Dimmu Borgir – “Death Cult Armageddon”

dB HoF No. 147

Label: Nuclear Blast
Release date: September 8, 2003

If there’s one black metal album that changed black metal—in almost every respect—it’s Dimmu Borgir’s Death Cult Armageddon. The Norwegians had battled through the genre’s idyllic early years, where everything but the music was important—when image and the controversies of select individuals reigned supreme. But fast forward a few years, and it’s clear the Oslonians, principally on the strength of the Stormblåst full-length, were gearing up for something greater. When Enthrone Darkness Triumphant landed in the spring of ’97, suddenly black metal wasn’t predicated on ultra-fast and infernally fiery volleys of speed and distortion with no-fi productions. Musicality and a grander scene of sonic picture were placed—wittingly—on a genre all-too unready to accept progress on Dimmu Borgir’s scale. Heralded by the press and the record-buying public, the Norwegians pressed on as if the scorn from atavists mattered not.

Doors of convention clearly ripped apart, and 2001’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia yet again placed Dimmu Borgir at the top of black metal’s pyramid, a place where commerce and integrity commingled in dark corners. What set Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia apart from nearly everything before it was the introduction of a 14-piece orchestra. Suddenly, the faux Wagnerian landscapes set by mid-priced keyboards weren’t enough. So, off with the top hats. Dimmu Borgir introduced black metal’s hellbeast to the sweeping, if sometimes chilling sounds of a real orchestra. The metal public at large—now growing in numbers across the globe—cheered the Norwegians’ boundary-breaking, while on the inside, the hunger for more—strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion—was becoming insatiable.

For two years, the songwriters in Dimmu Borgir toiled away at their next vision. They wanted something awe-inspiring, dark and majestic. The Norwegians wanted to lay waste to their previous endeavors. And so they did. When Death Cult Armageddon first hit the press and fans alike, the pivot started. Dimmu Borgir, once a little-known act, were about to become black metal’s biggest—sonically, aesthetically and commercially—export. Death Cult Armageddon is an album of firsts. No metal band of Dimmu Borgir’s disposition had envisioned a scene quite like Death Cult Armageddon. Obsessively conceived by perfectionists at the height of their saturnine inspiration, the full-length scored a soundtrack to grotesque beauty and baleful hate. The 52-piece Czech-based orchestra allowed Dimmu Borgir to stretch beyond their most nefarious dreams. “Eradication Instincts Defined,” “Vredesbyrd,” “Allehelgens død i Helveds rike” and the penultimate “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” saw black metal on a whole new scale. The forests, castles and fjords of the past mere bluster to the iniquitous multiverses menacingly unfurled by Dimmu Borgir’s mid-aughts revolution.

That they were able to take Death Cult Armageddon to heights unknown to every single one of their countrymen—by appearing on Ozzfest, for example—is one thing. But having music culled from Death Cult Armageddon for Hollywood film is yet another. While the aforementioned may be little more than music industry and record label fluff, consider what else is behind the album. Righteously brutal music. Savagery escalated. Black metal re-invoked by the devil at the crossroads. “Lepers Among Us,” “For the World to Dictate Our Death,” “Heavenly Perverse” and “Cataclysm Children” are such songs, divinely wrought to bespell and enthrall. Death Cult Armageddon is no commoner. There is no pretense to the full-length’s internal and external gaze. That it, even today, is Dimmu Borgir’s top-seller translates to one thing only.

So, when the great Hall door stands open and the black ravens wing out, it’s time to welcome another. With fellow Norwegians—Emperor, Darkthrone, Immortal, Satyricon and Burzum—in horned salute, Decibel does so grant Dimmu Borgir and its unparalleled Death Cult Armageddon permission to the Hall of Fame. Welcome to the feast, end-time progenies. Your oaken thrones have waited long enough.

– Chris Dick

Got to get more Dimmu Borgir? To read the entire seven-page story, with featurings interviews with all members on Death Cult Armageddon, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.