Up until ten years ago, black metal was strictly a small underground movement with an elitist like cult following. However, as the years have progressed, black metal has emerged from out of the shadows and taken on a form of its own, and filtered through to the mainstream.
Acts such as Satyricon, Mayhem, Immortal, the now defunct Emperor and the high profile Cradle Of Filth proved there was a market beyond a small hardcore following, and took their message out to the masses. Another act that has captured the imagination of extreme metal fans over the past ten years is Norwegian melodic black metal band Dimmu Borgir.
From their debut release 'For All Tid' in 1994, through to 2000's 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia', Dimmu Borgir have continually raised the bar for black metal, while maintaining and increasing on an ever growing fan base. Dimmu Borgir's seventh studio release 'Death Cult Armageddon' is no exception. The album picks up where 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia', and pushes the atmospherics, orchestration and extremities to heights black metal has never venture before.
Dimmu Borgir's founding guitarist Erkekjetter Silenoz had been hitting the campaign trail through London, Italy, Paris, before finally finishing up in Nuclear Blast's German offices to take on the rest of the world. I managed to secure a few precious minutes with Silenoz to find out more on 'Death Cult Armageddon', orchestras and their indifference to award ceremonies.
- After a few listens to 'Death Cult Armageddon', it was obvious that Dimmu Borgir had managed to not only eclipse 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia', but also forge something new within a genre that isn't known for taking risks or creating something outside the expected.
The reaction to 'Death Cult Armageddon' has been awesome, and overwhelming. I haven't heard any journalist say any bad things yet, which is really quite amazing. We know 'Death Cult Armageddon' is our most epic sounding album we've recorded to date. The production too, is outstanding. It's something that suits our sound better than the 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia' album I think. The whole album has a full on power sound, but it still has a lot of detail going through the music. You can still hear that. You might miss it through the first few listens, but the more the album grows on you, the more it becomes evident. I expect from all the media response, and the response from the journalists, that this album will be a success. For us, it's already a success because we are happy and satisfied with this album. In itself, that's already been accomplished already. It's cool that a lot of press and media are into it as well.
- When I mentioned that that it took me by surprise, and it took quite a few listens to fully grasp the magnitude of the material on offer, Silenoz couldn't agree more.
[Laughs] For some people, it does take a bit of time to fully grow with it. But for some other people, they get a kick out of it the first time they listen to it. That was part of the reason why we put 'Allegiance' as the opening track on the album. We don't want any power ballads on there, so I start with some pretty intense ones straight away. I prefer to let the album breathe later on with the other songs.
- It's no secret that Dimmu Borgir like to have three word titles to accompany all their album, and 'Death Cult Armageddon' is no exception to the rule. Finding a meaning behind the title though, is a completely different story.
That's a hard question actually. Of course, we wanted a three-word title, and we actually didn't come up with it until we were half way through the recording of the album. We decided to go with a simpler title, and that's something that also ties in with the cover artwork. We also wanted something that describes the lyrics in a good way I think.
- The cover artwork in question also poses some interesting ideas too. As a good [Mechanically minded] friend of mine pointed out, the picture is actually a clutch pressure plate.
I don't know the details about the actual picture, but the guy who actually created the artwork kind of melds thing together. So that might be true. I'm not so much into cars myself, but it could well be! [Laughs] I'm not sure where the idea actually came from, but I'm sure he's melded things together to come up with the final picture, and something that fits the 'wheel' of Armageddon.
- What really stands out is the dominating role the orchestra plays on some of the songs on the 'Death Cult Armageddon' [Such as 'Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse', 'Blood Hunger Doctrine' and 'Vredesbyrd']. Although comparisons to Cradle Of Filth sound wise are off putting, the fact that Cradle Of Filth's use of orchestration on 'Damnation And A Day' earlier this year sound weak and insignificant compared to 'Death Cult Armageddon' speaks volumes about Dimmu Borgir's rise to the top of black metals elite.
We used orchestration on 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia', but the orchestra we used on that was a lot smaller than the one we used on this album. We had that in mind when making this album. We wanted to expand the orchestral moments, while including horns and more percussion. Things like that to make it more soundtrack sounding. We want this album to sound like theme to the end of the world. The orchestra helps the album to sound like a soundtrack. We would have liked to use the orchestra more on the earlier albums, but we couldn't afford it. We used keyboards, and at times it actually sounds like an orchestra.
- Although hardly considered a failure, the orchestral movements used throughout 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia' certainly don't stand up to 'Death Cult Armageddon'.
We wanted to go for a more complete orchestral sound. That includes the horns as well, that makes a very imperial feeling. Also, we weren't fully happy with the mix on 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia'. We only spend three or four days on it, which is too little for us. This time we had a lot more time in the studio, and that of course helps to put everything into place.
- In 1999, Dimmu Borgir were nominated for "Spellemannsprisen", a Norwegian Grammy, in the metal category for 1998's 'Godless Savage Garden' [Alongside The Kovenant and Mundanus Imperium]. The band were due to play with an orchestra, but things didn't exactly go to plan… Can you tell me what happened when you planned to use an orchestra to play like on the Grammy Awards?
That was in 1999, for the year 1998. We were nominated for the 'Godless Savage Garden' album, which surprised us that it would be even nominated. Everything was organised and arranged, and we even did a pre-recording with drums, bass and the orchestra, so when the show was actually shown, we were going to use that as a playback, and the guitars and vocals would go out live. But they chickened out because they had read some previous lyrics that we were posted on the Internet. They said they couldn't stand behind this 'satanic bullshit band'. They were actually hired by the T.V. company to do a job. They just backed out. We just though, fuck you, and we performed 'Grotesquery Concealed' anyway. It turned out to be pretty killer. As we expected, we didn't win [The Kovenant did, for their 'Nexus Polaris' album] because we didn't have a full album out. It was more of a victory to be playing on T.V. to three to four million people.
- It's not all bad news though. Dimmu Borgir were nominated again for the next couple of years, and finally…
We got nominated for 'Spiritual Black Dimensions' and for 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia'. We actually won the prize last year for that. It was a good feeling to finally win after being nominated for three years in a row. We didn't even attend last year's awards because we were on tour. They asked us, and we told them to fuck off. After all, it's only an award. It's not that important to us. Of course, it's very cool to be acknowledged for your music, especially the fact that Norwegian industry can't ignore the fact that Norwegian bands are popular and are selling a lot of albums. In that sense, it was cool. But we wouldn't have cried had we didn't win it.
- Of course, winning an award of such repute was always going to be a double edge sword, with the elitist fans from the underground calling the band a sell out.
Yeah, that is a good point. But we never cared about those so-called purists. That's not a part of life, and I don't spend energy on bullshit like that.
- Prior to the release of the new album, Silenoz was quoted as saying, "The new Dimmu Borgir album has been a hard and long fucking road to hell, and 'Death Cult Armageddon' is what we're bringing back." While many misinterpreted Silenoz, thinking that the album was an incredibly difficult album to complete, the truth is actually more in line with his dark sense of humour.
[Laughs] I guess I was trying to describe the making of this album in a way that was a long road to hell and back. In a way that is true. We spent a lot of time and hard work on this. We did a proper pre-production before we went into the studio, and everything was in place. We spent like three months in the studio, which is really a lot of time. But if you want a good result, then time is crucial. At least for us it is. I consider this album to be the best that the band has created so far. It's the strongest one that we feel we have ever done. We're more satisfied with this album than we were at this time with the previous one. You can say that for sure.
- Another musician helping create Dimmu Borgir vision of hell is ex-Immortal vocalist Abbath. His guest appearance on two of the albums tracks pre-dates Immortal's sad breaks up.
"That was something that we really wanted to have. We wanted a certain persona, another musician that can put his little touch to some of the lyrics. That was cool that he did that.
- Another important feature for the new album is the fact that two of the songs have been sung in their native Norwegian ['Vredesbyrd' and 'Allahelgens Død I Helveds Rike'], making that the first time since 1998's 'Godless Savage Garden'.
It's been a while since we've done that. That just happened naturally in a way. I was just started writing some Norwegian words, and they became a lyric. The other guys loved it, and that inspired me to write another one. There's nothing more behind it really.
- Nuclear Blast, it must be said, is also expecting big things for Dimmu Borgir's latest album. 'Death Cult Armageddon' will be released in no less than four different versions - Jewel Case C.D. [Including a free sticker unavailable in other formats], Limited Digipak C.D. [Including the bonus cover version of Bathory's 'Satan My Master'], Limited Double L.P. [Includes 'Satan My Master' cover, and two exclusive orchestral tracks] and the deluxe Metal Diary format with a padlock [Limited to 2000 copies, which will include high-class configured loose-leaf notebook with metal and parchment booklet pages, wrapped in embroidered black velvet cloth, a set of 10 high class postcards and C.D. with the bonus cover 'Satan My Master'].
It's something like that. I don't have the count myself. With the double vinyl, there's going to be two bonus tracks, which are outtakes of the orchestra parts in two songs. That's going to make you feel that your part of a Star Wars movie. So that's going to be cool.
- Unlike Europe, Australia hasn't had the opportunity to see Dimmu Borgir play live. Although the band were booked to play live some four years ago, it all came to nothing, with rumour circulating that it was nothing but a hoax.
Of course, this time we have to come to Australia to play. There have been so many times that we have been invited, but for one reason or another, it always fucks up. We came close a few years ago, and that pissed us off because we were almost ready to leave to go to the airport, so to speak. It was the promoter's fault. The blame was pointed to us, but it's never the bands fault. We would never deliberately cancel a gig because we didn't want to play somewhere. We want to play everywhere if we get the chance to. We can't to get down there and raise hell. Hopefully it will happen on this tour.
I would like to personally thank Erkekjetter Silenoz for his generous time. I would also like to thank John Howarth at Riot! Distributors for making the interview possible.