Any metalhead worth his or her salt is familiar with Norwegian black metal. Similarly, if you know anything about the fabled incident, you’ve probably heard about the debate surrounding it.It was these guys, these activities, that snatched the music world by the neck and forced it to look at the grotesque, intriguing world of Norwegian Black Metal of the 1990s.Black metal has been pretty scandal-free since then, with the exceptions of Gaahl torturing people, Nergal burning Bibles, and Darkthrone playing punk.
As such, it makes sense that in 2009, it was the world’s most successful Norwegian Black Metal’s band, Dimmu Borgir, that would start grabbing some headlines unrelated to the band’s music. Unfortunately for the band, however, the controversy has been far removed from the dangerous, mystique-filled exploits of those 90s pioneers.
Instead, these stories have shed a far from flattering light on the band. The trouble started last August when the band announced that bassist/clean vocalist ICS Vortex and keyboard player Mustis had been fired from the band. The two fired back with statements that, frankly, made the rest of the band sound like a bunch of dicks. Mustis claimed that he had been fired by text message, and ICS Vortex posting on his blog, “I will always treasure the albums and the brotherhood as it was before the cabin fever, music industry and greed went Metallica on our asses.” After firing the two long time members, the band announced that it had brought in a full scale orchestral and choir to play on the album, and that there would be over one hundred total musicians on the album.
The news went from questionable to silly when on August 24th, it was announced that Snowy Shaw, the Swedish multi-instrumentalist currently serving as vocalist for the band Therion, would be serving as Dimmu’s new bassist. Promo shots were released, and all seemed fine.
That is until the next day, when it was announced that Snowy had left the band to rejoin Therion. Pretty bizarre stuff, although neither party has released an actual statement saying, “Snowy has quit Dimmu”, leading some to speculate he is actually still in the band.
Despite the band seemingly enduring some inner instability, the band released the first track from its new album, Abrahadabra, on August 20th. Entitled Gateways, the track is the first taste of the new Dimmu and the first bit of new music since the band’s 2007 epic In Sorte Diaboli. The track itself is about as strange as the news surrounding it. Right from the onset, it is clear that Dimmu is certainly making sure that they get there moneys worth in regards to that full scale choir and orchestra. The choir leads off, followed by a pretty awesome orchestral piece and some typical palm mute/double bass accompaniment. The first features vocalist Shagrath alternating between spoken vocals and his typical raspy growl (which sounds as strong as ever). The lyrics certainly aren’t jolly, but the music has an odd, movie soundtrack feel, with the orchestra bouncing around almost playfully behind Dimmu’s metal. After a brief choir bridge, things begin to get a little strange. The sound of so many nails being grinded against a chalkboard screeches its way into the track, and after the auditory equivalent of a double-take, that sound reveals itself to be the vocals of female guest Agnete Kjølsrud, I’m not sure what the band was thinking here; the vocals here are among the most annoying I have ever had the displeasure of listening to. I can only imagine a petite girl not a pound over 90 holding her nose and trying to scream into a mic. The vocals get a little less annoying, eventually, but that first scream really puts a damper on what is, up to that point, a pretty interesting track.