DIMMU BORGIR – In Sorte Diaboli

While the anticipation for In Sorte Diaboli has no doubt been huge, the anxiety of what would become of the band following their split with drummer Nicholas Barker back in 2004 was perhaps far greater. Would DIMMU BORGIR slump back into their CRADLE OF FILTH-junior days? In fact, how would DIMMU BORGIR top the excellent yet over-the-top Death Cult Armageddon? Even with the mighty Hellhammer atop the drum throne (in place of the departed Barker) wasn’t going to guarantee a three-peat, especially after almost a four-year vacation. Fortunately however, In Sorte Diaboli doesn’t fail. With their big pompous sound intact, DIMMU continues to cut with razor-sharp, tremolo-picked guitars fluffed with epic, Hollywood-worthy synths. Hellhammer steps up for the band with a solid performance considering the more restricted framework compared to his main band MAYHEM. Despite all the key elements being in place, the usually over-the-top band actually scale things back half a notch (arrangements are relatively less complex and synths take a lesser role). Whether intentional or not, it does harm the overall bite of the band, leaving In Sorte Diaboli just not quite up to par as its predecessors, Death Cult Armageddon and Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. There is one shining spot, however, in vocalist Shagrath, who makes a grand-yet-subtle improvement in his parts and delivery. The lyrics though are another story. Billed as a “concept” album, its typical black metal fare (i.e. it has something or a lot to do with Satan), and is not anything to write home about. The last track, “The Foreshadowing Furnace,” does possibly hint at a sequel. But for now, the planet’s biggest black metal band have succeeded in not losing any momentum. (Nuclear Blast Records)

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