REVIEW: DIMMU BORGIR – “Eonian”
‘Eonian’ has been a long time coming for Dimmu Borgir fans. Eight years since the Norwegian veterans released ‘Abrahadabra’, with the band being largely absent from the scene for the majority of that time, with the exception of a handful of live shows and the release of their stunning live album/DVD ‘Forces of the Northern Night’ in April 2017. The metal scene is a very different place than it was when Dimmu Borgir last released a studio album, and you can’t help but wonder whether the band’s sound remains relevant or not.
Dimmu have always had elements of symphonic music and orchestration juxtaposing their signature black metal rawness, but over time this has become more and more pronounced. ‘Abrahadabra’ saw the band at their most symphonic, bring the scale Dimmu are known for to an epic level. However, where ‘Abrahadabra’ seemed to be lacking in a magical touch, ‘Eonian’ has it nailed. Everything is crafted to a much higher standard – the purer black metal sections are more visceral, the orchestration grander, and the execution is flawless.
From even a casual listen of the fittingly titled opening track, “The Unveiling,” Dimmu Borgir are back and stronger than ever. “The Unveiling” showcases an almost schizophrenic style, as an unsettling driving riff heralds a more obvious black metal sound, before the piano and choir allows the more tranquil side of Dimmu Borgir to take focus. “Ætheric” is the highlight from the first half of the album, carrying a groovy, black ‘n’ roll stomp that owes a lot to Satyricon’s more recent material.
Though there is not a single poor moment on the first half of the record, the opening tracks are eclipsed by the majesty of ‘Eonian’’s second half. “Lightbringer” is one of the more traditionally “Dimmu” sounding tracks the record has to offer, with the orchestration being used to highlight the visceral, oddly catchy riffing rather than standing by its side as a main focal point. The use of orchestration in “I Am Sovereign” is absolutely masterful, with Eastern sounding melodies and an imperial rhythm driving the song forward to a truly epic end. With the melancholic, hauntingly beautiful instrumental “Rite of Passage”, Dimmu Borgir bring the captivating and emotional journey that is ‘Eonian’ to its conclusion.
While, sadly, Dimmu Borgir are never likely to unseat the old-guard favorites like Iron Maiden and Metallica as Download or Hellfest headliners, it will come as no surprise to see Dimmu headlining the likes of Bloodstock or With Full Force in 2019. Other than the inevitable festival appearances, it would be a great shame for Dimmu Borgir to not tour extensively in support of ‘Eonian’ – this is the most ambitious, most refined, and, arguably, the most epic album in their discography, and many of the tracks here would be simply stunning in a live setting.
There are countless adjectives that could be used to describe Dimmu Borgir’s tenth offering. Yes, ‘Eonian’ is dark, heavy and abrasive in all the right places, but also hauntingly beautiful in a way that a black metal record has no real right to be. Black metal purists naïvely hoping for a return to the lo-fi sound of ‘For All Tid’ will doubtlessly be disappoint, but for those with an open mind, this record has a lot to digest, and a lot to fall in love with. It was clear what Dimmu Borgir were trying to achieve with 2010’s ‘Abrahadabra’, though there was something missing. ‘Eonian’ hits the mark, and immediately establishes itself as the standard all future symphonic black metal will be measured against. Without a shadow of a doubt, ‘Eonian’ was worth the eight-year wait.