Eonian by Dimmu BorgirRelease date: May 4, 2018
Label: Nuclear Blast
For a band that has kept mostly out of the daylight for the past seven years or so the immediate question that was raised about this album upon its reveal was, of course, “is it any good?”. The quick and easy answer for those not wanting to skim through someone’s scrutinous opinions is a mostly resounding yes.
Was it worth the wait though? Seven years is a long time for anything to gestate let alone the next release in the arsenal of one of the world’s leading black metal troupes. In that time new fans will have arrived having discovered many of Dimmu Borgir’s extensive back catalogue and older fans may have moved on, perhaps putting aside hope of another album, but whatever your views are on the Brobdingnagian gap in time that has crawled by since 2010’s Abrahadabra, Dimmu Borgir are a band that one simply does not forget. The aptly title Eonian is Dimmu Borgir through and through with a few odd twists thrown in that may fall short of an arousing response.
The album opens appropriately with ‘The Unveiling’ with an injection of industrial magic and choirs before warping into atonal guitars and swirling dissonant riffs. Midway and the track slips neatly into a playful piano melody enlightened by the voices of the Schola Cantrum Choir, a welcome highlight throughout the album. A slow but majestic start to the album bookended by a more industrial/experimental approach to Dimmu’s sound.
The second half does slightly eclipse the first without destroying the foundations already laid, leading with the almighty ‘Lightbringer’, which charges from its eerie intro into a symphonic chorus of blast beats and choirs, both oddly touching and powerful. Hands down one of their best amongst recent albums and joins ‘The Empyrean Phoenix’ and ‘Ætheric’ as some of the more muscular offerings from the first half.
‘I Am Sovereign’ could have missed the mark with its at times tedious stumbling guitar riff if it were not for the blissfully bouncing chorus sections and soulful voices of the choir. ‘Archaic Correspondence’ features some of the more hard-hitting guitar work with a few moments of blackened brutality making this a more fitting option for a lead single, instead they went for the more radio-friendly ‘Interdimensional Summit’, which divided many fans and may be one reason to split further opinion about this new release.
The real draw of this album is ‘Alpha Aeon Omega’, a perfect marriage of symphonic orchestration and black metal flowing at lightning pace. Ethereal and energetic, it captures everything a fan would want from a seven year wait. It’s only a shame they saved this until last.
So, a few weaker tracks. A few good ones. A few brilliant. This is an album with flashes of greatness like the chorus hook of ‘Lightbringer’ that sadly only made a brief reprise towards the end. Moments like this could easily sustain songs if they were made a priority but instead the bulk of Eonian is constructed of simplistic and albeit infectious riffage with rare blast beats and little of the scything wickedness of the Trve and icy past. Even Dimmu recently mentioned that fans crave blast beats but this was clearly an album made for themselves, which I do respect. Considering some tracks were conceived as far back as Abrahadabra it seems this has thrown the direction of the album off on a dare I say watered-down and higgledy-piggledy course.
Is it good? Yes. Did I love it? Oh yes. Dimmu Borgir rarely fail in producing a bombastic album rife with spectacle but perhaps can be guilty of relying too much on orchestration, which has nearly usurped the throne on this one. The lack of ravaging blackened metal and that extra bite in some tracks lets the comeback down a little.
Eonian sees Dimmu Borgir playing the safe hand and in no rush to unleash all of their tricks. Perhaps this shows their commitment to staying the course for further albums and I for one certainly hope they do. It’s no Death Cult Armageddon or Spiritual Black Dimensions, but it is however a welcome return for the Norwegian legends.