The Norwegian Black Metal band, Dimmu Borgir, are no strangers to controversy, particularly surrounding musical style and genre. Their brand of Symphonic Black Metal has taken Black Metal to more mainstream audiences. In more recent years the line-up has had a bit of a shift around. Long-time members ICS Vortex and Mustis left the band before the release of Abrahadabra, leaving behind some signature clean vocals and trading synths for a full scale orchestra. Eight years have passed and Eonian hit shelves on May 4th. Returning to their more classic line up, with the three piece back up to five adding Gerlioz on Keyboards and Daray on drums – perhaps a return to form was inevitable.
Abrahadabra had huge tendencies to take the ever growing epic-ness of Dimmu Borgir’s symphonic elements and take it past epic, destructive and powerful into something almost silly and cheesy. Although Dimmu Borgir are known for continually flirt with this throughout their career. The atmospheric buzz of the darkly melancholic 1996 Stormblast, has since seen the band test fans of Black Metal into more well-polished and epically destructive sounds. This arguably peaked with Death Cult Armageddon and Eonian seems to feel that they’ve since taken it too far with Abrahadabra. There is a hint, though only a hint, of some of the melodies that made albums like Stormblast and Enthrone Darkness Triumphant melancholically powerful.
However, this is largely abandoned throughout the rest of the album for some of the weaknesses found in Abrahadabra. The choirs are back with a tour de force that seems to forget that at the core of the band was a powerful sense of the apocalypse. Though Dimmu Borgir are known for their new directions, it just has a tendency to feel flat as the choirs take over from the Metal far too much. ‘ÆTheric’ feels like a good example of a song far often let down by the overpowering choirs. ‘Interdimensional Summit’ feels like a beg to be back with the days of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia and actually one of the better achievements for the album.
So with the eight years to mull everything over it feels from this album that they took an experiment into a direction they’d like to step back from. Whilst all the same feeling as if not quite sure where to go with it either. Dimmu Borgir take their sound into so many directions that it’s quite fortunate for their band that the consistent elements that make Dimmu Borgir, Dimmu Borgir never seem to leave. But, whilst songs always seem to miss their true mark, they do have their staying power none-the-less. ‘Interdimensional Summit’, ‘The Empyrean Phoenix’ and ‘I Am Soverign’ are not without their hooks.
There is just, unfortunately, a lot of good offset by bad and leaving songs that stay but always giving a reaction of ‘eh’. This is perhaps made worse by the bands discography. They have reached heights before and whilst there are attempts to recapture that magic from time to time, they just seem to be left with nowhere to go. This leaves a decidedly average album. It strikes as it does, without much of a sound but does so none-the-less.