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Dimmu Borgir - "In Sorte Diaboli" (CD)

Dimmu Borgir - "In Sorte Diaboli" CD cover image

"In Sorte Diaboli" track listing:

1. The Serpentine Offering (5:09)
2. The Chosen Legacy (4:17)
3. The Conspiracy Unfolds (5:24)
4. The Sacrilegious Scorn (3:58)
5. The Fallen Arise (2:59)
6. The Sinister Awakening (5:09)
7. The Fundamental Alienation (5:17)
8. The Invaluable Darkness (4:44)
9. The Foreshadowing Furnace (5:49)

Reviewed by on July 21, 2008

"Dimmu Borgir has hit their stride, maturing their style and lyrics beyond simplistic over the top evil and instead focus on real world examples that most black metal enthusiasts can individually relate to."

Chronicling the fall from grace of an unnamed man and his escape from the clutches of blind faith, Dimmu Borgir’s concept album “In Sorte Diaboli” presents themes very familiar to the black metal genre, but tells them through a tale that will resonate more personally with many metal fans. The nameless character is raised in a pious environment and initially looks to religion to find answers to the deeper questions within him, but only finds hypocrisy and iron fisted control through the use of fear tactics. Ultimately the man decides to deny the validity of religion and finds an archetype worth emulating in the great rebel Satan. Enraged by all the years he wasted believing in what amounted to nothing and sick of the lies of his former brethren, he wages a personal war against the adherents of his old beliefs. There aren’t any truly new ideas presented and no new musical territory gets explored, but “In Sorte Diaboli” still manages to be an enrapturing and delightfully diabolic experience.

Dimmu Borgir has hit their stride, maturing their style and lyrics beyond simplistic over the top evil and instead focusing on real world examples that most black metal enthusiasts can individually relate to. Their musicianship has matured as well, as they finally have hit a more balanced blend of the symphonic elements of their sound. The keyboards are still definitely a driving force in each song, but they are played down to the point that they no longer completely control the music. The recent bout of maturity hasn’t removed Dimmu Borgir’s sense of the theatric, however. The CD insert sports each member of the band dressed up in full medieval regalia complete with face paint make-up, and the special edition of the album even has all of the lyrics printed backwards with a helpful mirror included to make them readable.

Critics of the album have condemned the guitar riffs for being less complex than in the past. If dropping the posturing of extreme metal bands who feel that music can only be great if it’s excessively fast and technical is all it took to get Dimmu Borgir to craft their greatest work yet, then hopefully the next one will be even simpler. The criticism is also ultimately unfounded. There may be a noticeable difference in the sound of the guitar playing if “In Sorte Diaboli” were played side by side with “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” or “Stormblast,” but the alteration doesn’t in any way make the music less head banging worthy or effective. Quite the contrary, as “In Sorte Diaboli” gets under the listener’s skin and spurs its audience on to acts of evil and debauchery much more effectively than any of the previous albums.

While the guitar playing may be a little slower than in the past, the same cannot be said of the drum work. Norwegian metal favorite Hellhammer returns to offer some of the most punishing drumming ever laid down on an album. Without checking out the insert to see who did the beats, it would be easy to assume in several parts that Dimmu Borgir just decided to use a drum machine because of how insanely fast the drums get. Front man Shagrath continues to use his scratchy growling vocals and bassist Vortex again provides backing clean singing. The vocals are mostly spot on, furious and hateful when they need to be and more reserved or epic sounding when the situation calls for it. There are a couple of vocal tricks used throughout the album that are a little cliché or silly, but they are few and far between.

Highs: Head banging riffs, punishing guitar beats, and a diabolic story

Lows: Minor use of silly and cliche vocals

Bottom line: Dimmu Borgir has crafted their crowning achievement, retaining their trademark evil but making it relatable to the average joe

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)