Australia has been treated to some real rarities of tours lately. Bands that have never made an appearance, or have come down here as support or as part of a festival are finally getting the opportunity to tour on their own and bring their own production down. Dimmu Borgir is one such band, having returned to Australian soil following their only appearance as part of Soundwave Festival in 2011. Bringing their own production down for their very own headlining performance was always going make this run of shows special, a given since it had taken so long to get down here – but what would the Australian fans think after having had to wait so long to see the band headline?
Opening for the symphonic legends were Perth’s very dark Earth Rot. Opening a show is never an easy task, and these guys had been doing it for a few nights now, so the expectations might have been tempered a little higher, but once they found their groove they did a commendable job. Feeling a bit flat for their first few songs, the momentum shifted up a notch when they started playing some of their newer material and the band actually looked like they began to enjoy themselves on stage.
While their stage presence was fairly rigid with minimal movement throughout the set, Earth Rot was musically able to put on a show that quickly won the fans over — once it was in full swing. The guitar and bass work from the three members up front was tight, and I don’t know if their were thumb tacks on the drum throne, but the bands drummer could hardly stay seated. Having performed with the extensive travel that these guys had done over the past few nights can’t have been easy, but the enjoyment from the crowd once they hit that groove mid set was clear to see and was a good indication that the band put on a good show.
The crowd had well and truly swelled by the time that Dimmu Borgir took the stage, something which was quite surprising considering the relative small crowd that was around for Earth Rot. While there was no doubt that Dimmu would have attracted a decent audience, it was quite surprising to see so many people out for the symphonic metal legends.
The first thing that became apparent before the band had even played a note was that the visual aspects of the show were impressive. The show was seemingly tied together by a beautiful light show that had been fine tuned down to the greatest detail. In this regard, Dimmu was well placed in having their own crew and excelled in this visual element that wrapped the performance together. While there wasn’t any extravagance displayed through the band members movements on stage once the show had kicked off, the smoke and lights really accentuated the atmosphere that the band was trying to achieve.
While Eatons Hill Hotel generally has great sound as a venue with many bands having previously made great use of the acoustics in their mixes, the mix for Dimmu Borgir unfortunately favoured the bass and vocal sections. While the guitars were still quite audible, the real victim in the mix was the symphonic orchestral elements – a massive drawcard for the band. I understand the desire to place the greater focus on the ‘live’ elements as they are performed on stage, but the diluted orchestration for songs like Gateways or Progenies of the Apocalypse did steal away some of the grandiosity that these songs were capable of with the full backing of that sound.
Musically, Dimmu was great, notwithstanding the mix issues noted above. Galder and Silenoz cut impressive figures at the front of stage, offering the perfect anchors either side of centre stage. Their guitar playing seemed effortless, a real feat given the speed of some of the tremolo picking that they pull off. Vocally Shagrath still seems to hold the same power with which he has been singing for the past two decades, with only some minor wear showing throughout the evening. It was disappointing that the clean vocals for a few songs were still played on backing track rather than having those duties shifted to one of the live members, but apart from that the vocals were one of the strengths of the performance. The remainder of the band did put on a good performance, but were hidden behind a thick wall of smoke which made them difficult to see at times.
While the setlist felt a minor bit disappointing at only 13 songs in length, the 80 minute duration left most in attendance more than satiated with what they saw on stage. While it would have been good to see another one or two songs thrown into the mix for the bands first headlining tour of the country, the spread of new and old tracks struck a decent balance.
Being this far into such a storied career, it’s great to finally see a band like Dimmu Borgir come to Australia for their own headlining tour. The years of extensive touring might be starting to wear the band’s polish down a little, but their performance on this evening was still at a level befitting a headliner of their years. With a promise to return to the country prior to their on-stage departure, Dimmu enamored themselves to the already won over crowd. Judging by the crowds reaction, the bands look of ecstasy and the rousing round of applause as the band walked off stage, it probably won’t be long until the band makes it back here.