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Sunday Old School: Black Metal History Month Part 3 - Dimmu Borgir

Photo of Dimmu Borgir

Band Photo: Dimmu Borgir (?)

We’ve now reached the halfway mark of our month long descent into darkness that is Black Metal History Month. Though some of the subjects we've look at this month like blasphemy, suicide and murder may be extremely shocking to the uninitiated, to the black metal faithful, perhaps one of the worst things a band could do is find mainstream success. It ruined the credibility of Cradle of Filth, but how would a band from black metal’s spiritual home fare in this situation? We’re about to find out as we continue our month of madness with Dimmu Borgir.

Dimmu Borgir was founded by vocalist Shagrath, guitarist Silenoz and drummer Tjodalv, taking their name from an Icelandic volcanic formation, which translates roughly to "dark cities" in English. They soon recorded an EP entitled, "Inn i evighetens mørke del I," which sold very quickly, leading the trio to record their first full length album with new members Stian Aarstad and Brynjard Tristan, "For all Tid," which was released in 1994 through No Colours Records. The roles were reversed a little on the first album, as Silenoz performed drums and Tjodalv handled guitars, before they switched positions.

Their second album, "Stormblåst," marked the first time the two were heard handling their new instruments and is widely regarded as one of their best albums to date, with fans enjoying it much more than critics. It marked their last time that all the lyrics were written in their mother tongue, as well as their last with Brynjard Tristan, who departed soon after to be replaced by Nagash, who made his recording debut with the band on their "Devil’s Path" EP, which Stian Aarstad was unable to participate in due to his commitments to the army, though he was able to return for their next album, "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant."

The album was their first through their new label, Nuclear Blast, whom they are still signed to, to this day. It was a more melodic affair than the previous releases and perhaps as a result, attained respectable chart positions in Finland and Germany. They promoted the album by embarking on tours with Swedish metal favourites In Flames and Dissection and soon after, recruited new members Mustis and Astennu on keyboards and guitar respectively, which allowed Shagrath to focus on singing.

With new members in tow, Dimmu Borgir returned to the studio to record their fourth album, "Spiritual Black Dimensions." It was a big departure for the group, as it introduced the symphonic elements which they have continued to utilise since, in addition to a much faster sound than before. as well as clean vocals from guest ICS Vortex, who soon became a permanent member of the group when Nagash departed. Astennu and Tjodalv would also depart the band, with Old Man’s Child co-founder Galder and former Cradle of Filth drummer Nicholas Barker joining the ranks in their place.

Soon the mainstream began taking notice of the band, particularly after they released their fourth album, "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" in 2001. It garnered some very good reviews and reached the number 14 spot on the Polish Album Charts and marked their first time working with a an orchestra, teaming up with the Gothenburg Opera Orchestra on nine of the eleven tracks on the record. The album won them the Spellemannprisen (Norwegian Grammy) Awards for Metal music, their performance at which was quite controversial as they performed "Grotesquely Conceiled" instead of the scheduled "The Insight and the Catharsis," owing to the Norwegian Radio Orchestra pulling out of a collaboration, though members of the group were in attendance, resulting in a fight between a member of each outfit backstage.

Though they denied that they were shifting their music in a more commercial direction, Dimmu Borgir were by now receiving heavy airplay on MTV and Fuse, which was only to increase following the release of their next album, "Death Cult Armageddon." Much of the record’s success was owed to arguably their most famous song, "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse," which spurred the album on to selling over a hundred thousand copies in the United States, the first Nuclear Blast record to do so and debuted on the Billboard Album Charts at number 169. This time, the band worked with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and featured a guest appearance from former Immortal frontman, Abbath Doom Occulta.

In an attempt to draw attention to their older work, the next project for the band was a re-recording of their sophomore album, released under the title, "Stormblåst MMV." It was recorded with Mayhem drummer Hellhammer, owing to Barker’s departure, who would work with the group again on their next album of original material, "In Sorte Diaboli," which was released in 2007. The album courted further discontent among the black metal faithful by becoming the first black metal album to debut at the top of the charts in Norway. It was also a concept album, telling the story of a priest who began doubting his faith and essentially becomes the Antichrist, with the band claiming afterwards that they intended the story to continue over five more albums.

During the tour for the record, Hellhammer was forced to leave the band after suffering a neck injury which affected the nerves in his right arm. More departures were to come, as two years later, ICS Vortex and Mustis announced that they had left, claiming that they had not been given enough credit for their contributions, which Shagrath and Silenoz denied. In their place came former Vader drummer Dariusz Brzozowski and Snowy Shaw on bass, who had previously worked with the likes of King Diamond and Therion amongst others. The band then spent eleven months working on their next album, which was released in 2010 under the title, "Abrahadabra," which contrary to previous statements, did not continue the story of "In Sorte Diaboli." Touring for the album lasted quite some time but in 2013, Dimmu Borgir announced that they had begun work on their tenth album, which to date has not yet been released. However it's received, Dimmu Borgir will be one of the most well known names in the history of black metal, if not its most revered.

Dimmu Borgir - "Over Bleknede Blåner Til Dommedag"

Dimmu Borgir - "Stormblåst"

Dimmu Borgir - "Mourning Palace"

Dimmu Borgir - "Arcane Lifeforce Mysteria"

Dimmu Borgir - "Kings of the Carnival Creation"

Dimmu Borgir - "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse"

Dimmu Borgir - "The Serpentine Offering"

Dimmu Borgir - "Gateways"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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