Album Review : Dimmu Borgir - Eonian (2018)
Dimmu Borgir was one of my first experiences with black metal and I suspect it was for many people. They were one of the first bands to make it big in North America. Their music was so bombastic and they carried themselves so theatrically, it made a lasting impression on my thirteen years old self. That's quite telling if you think about it, since black metal is a theatrical style by nature. Dimmu Borgir has embraced its own theatricality a little too much over the years, though and hasn't turned interesting material for many years now.
After eight years of silence, I was hoping the release of Eonian would announce a return to form for what was once a terrific atmospheric black metal band. That didn't happen. Eonian offers a few interesting ideas, but cranks the cornball symphonic act to a level I didn't know existed yet.
What Eonian offers is quite enticing on paper: long, intricate songs that contain many riffage styles and melodies within themselves, new elements (notably the use of a choir) and a timid return of industrial influences, notably on the opener The Unveiling. That's the crazy thing about this album, every song has good parts, but collapses at some point and becomes impossibly corny. It's what happens when you try too hard to impress. Songs like Ætheric and Alpha Aeon Omega are heavier and more linear, so they turned out slightly better, but others like Interdimensional Summit, I am Sovereign and Archaic Correspondence become borderline unlistenable at some point.
It becomes clear on Eonian that Dimmu Borgir have lost the foundation of its identity over the years. A friend made the astute observation that they never really recovered from the departures of Mustis and ICS Vortex, which you can feel more than ever here. The symphonic elements of Eonian borderline on ridicule. The use of choirs in particularly bad. Their signing along the rhythm section, which makes it sound like the guy from Nightwish hacked into their recording session and cut the entire record with parts of his songs. Choirs are primarily meant to create atmosphere. Especially on a black metal song. They can't just singalong like they're a member of the fucking band.
The keyboards are another problem on this record. Unlike black metal purists, I enjoy electronic music influences and Dimmu Borgir have definitely done it correctly in the past. The problem on Eonian is that it's the same fucking keyboard on everyone, and it sounds like a mix between a landline telephone and the melody to Funky Town. It hurts me to write this because Dimmu Borgir offered some of the finest black metal keyboards moment, like on their classic song Spellbound (By the Devil), but they lost the plot along the way. And this candy-ass keyboard is on every fucking song. It straight out ruins Archaic Correspondence, which would've worked well otherwise.
Dimmu Borgir are trying hard on Eonian, but they obviously don't know what to do with themselves. They experiment like kids in a garage band with too much access to technology and no one at Nuclear Blast was there to tell them their ideas sucked. I don't even know if I liked this album better than 2010's Abrahadabra, which is reviled by almost every fan of the band. Dimmu Borgir became famous through a very specific sound and they should focus on reliably providing that sound rather than wallowing in excess like they've done for fifteen years now. If you're looking for me, I'll be listening to my old copy of Spiritual Black Dimensions.