Dimmu Borgir’s last album, 2018’s Eonian, their first new music in eight years, was great. But it wasn’t really a Dimmu Borgir record. And while heavy metal is full of bands who ride very close to the band that inspired them the most, it has in truth always been most clearly defined and sustained by those bands who can’t be mimicked accurately.
Which is why it really needs the “proper” Dimmu back and doing what made them them.
There’s a Melvyn Bragg line that Mark Kermode has brought up in his film reviews: that how you react to something is affected in part on where you are in your life when you encounter it. And obviously, that’s true in music too.
But it in music, it’s even more complicated than that. What you feel about a particular album can be hugely dependent on the relationship you have with what the artist has done before – even in cases where you already liked them, and where you think the album is good – not necessarily how good the album itself is. Naturally, the best way to demonstrate this is with examples, so I’ve dug some out from 2020: Code Orange’s Underneath, Oceans Of Slumber’s self-titled album, Anaal Nathrakh’s Endarkenment, and Unreqvited’s Empathica.
Enslaved’s 15th (FIFTEENTH) album, Utgard, is out today, and (spoilers) it’s bloody excellent. It’s one of their absolute best records in a 27-year recording career that’s almost without blemish, and it is achieved by changing direction.
This really is not news, however, as this has happened multiple times throughout their run, and is often what defines their best records – and throughout all that, at no point have they ever stopped feeling like Enslaved. And it is time they were acknowledged as the best band at shifting gears heavy metal has ever had.
The last decade of being a Nightwish fan looked briefly like being more of a nightmare, but then blossomed into a golden age. Imaginaerum was astonishingly good, then when Anette left, the band fell on their feet by recruiting Floor Jansen – their best singer yet – then didn’t put a foot wrong live, and put out the excellent Endless Forms Most Beautiful to show they didn’t even need bedding in time.
Then they released HUMAN :II: NATURE. And I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before I can stick up for them again.
Unleash The Archers blew my socks off with their last album, Apex. Understandably, I was itching to hear their next one. And once the follow up, Abyss, arrived, I found myself even more enthusiastic about the Canadians than before.
They stand out as one of the best things to happen to power metal in Odin knows how long – but they’ve done it by releasing a record I like less than the last. And it’s partially because I suspect you will like the new outing more than I do.
Sometimes being a black metal fan is a bit like being the manager of an unfashionable football club; you’re frequently surrounded by people telling you exactly what you should think and explaining why you’re wrong, while you remain staunch and steadfast in your beliefs (even if they’re part of what’s making you unpopular), and it’s a damn sight easier when all the bullshit quietens down.
Put another way, Wolves In The Throne Room have gloriously reminded me how much easier it is to simply enjoy something when the circus has moved onto fresher pastures.