Review || Dimmu Borgir - "Eonian"

Let's start this off with the very obvious, but quite often neglected in the metal scene, fact that an album review is the expression of one's own beliefs and critique of an audio recording, not necessarily reflecting their feelings on the band themselves or their career so far. 
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let's move on to the intro for this piece. Dimmu Borgir released their tenth full-length studio album, "Eonian", on May 4th via Nuclear Blast records. Seven years after "Abrahadabra", it looks like the Norwegian titan put their shit together pardon my french and is ready to take anew over the world. Yours truly had steered clear from the last couple of albums ("In Sorte Diaboli" still being their weakest moment in my books) but I was genuinely interested in what tricks they had up their sleeves. And lemme tell you in advance, I didn't see that coming.

Containing 10 tracks, it is an unapologetic and very ambitious back-to-basics album. Hold your horses; before someone in the back starts complaining that it's not "raw" or "primitive", let's establish right here that it draws the best elements from the band's entire catalogue and builds them back up and into the bombastic amalgamation that Dimmu Borgir's creative outputs usually are.  
The album kicks off with "The Unveiling" and the listener is immediately taken aback by the simplicity of the instrumentation and the captivating orchestration. "Interdimensional Summit", the first single follows. The choir leads the choruses but doesn't cast a heavy shadow over the structure of the song or Shagrath himself. Pretty easy-listening, beautiful guitar work and a thunderous bridge that binds everything together. Speaking of thunderous, "Aetheric" cuts straight to the chase. Significantly groovier, it intertwines the older-school guitars with an almost omnipresent choir, gracefully tiptoeing from staccato passages to soaring outbursts. And nothing feels over the top. Moving on to "Council Of Wolves And Snakes". I will admit this one didn't really did the trick for me, not even as a single, as I find that the track only becomes interesting halfway through. As the intro of the "Empyrean Phoenix" slowly manifests, it quite breathes good old blackest black Dimmu, until the choir's calculated apparitions elevate it to glory.

Entering the second half of the album, "Lightbringer" whimsically winks at the early 00's releases while "I Am Sovereign" is a flawless, epic masterpiece. Its assailing nature feels like a throwback to the genre's edgiest days; boasting undertones resembling a military march, the face-melting composition almost seamlessly transitions into spine-chilling,  majestic choirs dominating the pummeling drumwork. A personal favorite on the album for sure. "Archaic Correspondence" introduces clean vocals for the very first time in "Eonian". Its uncompromising character is innate to the back-to-basics approach we discussed earlier rendering it a great gateway (pun intended) towards a grandiose ending. "Alpha Aeon Omega" with its beautiful wordplay further moves in the same direction. I can appreciate its positioning in the album, as it's an absolute banger, but I would rather have it as the last song. The choral parts are simply mesmerizing as they expand over the blackened backbone of the song. The ending part is dark and hopeless, as Shagrath takes again the lead. Last but not least, the haunting and ostentatious instrumental "Rite Of Passage". Perfection.

Overall, "Eonian" is a  serendipitous "fuck you" to naysayers (myself included). Does it reinvent the genre? Hardly. Still, it's nothing less than a good Dimmu Borgir album, whatever that may entail. Let's be honest, it won't appeal to non-believers, but I am confident it will make the actual old fans return to their dark shepherds' embrace. More choir-led than I anticipated (not that I'm complaining), the complementarity between the orchestral elements, all the intricate little keyboard details and the black structural instrumentation is kept in a fine balance throughout the entire record. This, however, doesn't mean in any way that the choir can realistically substitute the clean singing of ICS Vortex, whose absence is felt.
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