Dimmu Borgir - _Spiritual Black Dimensions_
(Nuclear Blast, 1999)
by: Paul Schwarz (
With _Spiritual Black Dimensions_ Dimmu Borgir have triumphed, in the sense that they have created a very worthy album, an album which is not only musically relevant today, but also quite enjoyable. _SBD_ is not by any means a total change in style for the band, and those of you familiar with _Enthrone Darkness Triumphant_ and even its predecessors would, I think, very quickly recognise _SBD_ as being a Dimmu Borgir album, but there are marked differences between this and previous releases. The key difference is an increase in speed and brutality: though keyboards and melody still play a very substantial part, the guitars are stronger on _SBD_ than they have ever been before. Many of the riffs are similar in that the guitars thrash while the keyboards play the melody line, but this isn't where the band stop, as they had a tendency to do on some songs on _EDT_ and last year's _Godless Savage Garden_ MCD; the guitars also spiral through some interesting melody lines themselves (including an almost melancholic lead on "The Insight and the Catharsis") and the keyboards run a more complex and mature course. Utilising Simen Hestnaes on a number of tracks was an interesting choice. His strange semi-choral vocals do give Dimmu Borgir a new angle, though in some ways the sections where he sings just end up sounding like Borknagar or Arcturus (his other bands). The main thing about _SBD_ is that it is better than its predecessor. The guitars churn out nastier riffs, the drums blast harder, the keyboard lines are more interesting and (the most important factor) the arrangements are -much- better. The build-ups can be fantastic and the explosions into fast and brutal playing after a more subdued section are often very effective. _SBD_ is a good album, but it is not even close to being a great black metal album. To me, great black metal albums need that raw, cold, bone-chilling feel which is key to the great and influential nature of early albums by Celtic Frost, Bathory et al. I don't mean just the sound of the second wave's early '90s classics, like _Pure Holocaust_, I mean albums like Satyricon's _Nemesis Divina_, which is far more comparable to our case in point than _PH_ is. Despite a very clear production and quite a substantial amount of multi-tracking, _Nemesis Divina_ still has that harsh feel, it still taps that vein of what black metal is about. _SBD_ fails in this respect; it doesn't sound sugar coated by any means, and there is a lot on offer here to enjoy, but not all the ingredients of a great -black- metal album are present. If Dimmu Borgir were hoping to make one of the greatest black metal albums of all time, then I think they have fallen far short of the mark. However,if their aim was to make a complex, mature, but also quite heavy record, then they have succeeded, and in an area where many bands fail miserably.
(article published 3/14/1999)
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