid-tempo groove in the chorus. Another standout track is The Fundamental Alienation, which is a contender for the heaviest song on the album. It has an anthemic chorus, and features a deep, bellowing growl from Shagrath that is not used in any other song on the album.

To be sure, this album is not without it’s faults. It's quite short for a concept album, clocking in at over 40 minutes. Compare that to some of the band’s past work, which usually exceeded an hour and gave the album a more epic feeling as a whole, and you have a work that feels more complete. Like many albums, the final track can’t seem to measure up to the killers that preceded it, and left me feeling a bit disappointed when the final beat was blasted and the last riff was picked. The Fallen Arises is a moody interlude that seems like it was placed at the mid-point of the album to give the listener a short two minute break, or possibly to give the album a bit more atmosphere. Unfortunately, it just ends up sounding too forced and seems like a filler track the album could have survived without. The killer songs here have some really cool moments, and while the other songs are well-executed and fit within the album’s context, they are just sort of … “there”, not really exhibiting any traits that make them stick out from the rest. Having said that, this IS a concept album and needs to be listened to in it’s entirety to get the full effect.

Before all you raw black metal fans search for something to impale me with, keep in mind that I use the genre tag “black metal” very loosely here. This is metal to be sure, however: it’s not depressing, it couldn’t be accurately described as “brutal”, it doesn’t really give off a cold atmosphere, it has a pristine production, and some of the songs are really catchy. However, there seems to be no shortage of bands in the metal underground that fit the narrow characteristics of “true” black metal, so I continue to respect Dimmu Borgir for progressing as musicians and songwriters, while still maintaining to retain some of their old blackened traits. If I could describe this album in one breath, I would say it’s somewhat of a combination between the re-recording of Stormblåst and Puritanic Euphoric Misanthropia. Like them or not, these guys have added another notch in their brand of metal which is sure to please those who don’t expect to get something the band hasn’t ever aimed to give.

Note: Below is the video for "The Serpentine Offering". In time the video may become outdated and fail to play.

Killing Songs :
The Serpentine Offering, The Chosen Legacy, The Sacrilegious Scorn, The Fundamental Alienation and The Invaluable Darkness.
Dylan quoted 79 / 100
Other albums by Dimmu Borgir that we have reviewed:
Dimmu Borgir - Eonian reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Dimmu Borgir - Spiritual Black Dimensions reviewed by Tyler and quoted 88 / 100
Dimmu Borgir - Abrahadabra reviewed by Tyler and quoted 87 / 100
Dimmu Borgir - Gateways (Single) reviewed by Tyler and quoted no quote
Dimmu Borgir - The Invaluable Darkness DVD reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
To see all 9 reviews click here
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