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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Troll 2 and (the Joy of) Miscategorized Metal

Tower Records and Musicland didn’t seem to have much the other day.  So I went by Camelot music instead. I was wearing my old green Slayer demon head shirt. I had built up points at that store, and they gave me a free purple shirt with their logo on it. I hated the shirt and donated it to Goodwill.  In the metal section was the cassette soundtrack to Troll 2. I was almost certain this was a mis-categorization.  I didn’t have the money to buy it that day and it sold out before I could get my hands on it.

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New Burzum / Vikernes direction with “Skáldskapr: Hávamál stanza 138 & 139”

nemi

Burzum composer and mastermind Varg Vikernes has released his latest musical composition, two verses from the Hávamál set to music and voice. This takes a more floaty ambient Vangelis-style approach, spending its time setting scene and then varying texture within it, more like modernist classical than the linear music of today.

While his last few ambient albums have been widely praised on this site, he finds himself in a difficult place: there are many clueless Hot Topic buyers who would love to snap up a Burzum album that sounded like Motley Crue or the Deftones with more evil, a smaller but loudmouthed horde of FMP/NWN tryhards who want only three (chromatic interval) chords and the truth, and then a world music audience which is impossibly locked in its expectation of the same mishmash of Afro-Cuban rhythms with any local tradition it wants to explore. Finding an audience is difficult.

Placing all of his money on the wildcard, Vikernes has decided to appeal to those who have already drifted past all of the above, which are essentially multi-decade trends (no core, no mosh, no fun) that have long become cliché but their audience, being self-obsessed and oblivious, cannot tell the difference. This new track shows Burzum going more into soundtrack-land and trying less hard to please any of the audiences hovering around black metal’s corpse like flies.

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A hidden influence on neoambient

lord_wind

The movement that some are calling “neoambient” — a fusion of dark ambient, Conan soundtracks, and neofolk — generally arose out of the metal community. The classics of the genre converge on Lord Wind (Graveland), Burzum and Black Aria (Glenn Danzig). In addition, metal bands contributed to related forms of epic ambient, like Beherit (Electric Doom Synthesis) and Neptune Towers (Darkthrone). Newer entrants like Winglord and Hammemit explore different paths along similar directions.

But how do we trace the influences and evolution of this genre? Glenn Danzig (Misfits, Samhain, Danzig) launched a partial revolution in 1992 with his Conan-inspired Black Aria. Several years later, Burzum followed this with Daudi Baldrs and Hlidskjalf, both of which used Dead Can Dance-themed ancient world music to frame the epic nature of its compositions, giving it a feel not just of Conan-styled epic conflict, but of a cultural basis.

There’s another influence lurking just a few years before Danzig — affirmed by Rob Darken as an influence on his music in Lord Wind — which was the music of Clannad as used in the BBC series Robin of Sherwood:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wha5YXUj-uo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vp925EVOlCo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkHGGMXdZWs

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