Live: Dimmu Borgir and Enslaved Keep Black Metal Alive at Terminal 5


Dimmu Borgir/Enslaved
Terminal 5
Monday, November 8

Better Than: A whooooole weekend of Star Wars.

Though they were both spawned in the same Norwegian scene in the early 90s, Terminal 5’s Monday night headliners, Enslaved and Dimmu Borgir, have done more to push black metal forward than 99% of the black metal bands formed in the years since. While Enslaved bred their black metal with pagan, Viking, and eventually full-on psychedelic elements, Dimmu Borgir chose to make theirs into high art, pumping more and more symphonic bombast into each successive album. Both bands, especially Dimmu Borgir, have their share of detractors. But looking on at the legions of bloodthirsty fans in attendance last night, it’s hard to deny they’re still doing something worthwhile.

Enslaved took the stage under the banner of their new album, Axioma Ethica Odini, the latest addition to their five-album winning streak that began with the mindfucking Below the Lights. You could accuse Enslaved of jumping on the whole post/progressive/whatever black metal bandwagon that’s taken off along with their rise to headliner status, but even in their early years, there was always something a little “off” about Enslaved (like the backwards riffs of “Loke,” from their 1994 album Frost). It’s just taken them almost 20 years to fully develop their x-factor: a love of Pink Floyd and the like. Sure they blast with the best of them, and Grutle Kjellson still uses a mighty roar, but when the time is right, Enslaved will drop a righteous groove on you, overlayed with some spacey solos from lead guitarist, Arve Isdal. During songs like “Fusion of Sense and Earth,” the pit shifted from the usual barrage of fists and elbows to loose-limbed hippie dancing.

Now, we have to admit here that we were a little apprehensive about seeing Dimmu Borgir live. For years they were derided as “phonies” (whatever that means) in underground circles; then they decided to go and play the main stage of Ozzfest in 2004, and in doing so officially landed themselves on everyone’s shit list. Suffice to say that as a metal head you’re basically raised to hate Dimmu Borgir, but even as symphonic black metal has fallen out of favor, they’ve stuck to their guns for eight albums and have been dutifully rewarded with a swanky headlining tour and a crowd that would not stop cheering for them all night. That’s a lot more than I’ve gotten done this year.

Rather than water down their musical pomp, Dimmu have elevated the symphonic elements of their sound to the point that they now conjure clashes of massive star ship armadas rather than demons and dark castles. Even their costumes have gone from traditional corpse paint and spikes to something you might find in the survivalist shop on the ice plant of Hoth. The final product is like a blackened version of Nightwish or the cinematic soundscapes of Rhapsody. Listening to the victorious swells of the new tracks “Gateways,” “Born Treacherous,” and the titular “Dimmu Borgir,” one can’t help but think that James Cameron would be proud.

Critical Bias: Clashing space armadas get me really excited.

Overheard: “Terminal 5 blows. There’s nowhere to get high.”

Most Metal T-Shirt: Inverted cross courtesy of a BeDazzler.