Dimmu Borgir - Spiritual Black Dimensions
Nuclear Blast
Symphonic Black Metal
10 songs (54:21)
Release year: 19999
Dimmu Borgir, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Tyler
Archive review

Every so often, an album of totally respectable quality becomes completely overshadowed by the monstrous releases that precede and follow it. Ok, So Far, So Good…So What? is the only one that really comes to mind right now, but I’m sure if I was running on a few more hours of sleep than I am right now, I’d be able to think of a few more good examples. Aside from, of course, the focus of this little review, Spiritual Black Dimensions by Dimmu Borgir. Released in 1999, the album was the follow-up to the band’s massive 1997 breakthrough, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. It is the band’s first album with keyboardist/composer Mustis, who would perform on the band’s next three albums as well. It was also the first album to feature ICS Vortex’s excellent clean vocals; he has a guest spot in four of the album’s songs. It was the first and only album to feature Astennu on lead guitars, and the last album to feature Tjodalv and Nagash on drums and bass, respectively. On the band’s next album, Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, ICS Vortex would quit Borknagar and join Dimmu as the band’s bassist and clean vocalist, Galder from Old Man’s Child took over on lead guitars, and Nicholas Barker of Cradle of Filth fame would take up his seat behind the band’s drum kit. It was on Puritanical that Dimmu truly began its ascent to the mainstream of metal, a climb which would climax with the hugely successful Death Cult Armageddon, its unforgettable single Progenies of the Great Apocalypse, and a headlining spot on Ozzfest. On the albums that followed Spiritual, the band would shed nearly all of its black metal trappings, instead opting to make blackened symphonic metal using an actual orchestra and albums that sounded more professional than any Norwegian band had yet dared. Many fans were subsequently won, and many were lost, but nevertheless the band became (and remains) the biggest band to emerge from the 90’s metal scene.

But enough band history, for Spiritual Black Dimensions is an album that deserves more recognition that it has been given, and I must talk about it. While not as immediate as Enthrone Darkness Triumphant or as massive sounding as Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, Spiritual is in fact simultaneously the band’s heaviest and most atmospheric work. This is due, in large part, to Mustis’s keyboard work. While not as catchy or memorable as Stian Aarstad’s work with the band, Mustis’s playing is much more complex, classically- influenced, and atmospheric. From the opening chords of Reptile and through every single finger-twisting keyboard bit, he makes damn sure that you know that a new man is tickling the ivories. Putting it another way: Mustis tore shit up on Spiritual Black Dimensions. The man truly was a great addition to Dimmu’s lineup; admit it or not, they will miss his incredible abilities. The gorgeous introduction to The Promised Future Aeons and the first few moments of Dreamside Dominions are nothing short of breathtaking. And speaking of new members who performed on Spiritual Black Dimension, ICS Vortex and Astennu both put in great performances here. ICS Vortex is one of my favorite clean vocalists in all of extreme metal, and he does not disappoint here. His vocals on unsung classics like Reptile and The Insight and the Catharsis were precursors to the massive, heaven-shattering vocal spots that were to come on songs like The Sacrilegious Scorn and Kings of the Carnival Creation. As much as I adore Galder, I have to give some praise to Astennu; he delivers some of the most memorable and ripping guitar solos in Dimmu history. In particular, his solo in the closing moments of album highlight Dreamside Dominions is one of those examples of “the perfect solo at the perfect time”.

Musically, this is one of the band’s darkest and heaviest albums of their career. There are blast-beats in nearly every song, and there are a number of instances where the riffing fits squarely into death metal. However, this musical heaviness combined with the beautiful keyboard playing of Mustis creates an interesting atmosphere that isn’t necessarily there in some of the band’s later albums. However, a good portion of the songs lack the immediate impact of some of the band’s more popular tunes (Mourning Palace, Progenies, The Serpentine Offering), and a few meander about at times. Lyrically, this album fits very squarely into the typical Satan-worship that many of Silenoz’s lyrics have revolved around. As the album’s title would suggest, the lyrics focus particularly on the arcane, spiritual, and philosophical sides of Satanism, and as far as Satanic lyrics go, these are as strong as anything Silenoz has done.

Ultimately, Spiritual Black Dimensions may not be as flashy as Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia or as classic as Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, but it is nonetheless a spectacular albeit overshadowed addition to this vital band’s discography. In fact, in my book, Reptile, Dreamside Dominions, and The Insight and the Catharsis stand as some of the best songs that the band has ever written. This is one of the band’s strongest albums in regards to riffs and atmosphere, and the additions of Mustis and ICS Vortex provided a preview of the unashamed grandeur that was to come. In fact, this album shows a band bursting out of its skin. This is the last album by the band that I can call, in good faith, “black metal”, and I do so with trepidation. Spiritual is bursting with more classical atmosphere and modern riffery than black metal was created to handle. Some were disillusioned when the band went “mainstream” with their future albums, but the fact is, just as thrash metal proved itself unable to contain the likes of Metallica, black metal proved to small for Dimmu Borgir’s visions, and this album was when the band reached critical mass.

Killing Songs :
All, but Reptile, Dreamside Dominions, and The Insight and the Catharis are particular standouts
Tyler quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Dimmu Borgir that we have reviewed:
Dimmu Borgir - Eonian reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 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
Dimmu Borgir - In Sorte Diaboli reviewed by Dylan and quoted 79 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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