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Dimmu Borgir - Forces Of The Northern Night album review

Shagrath and co go into orchestral overload

Cover art for Dimmu Borgir - Forces Of The Northern Night album

Dimmu Borgir have long since graduated beyond the expectations, and the limitations, imposed by long-term black metal fans, not least on 2010’s orchestral extravaganza, Abrahadabra. On the back of that, taking to the stage with 100-plus members of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and a choir didn’t seem like a logical conclusion so much as a confident wade into the deep end from a master swimmer. Recorded both at the Spektrum venue in their native Oslo and at Wacken in 2011, Forces… is every bit as extravagant and scene-baiting as you’d imagine. The band dress in their white Abrahadabra garb in Oslo, flanked by hordes of tuxedo and evening-dressed musicians as well as singers in cowls, and take everything to new levels of cinematic grandeur as appropriately sweeping cameras roam over the stage and ecstatic audiences. It’s not like blasts such as Chess With The Abyss and Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse don’t lend themselves to such treatment, or that the orchestration doesn’t lack its own dynamics of bombast and pregnant lulls, but over an hour of this – twice – can become draining, lacking that tension between pomp and infernal power Dimmu always had at their command. A spectacular achievement, just be prepared to get carried away.

Having freelanced regularly for the Melody Maker and Kerrang!, and edited the extreme metal monthly, Terrorizer, for seven years, Jonathan is now the overseer of all the album and live reviews in Metal Hammer. Bemoans his obsolete superpower of being invisible to Routemaster bus conductors, finds men without sideburns slightly circumspect, and thinks songs that aren’t about Satan, swords or witches are a bit silly.