To say Dimmu Borgir are back would be an understatement. To put it more aptly, Dimmu Borgir has arisen with their best music in over a decade. ‘Eonian’ is a triumph, a near-perfect fusion of symphonic grandeur and Black Metal brutality. Whether you’re sitting by a roaring fire with a glass of wine, or furiously headbanging in a dingy warehouse, this album soars above expectations with a glorious and unique spell.
The album begins, fittingly, with The Unveiling. The intro to the track has an unexpectedly Industrial Metal feel to it, but this soon leads into slow, sinister, melodic Black Metal. Before long Daray’s iconic blast beats kick in with vicious speed, while further urgency is vested in the distant wail of Silenoz’ guitar. Shagrath’s vocals start out clean, low and intoning before his growls kick in. This concord of sounds is both more dramatic and more frightening than anything we’ve heard from Dimmu Borgir in a long time. Weaving through it all is the very Gothic piano presence of Gerlioz. The lengthy bridge to this song is beautiful, led by orchestral elements, keys, and choir. The frightening elements creep rather than storm back in, almost with the sense of a child’s lullaby in the keys. Finally, the early urgency seems to have given way to a horror fulfilled and exalted.
Interdimensional Summit builds out its fast pace in the symphonic elements, with the verses powered by Cyrus’ chunky bass and guitar riffs much like Samael’s heavier output with an injection of Epica, particularly with the extensive use of the choir. In fact, this soaring, melodic choir contributes to some of Dimmu Borgir’s most uplifting work in this track, and throughout the album. Galder’s lead guitar takes front and centre to continue this uplifting scene, which eventually moves into a weird, disconcerting place – a little carnivalesque, a little King Diamond, before returning to the bass-driven sense of implacability.
Aetheric is more old school in its tone, but still crisp and deep, with choral elements. There are definite nods to Satyricon here, before the track builds beautifully into the urgent sense of horror once more, as if summoning a ravening horde of demons. Rather than instilling simple fear, however, there is rather a sense of worship and infernal provenance – matters beyond the earthly, reaching into the cosmic. Gerlioz’ beautiful keys continue to weave through, a core strength of the music all through the album. Here we find the perfec t fusion of symphonic and heavy elements, as the music flows seamlessly between orchestral and brutal Black Metal.
Council of Wolves and Snakes starts out creeping and unsettling, drawing on the darkest and most frightening elements of Thrash – a la Metallica and Slayer – to invoke a damnably threatening forest and its denizens beneath a blazing sunset. Council is another very distinctive track that also evokes tribal chanting, adding to the sense of alienness. By and by it drifts into quiet, reflective contemplation, with a lingering sense of death before resurrecting the immense choral parts, still keeping slow and restrained.
The Empyrean Phoenix starts out gentle but soon picks up a galloping, dominant pace. This track, if any, feels a little more like a “typical” Dimmu Borgir song in the slower sections, but has a powerful thrust when Daray’s drums really kick the track along. Overall, it does have all the elements of classic Dimmu Borgir but doesn’t extend the music as much as the previous tracks.
Lightbringer opens with a heavy, ominous riff that once again speaks to the Thrash roots of Black Metal, and contains some of the most intense blast beats yet on the album. The intensity of drums and guitars carry on as the choral elements weave their beauty, though it’s Shagrath’s lead vocals that really kick this into one of the most brutal songs on the album. Heavy and lumbering at times, at others it pulverises everything in its devilish speed. Lighter moments are afforded by lilting keys and low, commanding clean vocals. Meanwhile, strings take the forefront in terms of the classical elements, weaving a strong melodic thread through the heavy guitar riffs of this diverse and powerful track.
Dramatic, powerful images of Ancient Rome and the Caesars are evoked in I am Sovereign, but also hints of their eventual moral decline. Martial drums and choral chanting add to this effect and tension, supported by heavy, repetitive riffing. This gives way to absolute soaring heights of keys and vocal performance shared between Gerlioz, Shagrath, and the choir. Galder and Silenoz’ riffs move along in a way that could best be described as fun, a little strange for Dimmu Borgir, but will be excellent to experience live. The song ultimately becomes exultant, revelling in what seems to be a sense of collapse and glorious despair.
Archaic Correspondence reintroduces the nostalgic tone of classic Black Metal, with the keys providing a more modern twist of Gothic terror. The song also features ridiculously fast blast beats and crunchy, off-kilter Black Metal riffs, while the choir is declaratory and insistent. The riffs eventually twist into something more unique and interesting alongside hypnotic clean vocals offset against the growls, making for a very rich, but aurally manageable sonic atmosphere.
The orchestral intro of Alpha Aeon Omega is full-bodied, dramatic, and emotive. The orchestral themes are shortly picked up by the guitars, weaving into a spellbinding composition that retains brutality and heaviness without forsaking the beauty. This terrific blending of heaviness and charm leaves the mind pleasantly spinning and overstimulated, but also gives space for relief in quiet, creepy, contemplative moments.
Rite of Passage is another slow starter, this time even with a relatively slow drumbeat and sense of heavy foreboding, or dark lamentation.
This stirring instrumental wonder closes the album admirably, but with a sense that vocals would have made it even stronger to leave the listener with a final piece of poetry.
In short, ‘Eonian’ is a full-blooded and deeply satisfying experience. Few bands have ever been established as so iconic of the fusion of the classical and the brutal, and even so, Dimmu Borgir presses the bold frontiers ever further with this album. An instant classic, and more than worthy of every recognition.