I seem lucky lately to have landed four new decent metal purchases.
Dimmu Borgir – In Sorte Diaboli
In Sorte Diaboli highlights what Dimmu Borgir has become over the last few years. Arguably one of the most popular and widely-known symphonic black metal bands from Europe, Dimmu Borgir has refined their sound to preserve their sound signature as well as ensure a fair amount of commercial success. One could say that the album offers more of the same style the band has delivered since Death Cult Armageddon – and that’s not exactly a bad thing. The first track to receive airplay, The Serpintine Offering kicks off the album with awesome atmosphere and a nice melody. My only complaint is that as the album proceeds, my interest seems to wane.
Recommended. Nice album art too.
Therion – Gothic Kabbalah
The most melodic and ambitious of the North European metal bands, Therion doesn’t really sound very black or death – it is, however, very symphonic. I felt Gothic Kabbalah was more accessible than In Sorte Diaboli and Ordo Ad Chao. The guitars riff along nicely, production sounds cogent and mainstream, and even the vocals are audible and clean. On the downside, the album feels abit pretentious with all the mythological references and cryptic titles. It would also be nice if they could trim it down to a single album. Unlike Lemuria / Sirius B, Gothic Kabbalah is not offered as two separate purchases.
Recommended, but go check out Theli first if you’re new to Therion.
Black Sabbath – The Dio Years
Black Sabbath hired diminutive Ronnie James Dio as the lead singer for a few memorable albums after Ozzy’s departure in the late 1970s. At that point, Dio had already been with Elf and Rainbow and was an established metal singer with a following. This compilation collects the stronger tracks from Dio’s Black Sabbath albums (taken from 1980’s Heaven and Hell, 1981’s Mob Rules, 1982’s Live Evil and 1992’s Dehumanizer) with three new songs attached for extra value. While nothing here comes off as seminal as the band’s first two albums Black Sabbath and Paranoid, they are nevertheless a very strong selection of metal tunes that don’t really song dated at all (I would argue that Dio’s solo album Holy Diver, while excellent, sounds much more a product of the mid-1980s). With Dio, Black Sabbath sounds more aggressive and tighter. I found the three new songs decent but unexceptional as it lacks the vibrancy of the songs from their first stint.
Highly recommended though not essential unless you are a Dio fan (which I am).
Mayhem – Ordo Ad Chao
Perhaps one of the most notorious bands to come out of the Norwegian black metal scene (see Wikipedia entry for band’s fascinatingly black history), Mayhem has endured an ever-changing line-up of band members. When Mayhem reformed back in 2004 after a four year hiatus, they received a mixed response. After another three years, they have finally delivered a follow-up album in Ordo Ad Chao (translated into English it means “order In chaos”). This time, the band includes founding bass player Necrobutcher, prolific and much lauded drummer Hellhammer, vocalist Attila (who sang on Mayhem’s masterpiece De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas) and guitarist Blasphemer (who was been part of Mayhem since 1995). The first thing that struck me when I started playing this disc was the sound quality : some will call it raw, others will say it feels severely under-produced or awful. Hellhammer is quoted as saying “the production sounds necro as fuck, but that’s the way we wanted it-this time. It represents Mayhem today.” So audiophiles be warned. Musically, the songs represent the more avant-garde leaning of black metal that bands like Emperor have also been exploring. It makes for an interesting listen, but the songs are not as immediately striking as the sinister and more direct tunes of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. I think it requires a few more sessions to really get a hang of the album.