Dimmu Borgir – Eonian 2018

Dimmu Borgir are through and through, the most popular and most successful Norwegian metal band.  They are also #2 in bands that were at one point in their career black metal (falling just behind Cradle of Filth).  Since 1993, Shagrath and Silonez have clawed and breathed fire and went through dozens of musicians- some very well known- and marketed themselves as the “evil fantasy/RPG villian” better than any other band.  The brand, however obscure and seemingly non-conformist, resonated with millions as it’s two core musicians have turned their Hollywood Satanism gimmick into a big moneymaker for Nuclear Blast Records.

Sound-wise, Dimmu have been all over the place.  One of the first bands to follow the precedent set forth by Emperor and incorporate choir/string driven keyboards as a main instrument in a black metal band, they were able to forge some solid albums by scaling back their guitar playing and allowing their keyboards to forge the atmosphere and melodies.  But after a few notable works, they quickly began a journey into whatever flavor of the week pop/dance music has been popular at the time.  By the ridiculously titled Puritical Euphoric Misanthropia, they were mixing metalcore breakdowns with Hollywood-soundtrack style keyboards and dressing it all up with science fiction sound effects.  This became their main sound for almost a decade, with no variety between albums, before playing straight up opera muisc on 2010’s Abrahadabra.  Featuring a full choir, a full symphony, virtually no guitars, and Disney-villain-sounding clean vocals, the band had become a soundtrack to a Broadway musical that never existed.

But almost ten years have passed since then, the longest gap in the band’s history.  And while they are off being evil dads, the entirety of the metal scene collapsed- with no quality works being created in the underground and a metal mainstream that was void of any sort of movement.  I was intrigued to see what they band would come up with given there was no real metal trend to ripoff, so what did I find?  Where is the most commercialized black metal band in 2018, a year of shattered conventions and reborn Western identity?  And who, or what, did they model their style after this time?

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Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse (2018)

Grammy-award wining artist Watain has shamelessly assumed the mantle of “most embarrassing band masquerading as black metal” previously shared by Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth. Where the downfall of those two bands was an overdose of gothic and groove influences, Watain has managed to outdo both in both parody and bastardization of black metal with their previous album’s venture into country musical territory.  With a career built on celebrity guest spots from more capable underground metal musicians, necrophiliac 1st era Bathory Worship mixed with a second rate attempt to mimic Dissection’s concluding album, and a ridiculously cartoonist theatrical performance worthy of a Broadway musical, Watain’s legacy has been secured to forever be “the band that bent over farthest to inherit the phallus of commercialization the deepest” and has effectively decimated any hope of legitimacy the sub genre might have had in the post-90s.  With a brash new attestation in the form of Trident Wolf Apocalypse the truth could not possibly be more clear to any listener with knowledge of black and death metal: Watain are the biggest joke in all of black metal history.

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