The tormented souls of operatic Norwegian black-metal band Dimmu Borgir are, like many groups that spawned from the apocalyptic wasteland of the post-Venom era Northern European music scene, ostensibly gimmicky. But really, they’re just undeniably badass.
The tormented souls of operatic Norwegian black-metal band Dimmu Borgir are, like many groups that spawned from the apocalyptic wasteland of the post-Venom era Northern European music scene, ostensibly gimmicky.
But really, they’re just undeniably badass.
One of the most outspoken contemporary anti-Christian bands, Dimmu Borgir is particularly known for using powerful satanic imagery in their lyrics and art direction. Some people speculate that a certain amount of their popularity can be attributed to this shallow aesthetic.
The heart of Dimmu Borgir–cold and black as it may be–is found in the stoic rubric of damn fine Nordic-Viking musicianship, and not necessarily in their requisite dark costumes. Many, many bands in the genre look and act “spooky,” but a very small number of them have enough talent to emerge from the small-scale metal fantasy world.
The band now has a name recognized by evil households on an international level. Playing a show this Saturday at the Roseland, thousands of miles away from necrotic mother Norway, you better believe Dimmu will be playing their asses off. It’s a great opportunity for Portlanders to subvert their dominant stereotypes about heavy music.
Formed way back in ’93, Dimmu’s music has undergone a vast and tangible evolution over the course of time, the transformation being especially blatant in the vocal department. Their earlier efforts, particularly the three Norwegian-language albums prior to1997’s Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, are plagued by uninspiring foreign-tongued guttural mumbles, unduly doomed to the background by mathematical guitar riffs sounding not unlike two lo-fidelity, over-distorted chainsaws.
The niche in the market for such unrefined and primal sounds, especially in the mid-’90s, was overcrowded by the unexpected rise in popularity of Florida-style swamp-death acts like Deicide and Morbid Angel. And with Pantera and Slayer more or less holding down the mainstream, there was clearly no room for unoriginal music. So Dimmu Borgir mutated.
The modern manifestation (1998-present) of the band is a welcomed polar opposite from their former selves. Through the employment of new members, instruments and advances in recording techniques, Dimmu Borgir were able to breathe new life (or death, if you prefer) into a black-metal scene that had found itself marginalized by theatrics and the “Hot-Topic” marketability of genre-mates (and fake Satanists) Cradle of Filth.
Two fundamental events spurned this transformation: Without fear of sounding politically incorrect, it is pretty easy for most fans (probably not the Norwegian ones) to agree that the transition to English from their beautiful but inaccessible native language was a very good idea for the band.
Not only for the fact that it allowed exposure to a much broader audience, but more importantly because there are some very interesting and surprisingly progressive ideas found in their lyrics that were practically begging to be propagated throughout the western world.
Of course Shagrath, the lead singer and front man, banks heavily that one can find the virtue in his deep gorilla snarl and extensive use of thesaurus words to see the overwhelming beauty in his work. The best example being 2001’s crowning triumph, Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia.
Formerly balancing his duties between shredding and vox, Shagrath finally gave up the guitar to focus on singing, the second key milestone for the band. In the process he hired an ever-rotating slew of session musicians to fill out the sound, as well as adding the behemoth known only as “Vortex” on bass and backing vocals. The 2007 Dimmu has keyboards, two guitarists and an insanely good drummer named Hellhammer, and has even integrated elements of a philharmonic symphony into their last two records.
Dimmu Borgir have deftly sidestepped the fate of being categorized as yet another slightly frivolous Mayhem or Burzum rip-off, and have formed a unique and ferocious spot for themselves in the halls of music history.
If there was ever a time to brand an upside-down cross on your forehead, it is now. Have fun, kids!
Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth and Keep of Kalessin8 p.m., Saturday, April 12Roseland Theater$23, All-Ages
Top five Dimmu Borgir songs:
“Blessings Upon the Throne of Tyranny””Chaos Without Prophecy””Cataclysm Children””Puritania””Tormentor of Christian Souls”