Released: 2007, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
OK, let's face it. One of the most highly anticipated metal albums in 2007, simply must be Dimmu Borgir´s new album, titled IN SORTE DIABOLI – there's not a slightest doubt about that. Every time these Norwegian symphonic Black Metal composers are about to release a new album, it can always be considered a major occasion in itself. Prior to this aforementioned event though, I guess it should be mentioned that the whole album was leaked onto the Internet by one poor Italian journalist, and it was just too bad for him it was watermarked by Nuclear Blast and he got caught, and a lawsuit against him followed immediately. Oh well, what else can you say really, but shit happens... ;o)
Dimmu Borgir´s previous album, DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON, was a pumped-up, heavily-trained, steroid-injected muscle, a paragon of all things incredible, symphonic and epic. It left many people open-mouthed with sheer amazement and respect at how far this band can go musically with their pompous and almost absurd ideas (I realize there´s two sides to this coin of course, as Dimmu Borgir has a lot of haters too). However, with DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON Dimmu Borgir carved another strong and indelible mark into this giant, murky stone which tells of the years of musical evolvement of the band; where Dimmu Borgir started from - and where their wide paths have led them to in 2007 Anno Bastardi.
I don´t know if the band has reached some sort of crossroads with IN SORTE DIABOLI, making them ponder whether they should continue their epic journey even further toward the heart of more vast symphonic and epic sounds - or to return to their past, once traveled paths where their pitch-black cannons sowed death and destruction around in a simpler way, without painting enormous walls of symphonic and bombastic elements to the horizon. But however, the ice-cold fact is lots of things have been stripped down on IN SORTE DIABOLI, even if in the very same breath it needs to be said that Dimmu Borgir still know how to build up 2-mile high, breath-taking castles in terms of the epicness on their previous albums.
The first observation that many of the listeners will surely make, is to notice that most of those elements that were typical for DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON, like many of those over-flooding epic and exaggerated symphonic parts, play a more minimal role this time. The band has clearly sat down, done some serious brainstorming (for better or worse - the fans haven´t spoken yet!) - and as a result of that, simplified their sound a little here and there, and made their songs more straightforward, more guitar-oriented and less keyboard-driven. Songs like "The Chosen Legacy" and "The Sinister Awakening" speak most strongly for those aforementioned observations. There isn't anything particularly ´epic´ or ´symphonic´ in those two songs in the true sense of the word; the songs just hit your face hard and mercilessly, and peel your skin off without warning. The guitars´ role has become more dominant and it is the driving force in those two songs which I partly like and accept as a part of new stratagem of these Norwegian blackish monsters. But then again, while the dominating guitar parts are undoubtedly a step back to their earlier times - keeping in our minds at the same time most of us have obviously got used to their more orchestrated and epic songs over the years, you somehow start missing the band´s more orchestrated sound in their later songs (I sure know I did). This is the part where opinions will surely be split. Having said all this, "The Chosen Legacy", being probably the most guitar-driven song out of all 9 songs on IN SORTE DIABOLI, is also one of the better songs they have composed for this diabolic opus - next to "The Serpentine Offering", which has an awesome sounding orchestral intro that doesn´t pale in a straight comparison to the orchestrated intro in "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse".
This album also includes a 3-minute instrumental song, called "The Fallen Arise", which sounds pretty spooky all in all with its relatively sinister atmosphere. Since this is the first concept album in the entire history of the Dimmu camp (the story line is set in Europe´s medieval times), it sort of works as an intro for the next song, "The Sinister Awakening" that rightfully belongs to the better half with its wickedly running guitar riffs as well as Shagrath´s twisted and mind-piercing snarls that have always fitted the sound of the band since the beginning of time.
Hellhammer has also replaced Nick Barker for drums on this album, and his drum work is just damn incredible as always. The only bad thing is that with probably a bit too sterile production, many of his drum parts sound too clinical and robot-like, lacking the needed power and final kick to support all the other instrumentation on the album. I just cannot understand why everything should always be so sterile as far as the production is concerned. Sure, studio technology has evolved drastically since the times when metal bands´ albums were produced two decades ago, but bands should watch out not to let way too polished productions ruin the final outcome of their recordings.
For the Dimmu fans, IN SORTE DIABOLI can be considered a very good album from its many different, musical aspects, but overall it doesn´t fulfill all the same musical standards that their previous album DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON had that would make IN SORTE DIABOLI somehow the band´s most ambitious, or most advanced album to date. Naturally it´s gonna be the fans of this band who´ll be the final judges eventually to decide whether IN SORTE DIABOLI lived up their expectations or not. For me, as a fan of Dimmu Borgir, unfortunately not enough though...