There’s no denying that Dimmu Borgir come from a solid black metal background but what these Norwegian’s have done in the (nearly) twenty five years that they’ve been active is turn their version of black metal into a massive spectacle, one that involves orchestras and a full scale choir. Not many black metal acts could get away with such grand gestures, but Dimmu Borgir’s music is often expansive and cinematic in scope – Death Cult Armageddon (2003) is almost an opera unto itself – that actually, performing alongside an orchestra and choir makes perfect sense.
For this release, a stop gap between last full length Abrahadabra (2010) and the promise of new material, Dimmu Borgir include two full live shows and a short documentary on what black metal means to them and the band. Nuclear Blast sent along the DVD but multiple versions are available depending on your preference. For the DVD release you get the full 2011 performance in Oslo alongside the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and choir, as well as 2012s Wacken Open Air slot with the National Czech Symphonic Orchestra, plus CD versions of each show. Phew! So for this review, we’ll look at the mini documentary and the Oslo show else we may be here for one hundred years.
Dimmu Borgir have long had a reputation for being a bit silly, not the black metal that Norway is known for producing or for not being as serious. But watching the short documentary brings a sense of understanding to the band who started when frontman Shagrath was only 17, that for them, music is a form of communication and that going around burning churches is not a fun or interesting idea. They started at the height of the Satanic Panic surrounding second wave black metal and despite being active at this time, the band were much more concerned with producing epic music and continuing the symphonic style that Emperor were so fond of. The behind the scenes footage at Oslo Spektrum (where the 2011 performance was held) shows a wonderful camaraderie between the musicians of the orchestra and Dimmu Borgir, that while their worlds are entirely different, it’s music that bridges the gaps. It’s kind of lovely but don’t let them hear you say that.
The setlists across the two shows are the same and comprise of tracks that work extremely well with a live orchestra, showcasing the huge symphonic elements of the band as well as their knack for writing songs that have far more depth that on first glance. It’s quite the thrill seeing the band play add to their usual keyboards with live strings and gorgeous horns and wind instruments and on “Ritualist” the choir really come into their own. Voices are rich and full and their presence only serves to add to the heightened drama that the one hundred plus people on stage are creating. It’s a wonderful moment and one that carries Dimmu Borgir to the next level.
Leaning heavily on 2010s Abrahadabra, a defiant and overtly orchestral work, the set is a ninety minute extravaganza of a band saying “hey, we’re gonna do exactly what the hell we want and you can bugger off if you don’t like it.” They’re clearly having fun and seem honoured that people have travelled incredible distances to see them play their hometown. “Eradication Instincts Defined” signals a small shift into slightly older material, a move that sees “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” get the treatment it so fully deserves and “Mourning Palace” becomes the grandiose masterpiece that was always promised.
Forces Of The Northern Night is a fantastic addition to Dimmu Borgir’s catalogue and while watching everything in one sitting is a marathon you may not want to commit to, the atmosphere and scope of this band is something to be heralded. Their audiences are spellbound (by the devil) and the band are still something to be excited by. Let’s hope that passion continues on in 2017.
Forces Of The Northern Night is available on DVD, Blu Ray, CD and LP from Nuclear Blast.
7.5 / 10
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