The Death Cult Beckons
CoC chats with Erkekjetter Silenoz from Dimmu Borgir
by: Jackie Smit
The uber-posh surroundings of London's Hyde Park is hardly a setting where you'd expect to find the members of one of Norway's premier black metal bands hanging out, and I can't help but be somewhat apprehensive as I step off the Tube dressed in a Dying Fetus T-shirt. Certainly my clothing draws a fair amount of attention from the designer-clad trendites that go about their business on the busy high street -- not least from the doorman of The Royal Lancaster Hotel, today's designated meeting place, who looks set to either phone the police or off me himself. However, a brief explanation from the always affable Nuclear Blast PR guru and I am whisked into the front of a swanky bar, where I am introduced to Erkekjetter Silenoz, guitarist extraordinaire and founding member of Dimmu Borgir -- a band needing no introduction, who stand alone amidst the phantasmagoria of black metal acts and who are about to unleash arguably their most accomplished masterpiece on the world.

CoC: Silenoz, first and most obviously: how would you describe the difference between _Death Cult Armageddon_ and _Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia_?

Erkekjetter Silenoz: The production is better -- a lot better, actually. The arrangements of the songs are a lot better; at least we think so, anyway. And overall, it just sounds advanced and as though everything has really been taken properly to the next step.

CoC: Would you say that it is at all heavier than _PEM_?

ES: Yeah, it's definitely heavier. There's a lot more groove and even though there's maybe not as many fast parts, it's a lot more extreme, I think.

CoC: And how do you feel the contribution of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra on this record added to the end result?

ES: It added another dimension in the 'weight' of the band, because with this orchestra we were able to use a lot more percussion, as well as a horn section. There were almost fifty people involved this time, compared to the fourteen we used last time round, but we still had to recreate some of the orchestral parts with keyboards because in the end it would sound better that way.

CoC: You again used Frederik Nordstrom for the second time running to produce the new record. What was the motivation in the decision to work with him again?

ES: Well, it came out pretty decent last time round, I think. We only had three or four days to do the final mixing on _Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia_, which is actually very crucial in our music, where so much is happening at one time. So we met up with Frederik and he agreed that we should give it another go and give it more time. Also, on the last album we knew what we had done wrong, as he did as well, and this helped the new record come out really strong in the end.

CoC: So, would you say that you are 100% satisfied with how _Death Cult Armageddon_ has ended up sounding?

ES: Well, at least from my point of view, definitely. I don't think that we could have recorded or mixed the album any differently. Frederik did a fantastic job in getting everything to flow together really well and giving every instrument a lot of room to breathe, which in our music is sometimes very hard. He knew what to improve this time round, so we are definitely more satisfied, which I think will come out on the record when people hear it.

CoC: Is there a theme running through _Death Cult Armageddon_?

ES: It's not a concept album, but there's definitely an underlying theme. I wrote the lyrics from the perspective that mankind is heading toward its own destruction and we can't blame anyone or anything but ourselves. I also tried to make the lyrics more open and tried using a lot of symbolism, while at the same time attempting to make it more understandable for the younger generation. I mean, at the end of the day, we can't force or persuade people to do something, because we just have one opinion, and it's not our job to tell people what to do. If people agree with something, then that's cool. We're not here to preach to anyone, because that's up to the religious people.

CoC: When the new Cradle of Filth record _Damnation and a Day_ came out, a lot of journalists in the press were acting as though their use of an orchestra was something groundbreaking or unique in black metal. Considering that Dimmu Borgir had already done it on _PEM_, how did you react to this?

ES: No, we don't care really, because we have always been compared to Cradle of Filth for some reason. I'm sure that they don't know why they're being compared to us either. We both sell a lot of records and we've had the same drummer, but other than that there's nothing I can think of. They have a totally different visual thing to us and they're totally different to us musically as well. The media have ripped the Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir comparisons totally out of context. I think that they're trying to stir up a rivalry between us for some reason, but it's not something we are particularly concerned with.

CoC: Still on the topic of Cradle of Filth though -- along with Satyricon, they are now signed to a major label. Do you see this as a possibility for Dimmu Borgir in the future?

ES: No, I don't think so. There's no reason for us to do so, since we are the highest priority on Nuclear Blast. They're more independent and they have more knowledge of metal in general. And I'd dare to say that they have a better distribution net than Sony or Epic as far as extreme music is concerned. We have no reason to even think about changing labels, because right now our situation is pretty much perfect.

CoC: Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable for a black metal band to sign to a major label.

ES: Well, when we were doing the _Spiritual Black Dimensions_ tour in 1999, some representatives from Warner Records met us in Germany. We shook hands and spoke for a while and they seemed interested in some sort of deal, but we basically told them that the situation we had at Nuclear Blast was perfect for us, and there's no point in changing, and I feel the same way today.

CoC: With all the changes that Dimmu Borgir have gone through from _For All Tid_ to _Stormblast_ to _Enthrone Darkness Triumphant_ through until _Death Cult Armageddon_, do you feel that Dimmu Borgir can still be looked upon as a black metal band?

ES: Definitely, and I think so now more than ever -- at least in musical terms. But it's been ten years since we started and it's been nine years since we released the first album. I don't like to have to use the word, but musicians and people 'evolve' in the time that it takes you to make each album. In that time you hear a lot of new things and you are influenced by a lot of new elements. So, every album for us is a natural progression, even if it doesn't sound that way. We produce the quality of material which we expect from ourselves and we can not look back on or look at our music as objectively as other people. We do what we feel is right at the time and I know a lot of people think that we should continue in a particular style instead. But it's our lives and it's our music and we wouldn't do something we aren't 100% happy to do. We never go into the studio unless we feel ready and we don't give Nuclear Blast a master tape unless we're completely happy with it. Speaking about the progression again -- when you look at the difference between _Enthrone Darkness Triumphant_ and _Stormblast_, the main change was in the sound, because we actually used a lot of material that we had left over. That's also why I don't understand people criticising certain things and saying that everything sounds so much different, because even if the sound has changed over the years, the material is not all that different.

CoC: Dimmu Borgir has gone through a lot of line-up changes in the past decade. How do you feel that has affected the band as a whole and how has it impacted on the music?

ES: I guess it has kept our sound fresh, because in the past we would always have someone new on every album and that person would put their influence into the writing process. And that also helps the music in progressing from album to album. I think that this is the second time in our history that we have the same line-up from one album to another, which is good, because it helps you work well together if you feel like you have a stable line-up.

CoC: So, you feel that the unit you have now is the definitive Dimmu Borgir line-up?

ES: <laughs> Well, I don't want to say like I have said in the past that this is the final line-up, but for sure this line-up works really well in the studio and the writing and the live environments. I would be pretty upset if it were to change, but you have no guarantees.

CoC: Dimmu Borgir have always tried to bring a theatrical element into the live shows. As your profile heightens, do you see this being taken to the next level of production?

ES: Sometimes you feel like less is more, you know? There's just so much you can do short of shredding your money, but at the same time you want to give people a reason to spend money and come to your show and think that it was worthwhile. As long as we can maintain that feeling, we're satisfied.

CoC: What do you think of the current state of black metal in 2003?

ES: These days the term black metal is so wide, whereas ten years ago, there were only a handful of bands that you could really call that. I mean, now if you walk down the street, some people might tell you that Marilyn Manson is black metal, just because it has the same rebellious attitude that black metal has always had. But I think that black metal should be more intellectual and give people more to think about than Manson does with his music.

CoC: Do you think that black metal, the way it is right now, still holds true to the ideals of bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone?

ES: I think that's a question for each individual band. We make very much second-generation black metal, but we keep the traditions and ideals of first-generation black metal alive in our music.

CoC: But at the same time, you guys were never part of the early '90s burst of Norwegian black metal -- do you feel as though you're considered to be outsiders?

ES: Kind of. We have come this far just because of our music, and I don't think you can say that for other bands. I'm really proud that we have been able to get where we are using just music as our weapon.

CoC: Well, thanks for your time, Silenoz. Any parting comments from your end?

ES: We're going to be touring in Europe as of October -- we'll be in London on the 5th of October. Come and see us!

(article submitted 22/8/2003)

5/8/2007 J Smit Dimmu Borgir: Diabolical Masquerades
4/29/2004 P Schwarz Dimmu Borgir: In Deep With the Deacons of the Dark Castle
5/13/2001 A Bromley Dimmu Borgir: Majestic Visions, Triumphant Sounds
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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