Dimmu Borgir faced a similar problem as Lamb of God when it came time for the latter to post a follow-up to their masterwork, “Ashes of the Wake”: How do you top yourself, or even come close? When you unleash an album like “Death Cult Armageddon,” you set yourself up for failure with your following release.
Well, Dimmu Borgir have, in my opinion, managed to respond more successfully than Lamb of God did with “Sacrament.” But, “In Sorte Diaboli” is not “Death Cult Part II.” It more closely resembles Dimmu’s older works than “DCA”. While “DCA” was a genre-bending disc, “In Sorte Diaboli” is a full-on black metal assault.
That will be a disappointment to some, but a welcome return to form for old Dimmu fans. But this album isn’t just classic Dimmu Borgir black metal. These guys have come back with a venegence. While it lacks the variety found on “DCA”, it offers some mind-blowing guitar and drum work. These two aspects really stand out from the beginning track all the way through to the last riff. Nearly every track showcases Dimmu’s excellent drummer, Hellhammer. The speed at which he works the double bass drums seems inhuman. It’s impossible to describe and must be heard to understand just how remarkable it truly is.
While the out-of-this-world drum work at times takes center stage, this is a very well-balanced album. It is extremely clean for such powerful music. The vocals, guitar and drums (and keyboards!) mesh together perfectly for a really tight sound. The guys have clearly progressed as musicians.
My only real gripe with the disc is that it feels too predictable at times. You know when Diummu is going to slow it down or when they are going to turn on the afterburners and wail with a sonic fury. As previously mentioned, it lacks the variety “DCA” offered. That variety is what made that album so great. The tracks on this disc do not clearly stand apart from each other. They are all fast, aggressive and unforgiving.
It sounds as though Dimmu wanted to make a statement with this record. The statement clearly is aimed at anyone who thought Dimmu was about to sell out and become a corny rock opera act. The orchestra is gone and the keyboards, while still present, take a back seat to the ferocious onslaught of the guitar and drums. While I still prefer “DCA,” this seems like a clear logical step for Dimmu. An attempt to recreate the magic of “DCA” could have been a huge disaster, and with this release, Dimmu Borgir have shown they are not about to give in to anyone’s expectations but their own.
It would have been easy for Dimmu to slow things down and take advantage of their growing notoriety in an effort to attract a larger audience. But instead of doing what they could to garner the favor of the more mild metal fans, they have done exactly the opposite. This is a relentless METAL album.