It’s been a seven-year wait for Dimmu Borgir’s fans to see a new album released. That moment has finally arrived in the form of tenth studio album ‘Eonian’, also marking 25 years since the band was established. As of publication, the album has already dropped today (May 4th) and I’ve had to show a great deal of restraint in sharing my thoughts these past two weeks.
To sum up what to expect with this album, with fluttering melodies and synths evocative of the ‘Enthroned Darkness Triumphant’ and ‘Godless Savage Garden’ eras, industrial elements of the ‘Puritanical…’ era and symphonic, orchestral & choral passages of later albums, Eonian really conjures and blends all these aspects of Dimmu Borgir’s illustrious career so far. It has it all – a magickal cocktail of the esoteric & the ethereal mixed with the visceral, caustic & the ferocious. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – to get a true flavour, I’ll need to take you deeper, beneath the surface of each of these nine songs.
Before getting to the material available on release day, I’ll start with the two promotional tracks made available prior to release, especially since one of them in particular received mixed reviews. I would urge anyone having doubts about the album based on negative reactions to either of the two tracks to consider the fact that these don’t stylistically represent Eonian’s entire body of work. There is so much more to the album, with vast amounts of depth and variation to satisfy fans old and new alike. That said, I admit that I can’t help being reminded of the main melody from classic Sisters Of Mercy track ‘Dominion / Mother Russia’ when listening to the chorus of ‘Interdimensional Summit’ – the melodies of both songs are just too uncannily similar to dismiss.
I had a much better experience the first time I played ‘Council of Wolves and Snakes’, with its unabashed ferocity juxtaposed against a quiet, atmospheric break at the mid-point, featuring a lamenting choir and an exquisite guitar solo, before breaking off and returning to a final round of intensity to the close. This is a style closely resembling material from the previous ‘Abrahadabra’ album, especially considering the inclusion of Shamanic throat singing and chanting.
Moving on to the release day tracks, ‘The Unveiling’ opens proceedings with a great introductory piece featuring some surprising familiarities where instrumentation and style is concerned. A fantastic combination of slick, modern production with some classic characteristics in the mix, particularly in the synth leads and the overall atmospheric breaks. There is a sense that the magick has returned and it’s hugely satisfying, yet at the same time feels modern with the high level of production bringing a richness & brightness to the overall sound.
Next up are my highlight picks – ‘ÆTheric’, ‘Lightbringer’ and ‘I Am Sovereign’.
On the surface, ‘ÆTheric’ features simplistic riffs and a rather pedestrian song structure, however the advantage of this is that the lyrics are allowed prominence and can essentially take centre stage, where the vast majority of the depth can be found. The orchestration, synths and choral passages add plenty of textural density and drama to the song too.
An ode to Lucifer, ‘Lightbringer’ appears very lyrically ritualistic. The central theme appears to be Truth – my interpretation of this is consciously staying true to the self, i.e. being your own person instead of a follower – the architect of your own future.
‘I Am Sovereign’ leads with guitar trills and an effectively unsettling ‘bending strings’ technique. The apparent Phrygian scale provides a distinctive Middle-Eastern / Egyptian characteristic whilst the introduction of a male choir lends a dark, Druidic tone.
The rest of the album is just as exciting and each song contains its own distinctive characteristic, making for an enriching experience.
‘The Empyrean Phoenix’ takes me back to the late 90s period with the classic synth sounds. There is tons of melodic and harmonic layering, with a number of rhythmic & tempo switches to maintain interest at all times. In contrast, ‘Archaic Correspondence’ features gritty, distorted electronics reminiscent of the Industrial Black Metal of ‘Puritania’ et al. Clean vocals can also be heard trading off against Shagrath’s harsh, extreme vocals mid-way through, whilst a maelstrom of swirling riffs against a thunderous percussive backdrop features during the closing stages.
Rounding off with the final couple of tracks, first is ‘Alpha Aeon Omega’, complete with deep, dark & ominous synth voices & orchestra to open proceedings, soon followed by heavily symphonic yet ferociously visceral Metal and epic riffs & choral passages featuring in each chorus. Lyrically, the theme is largely centred around Ethereal, Spiritual & Inter-dimensional subject matter – with one particular section describing ascension beyond the mortal plane.
To close is ‘Rite of Passage’ with its sombre, atmospheric intro and of particular note, the use of raindrop audio recording and reverb on the instruments for added atmosphere. It’s a farily down-tempo start, likened to a funeral march of sorts and the accompaniment of piano arpeggios only emphasises the lamenting yet ethereal quality. As the song progresses the orchestral arrangement builds and gains momentum, with new instrumental layers and progressions for each phrase, adding to the expectation of a climactic end, before it unexpectedly swerves towards the closing moments, finishing on the same atmospheric bars heard during the introduction.
Whilst the choice of the two feature tracks promoted prior to this album’s release may not have been to the majority of people’s liking, in all honesty I was a little worried about the direction this album may be taking. However I had no idea just how detailed, diverse and satisfyingly evocative this album would actually turn out to be – I really needn’t have worried. Essentially, those who were less than impressed by the two pre-release tracks are advised not to dismiss the whole album – after all, two songs do not an album make!
I’ve been greatly impressed by what I’ve heard and I must have listened to it almost a dozen times already. There are still parts of the songs I’m picking up on that I didn’t notice before. With depth and meaning to the lyrics, a magickal, esoteric vibe to the music and a range of styles spanning various eras of their 25 year career so far, this has everything I could possibly want from a Dimmu Borgir album. Even the artwork has particular great significance when analysing the symbolism it contains and relating them to the song lyrics. It will certainly hold meaning to anyone with knowledge of RHP philosophy, lores & practices.