REVIEWED: Dimmu Borgir's 'Eonian'

 More than two decades have elapsed since Dimmu Borgir first left their indelible, brimstone-scorched mark on a freshly-formed and burgeoning black metal scene back in 1993. And from dabbling in symphonic trappings and coldly ambient, electronic horrors to splicing sinewy cuts of scalding death metal into the mix, this expansive timeframe has seen the genre undergo countless, sometimes unthinkable stylistic shifts and adjustments.

 

So what, then, becomes of the Norwegian legends whose steady and relentlessly evolving studio output suddenly runs dry for an alarming eight years of apparent dormancy? In what shape or form will the year 2018 find this genre-defining musical unit? As a weak and withered parody of its former bombastic brilliance? Rehashing past glories in a state of jaded and idle complacency?  

 

Happily for Dimmu’s adoring fans, it’s in electrifying accents of lacerating ultra-violence and coldly majestic grandeur that ‘Eonian’ instantly silences all this nagging speculation with a categorical and gloriously resounding “Hell. No.”

 

With its every restlessly churning groove and nimbly frenetic flourish audibly crackling with creativity, the Norwegians’ inimitable current sound abounds with a bewildering plethora of ink-black trappings and traditions. Underpinning madly accelerating lines of lofty, blackly opulent strings and Sisters of Mercy-flavoured choral blasts, newly-unveiled cut ‘Interdimensional Summit’ displays a sound rich with evidence of the band’s recent orchestral explorations. Equally amplified too is the bristling and abrasive energy that drives its restless shifts of pace from hyperblasting extremes of aggression through to lithe and luxuriant tangles of smouldering, Cradle of Filth-esque fretwork.

 

Having still barely scratched the surface of this bewilderingly complex body of work, ‘Aetheric’ showcases seamless ease in splicing together its endlessly shifting and accelerating array of influences. Anchored in plunging, densely sinewy grooves that instantly recall ‘Age of Nero’-era Satyricon, an unbroken slew of transitions back and forth between luscious flurries of arpeggios, exquisitely delicate piano sections and curious electronic configurations produce what is arguably the most arresting highlight of the entire record. Elsewhere, ‘Lightbringer’s’ ceaselessly churning and pummelling rhythmic contortions flood the senses with adrenaline before imploding in an unexpectedly entrancing multitude of airy and glimmering piano notes.

 

In short, with its countless, turbulent twists and exhilarating operatic turns, it’s rare that a record so utterly and relentlessly captivates the listener, holding us rapt until its final expiring echoes have died away into a deathly silence. And beyond the hackneyed and painfully obvious clichés of legendary bands “cementing their legacy” and “milestone albums”, ‘Eonian’ is, quite simply, a stunning and wildly imaginative record.

 

‘Eonian’ is out 4th May on Nuclear Blast

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