For centuries art has been a vehicle to our own inquisitive nature. Aiming to answer lofty and often theoretical questions, man has challenged the very meaning of the illusion that is time. A concept that we are bound by from life until death, indicative of evolution, knowledge and progress, the idea of “time” can sometimes be too much to truly comprehend. With it now having been eight years since their previous release Abrahadabra Norwegian Symphonic Black Metal titans, Dimmu Borgir will once more return with what could well be their most introspective and theoretical offering to date, Eonian.
Before that however, I was very lucky to be able to speak to guitar maestro Silenoz. High up in the towers of a London hotel, Silenoz is noticeably excited. Intrigued for a barrage of interviews to be thrown his way. Having explored subjects of extinction and the devil incarnate on previous records, it seems that, like a fine wine, Dimmu Borgir have matured exploring ideas that are universal to our existence as a species, in particular with brand new album Eonian, time.
“Time for us is very relative, I tried to think about this as you’re doing a shamanic dance and you’re walking the plank on the ship and there are a lot of sharks everywhere but you still walk the plank! Its like diving into the metaphysical abyss. Its not really a concept album but it deals with a lot of metaphysical things that are limitless. We want the music to be limitless. We operate within a certain Dimmu frame but if we don’t have the courage to step out of our comfort zone then no great music is going to be made. Because art comes from overcoming challenges and a lot of suffering, breaking down the body physically and mentally and then you kind of rebuild.”
Despite returning after an eight year absence, the renaissance in the Dimmu Borgir camp has been a constant during the writing of Eonian. Understanding that in order to truly create the best representation of art, you need to in fact break yourself and your own ideologies down in order to rebuild once more.
“Each time you deconstruct yourself you feel fresher each time. Its as though you had a ladder and you take one step each time. A sentence in a lyric can mean something very different to you than to me. Its easy to agree that “Ok this is an epic part or this is a melodic part” but the words in a sentence can paint tons of ideas. For us its important to have meaningful personal lyrics to express because we’re going to play this live as well. When we were younger it was more direct and to the point but now its less conclusive stuff, we want to write something that makes the listener ask questions, big questions. About death and life, how you put yourself in perspective to those questions.”
Beginning writing from the year 2012, Eonian is somewhat of a obelisk. Having gone through almost eight years of creative process, the record has shape shifted from its original sounds into the piece that we can hear today. Though Silenoz ensures that Eonian is less about the music itself more the journey that the listener is a part of by listening.
“A couple of songs are from 2012 – 2013. The first single is actually one of the first songs, closest to the previous album in a way. Its hard to dissect your own music but thats just one part of the puzzle. You can take any song off the album and that would be just as much of a representation of the album. Its all about the journey, diving into the album with some wine and beer and opening the gatefold vinyl! Thats the preferred way of listening to Eonian. You start the album and yes the album finishes but the idea behind the record is that nothing finishes and that is where Eonian comes from. Everything that is, always has been and always will be. Its a karmic cycle.”
Breaking the silence with their first single since Abrahadabra, the band returned with “Interdimensional Summit” the first example of what fans could expect to hear. Combining influences that ranged from classic Black Metal to more Symphonic tendencies, the track caused quite a stir amongst fans. Often judging an entire album after the release of a single song, the facets of Eonian are manifold and could well be one of the most expansive pieces the band have written to date.
“I think that fans will have a different take on it. Than judging it from hearing one song. It requires your patience and you have to be alert when listening to it but at the same time, its important for us that we analyse less and less. Just let it speak for itself, when we’re being lumped into that Symphonic Black Metal tag I guess that’s ok but for us we don’t really care about tags. Its important to not have a defined way of describing the album, you want it to live and breathe and give you something new every time you listen to it.”
Dimmu Borgir have never been a band do anything by halves, the band have added something new to their blackened palette with every release and perhaps none more so than with Eonian. Having always focused on symphonic elements since the early days of their career, on their new full length the focus has shifted so much so that choir has become an integral part of the album. Focusing this time on cinematic dynamics the band have somewhat dulled their traditional Black Metal claws but in doing so have created what could be their most expansive album to date.
“I think that the use of the choir gives this cinematic feeling and that was done on purpose. We wanted to do something more than just the regular stuff, they sing the lyrics to enhance certain parts. Of course mixing such an album is a nightmare! Since we did such good Pre-production on all the songs, right down to the last detail, that made it a little bit easier for us when we got to the studio. I’m not saying that it was easy but the pre-pro really set the tone and helped us achieve what we had hoped for.”
As the adage goes “you can’t rush good art”. Taking their time to ensure that every aspect of Eonian was painstakingly looked over it does prompt the question that what exactly was it that took so long for Dimmu Borgir to come out of creative hibernation?
“Originally we had the idea of waiting 16 years hahaha! No, I mean there are several reasons from the outside it looks very dramatic but we are the type of band that don’t write music whilst we’re on tour and we were playing live until 2014 and then we usually take a break after each cycle but this time the break got a bit longer! Some of us became fathers again but we had been working on and off with the music ever since 2012 its just the last 3 – 4 years thats when we really gave it the last push and managed to finalise songs. We’ve been working really hard because inspiration comes and go’s, personally I felt early on in the process, once we had the first two or three songs done that there was no point in trying to put a deadline on this. Its like a bear hibernating. He’ll sleep until he wakes up, you can poke him but he’s not gonna wake up haha!”
Often one of the hardest disciplines in art is the understanding of exactly when to stop. A painter can look at a painting an infinite amount of times, correcting colour, changing contrast slowly but surely manipulating the piece into an entirely different entity altogether. Inadvertently leading to the possibility of the painting being improved and even in some cases ruined, producing Eonian themselves Dimmu Borgir had to have a defined mindset from the off but when is it that an artist can step back from their piece confidently.
“Thats where most bands have an outside producer saying this is finished “Ok move onto the next song”. We are our own producers, we have to take that into consideration too and there is no other way than to step out of your own ego. Try and look at a song from an objective perspective and that is quite challenging. When to stop, when to say this is it, thats the downside of not having a deadline. I think that with the experience that we have now, we have been able to grow a lot in that department. Producing ourselves and saying, this is it lets move onto the next song. I’m really proud of the process.”
With 2018 marking their 25th anniversary together as a band, Dimmu Borgir have long since been a force in the Black Metal genre. Creating a symbiosis of Symphonic Black Metal, the band have influenced bands the world over which begs the question of what have the band brought to the Black Metal genre itself?
“A lot of anger and confusion! At least to the elitists! For me that is such a paradox and we’ve always been about going our own way and individuality. Its such a paradox and I’m really proud that we have always gone our own way. We were actually one of the first bands to use Keyboards more than Enslaved did, more than Emperor did. Of course we got shit from that from day one but that just fueled the fire. If we’re going to survive in this then we can’t pay attention to the so called unwritten laws of Black Metal.”
Similarly genres and their classification have often been a talking point for fans over the years. Causing all sorts of debates of what band pertains which genre, Dimmu Borgir despite their Symphonic elements have always been adopted by the Black Metal elite however with the ongoing complaints as the band slowly evolve from their set in stone Black Metal roots you could argue that the genre is perhaps too regimented.
“I understand it from a fans perspective too because we’ve always got a certain way that we look at our favourite bands and genres but at the same time if you put too many labels on music then it loses its origin, it loses its magic! Its about finding something that either gives you something or it doesn’t. I remember when I was 16 – 17 and Pantera was really big, I secretly started to like them but I didn’t tell anyone because its not “Trve” enough. I’ve been a victim of that myself!”
Demanding multiple listens, Eonian is very much like and onion reveal more intricacies with every layer that is removed. Wanting to carry on their evolution on Eonian the focus for songwriting was very much guitar oriented, compared to previous Abrahadabra where each track was influenced predominantly by keyboard arrangements.
“The album in general is more based on guitar themes than the previous one. It might not sound like that during the first few times you listen to it but there is a lot on this album that has originated from guitar ideas. On the previous record a lot of the first ideas were from keyboards. Thats probably a little difference! The same with In Sorte that was more guitar driven. I think that the dynamics are really important and that is our biggest strength. The core writing trio Shagrath, Galder and myself we have very different tastes in music and are very different as persons but once we get together in a creative environment it fuels something really special.”
Not content with releasing an album that could well be coasting, Dimmu Borgir’s tenth release truly is the band at their most collaborative. Made up of principle songwriters Shagrath, Silenoz and Galder, tenth release Eonian not only stands as a defining moment in the band’s career but as a comprehensive study in what was, is and always will be a part of the Symphonic Black Metal ethos and yet another phenomenal achievement in an already extraordinary legacy.
“Its very much an achievement, I destroyed myself in the process, as I’m sure that Shagrath did as well. This is going to be another pillar in our catalogue, just like we look at Enthrone Darkness Triumphant as one of them and Death Cult Armageddon as another. Its going to stand the test of time.”