Majestic Visions, Triumphant Sounds
CoC talks to Silenoz of Dimmu Borgir
by: Adrian Bromley
When I first received an advance copy of the new Dimmu Borgir disc _Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia_ [CoC #52], I was a little apprehensive about spinning it. Not that I was not looking forward to a new album by this Norwegian black metal sextet (singer Shagrath, guitarists Silenoz and Galder (Old Man's Child), bassist/singer Vortex (ex-Borknagar), drummer Nick Barker (ex-Cradle of Filth) and keyboardist Mustis), but more wondering where the band would have taken their sound in 2001.

Their last effort _Spiritual Black Dimensions_ [CoC #38] was good, but a little too slick sounding, and for sure breaking away from the black metal roots. Die-hard black metal fans were starting to feel some disgust with Dimmu Borgir as they had already done with the work of Cradle of Filth.

But, as it turns out, the new disc is an abrasive and totally majestic state of affairs full of killer guitar riffs, menacing vocal cries, eerie atmosphere and some collaborating work with a real orchestra. You heard me -- an orchestra!

So the phone call comes in late one afternoon from guitarist Silenoz to talk about what could just be the best Dimmu Borgir album. Here is how it all went down.. .

"This new record is by far the best album Dimmu Borgir has done so far", starts Silenoz. "I am sure a lot of people out there don't like what we do, but to tell you the truth, we don't care. We have never really cared what people thought about what we do. We just do what we think needs to be achieved within our music. The whole powerful aspect of this record isn't really a statement to all those who didn't care for us, this is just where we are right now. People can either love or hate us."

What was the studio experience like this time out, seeing that the band had switched producers (from Peter Tagtgren to Fredrik Nordstrom) and had worked with an orchestra (conducted by Gaute Storas)? Was it hard to get _PEM_ assembled?

"This was a great experience for us all. It was a bit of work to get it all going, but once we got into the studio and we started laying down guitar tracks, I knew this was going to be killer. We were excited about using the orchestra as well. Gaute Storas had worked with us a few years ago when we had performed on the [Norwegian] Grammy Awards. It was a great time and we offered to work with him again, and the end result was his magnificent work on _PEM_."

"When you play the new record against any of the past records, especially _Spiritual Black Dimensions_ you can definitely hear the difference in the arrangements and the production", he says when talking of the new disc. "This record is totally different. For example, we used Fredrik this time around. The reason why is because we felt that Peter and the way he works in the studio, is kind of like following an old recipe and knowing how it will taste each time out. He needs to maybe try a few new things and re-arrange how he does his production. Fredrik is great because he is able to do what we ask him to do. That is the main reason why we wanted to work with him. He came to Norway to hear some of the songs and we discussed what we wanted to do and he said he'd be able to do it, with a bit of work. That really got us wanting to work with him. Peter would be saying stuff like, "Well, you can do that, I guess, but you should try it this way". Fredrik is much easier going when it comes to band ideas in the studio and would say something like, "It might not work, but at least we can try". I think we made a record that will hopefully open up more borders. I think we have done a superb album has helped expand and keep the music of Dimmu Borgir interesting."

How would you rate your guitar playing on this record? "Better than the last album. <laughs> I think my guitar work is pretty good. I let Galder take on the leads on this record while I concentrated on the rhythm and making it all sound so tight."

One question that must be asked: what do you think about the cover artwork for _PEM_ being censored by the label? "The label already censored the cover. We had to tone it down. Originally you had the torso with chopped off legs and arms and they thought it was too much. We told them to put a black sleeve over it, but they wanted changes. They got the final word on this, and if there had been any bigger problems stemming from it, it might have affected the promotion, the North American tour and the release of the record. I guess we were on the weak end of that decision, but you have to swallow shit sometimes in this business to get somewhere." He continues, "I remember years ago they had macabre looking covers from bands like Pungent Stench and Dismember, but I guess it is just an old thing for them and they want to move on. We got the freedom to do ideas for the bandmember shots within the CD sleeve, so we are happy with that."

Looking back at the career of the band -- way back to the early black metal experience of _Inn I Evighetens Morke_ (1993) or _For All Tid_ (1994) --, it is amazing to see how the band has not only altered their sound, but remained tight and in focus. Their sound has evolved, but their musicianship has grown and tightened ten-fold.

"Each record of Dimmu Borgir sounds like us. But each time out we always manage to do something different and that is a very natural experience for us, to tell you the truth. Even though there are six of us in the band with different ideas and visions, we all pretty much have the same goal with this band. When we put our minds together we will always come out varied and different sounding from any other acts out there."

And Silenoz's take on the whole black metal scene -- does he care? What are his views on it? "I don't really follow it much anymore. I don't really have the time anymore to follow the bands that are playing the scene and hear all of the new bands that are making black metal music. I just hope I get to hear the good ones. I hope I don't miss out on anything good."

One of the band's most infamous traits is the large amount of musicians that have come and gone throughout the years of Dimmu Borgir's existence -- how has that helped or hindered the band?

"All of these line-up changes have definitely helped the band", Silenoz states. "But at the same time, it can be extremely frustrating to be in a situation where you need to teach people the songs you have played for so long. With new people, you need to help them get familiar with the songs and work with the band. It is a great feeling to have someone like Galder in the band because we have pretty much the same background of playing music. It just felt natural when he joined the band." He adds, "I remember saying on the last promotional tour that that was the best line-up we had ever had. Well, I guess I am saying the same thing for this album. "This is the best line-up we've ever had." <laughs> Every line-up change has made us stronger and better."

"We still get excited with the music we make and what we do", he notes when asked why he still plays black metal-inspired music after all of these years. "I think a lot of bands out there get bored of what they do and want to try new things. That is great for them, but for us, we want to evolve the sound and take it where we want to go. I think each Dimmu Borgir record becomes more extreme each time out. That is how bands vary differently -- some want to change, some don't."

About their longevity in this music business, Silenoz comments, "Yeah, we're stubborn bastards. We don't want to give up. You have to be really confident and have ambitions to be in this music business and you need to fulfil those ambitions. If problems arise, you need to get rid of them and move on. That is why we are still here and why we'll be here next year as well."

"After so many years in this business you know how to take people for what they are. This is the shittiest business to be in. You see a lot of fake people and it really disgusts you, but playing music is what I do and I can take care of those fake people anyway. As long as I can make music and be creative, I'll stay in this business. I just have to -- as I have done in the past -- deal with the bad side of this job."

In closing I comment, "I can see you guys getting some weird groupies. Is that true?"

Silenoz pauses. "Yeah, we get girls around our tour buses all the time, but I have never been into that whole groupie thing, really. I'm engaged right now, so that whole groupie thing means nothing [to me]. Let the other bandmembers have fun. I just stay focused on my relationship and the music I bring to the band."

(article submitted 13/5/2001)

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4/29/2004 P Schwarz Dimmu Borgir: In Deep With the Deacons of the Dark Castle
8/22/2003 J Smit Dimmu Borgir: The Death Cult Beckons
8/12/1997 S Hoeltzel Dimmu Borgir: Up From the Underground
11/18/1996 S Hoeltzel Dimmu Borgir: Storming the Black Castle
4/20/2007 K Sarampalis 8 Dimmu Borgir - In Sorte Diaboli
11/24/2005 J Smit 7 Dimmu Borgir - Stormblast (2005)
9/21/2003 J Smit 8.5 Dimmu Borgir - Death Cult Armageddon
3/26/2003 Q Kalis Dimmu Borgir - World Misanthropy
3/13/2001 C Flaaten 9 Dimmu Borgir - Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia
3/14/1999 P Schwarz 8 Dimmu Borgir - Spiritual Black Dimensions
11/19/1998 P Schwarz 5 Dimmu Borgir - Godless Savage Garden
7/14/1997 P Azevedo 9 Dimmu Borgir - Enthrone Darkness Triumphant
4/9/1997 S Hoeltzel 8 Dimmu Borgir - Devil's Path
8/12/1996 S Hoeltzel 8 Dimmu Borgir - Stormblast
10/20/2003 J Smit Dimmu Borgir / Hypocrisy / Norther One Step Closer to Armageddon
8/12/2001 C Flaaten Dimmu Borgir / Destruction / Susperia Puritanical Destructive Predominance
5/13/2001 M Noll Dimmu Borgir / In Flames / Nevermore Crimes in the Mourning Palace
5/19/1999 P Azevedo Dimmu Borgir / Dark Funeral / Dodheimsgard / Evenfall The Darkest Night of the Year
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