Within the music industry, eight years between releases is practically æonic, inspiring feverish anticipation — or, perhaps, battered hope — for cherished artists to return. When these revivals work (see: Avalanches), they’re iconic, satiating fans and solidifying their place within our hearts. When they’re fail…well, one wishes Axl Rose had retired fifteen years ago. Regarding Norwegian black metal act Dimmu Borgir, whose ‘Eonian’ marks the group’s tenth full-length LP, the nearly eight-year lapse in material since ‘ABRAHADABRA’ (2010) does not seem deafening, their “resurgence” inconsequential (albeit enjoyable).
Unlike Cradle of Filth’s ‘Hammer of the Witches’, which some consider the British extreme metal group’s renaissance following a string of subpar releases, ‘Eonian’ feels somewhat anticlimactic, inspiring ambivalent responses. While core-members Shagrath (lead vocals), Silenoz (rhythm guitar), and Galder (lead guitar) recapture a modicum of powerful orchestration found throughout ‘Death Cult Armageddon’ (2003), particularly on ‘Lightbringer’, their “experimentation” goes little beyond a ‘Murder of the Universe’ King Gizzard-esque chant (‘Council of Wolves and Snakes’) and light industrial seasoning (‘The Unveiling’). The result is not disappointing, but ‘Eonian’ feels more like a bridge from ‘Death Cult Armageddon’ to ‘In Sorte Diaboli’ (2007) than a record crafted and refined over the course of the decade.
Where ‘Eonian’ fails is beyond itself. The ’90s gave listeners three extraordinary Dimmu Borgir albums (1995’s ‘For All Tid’,1996’s ‘Stormblåst’, and 1997’s ‘Enthrone Darkness Triumphant’) while the ’00s blessed — er, in a Luciferian sense — while the aforementioned ‘Death Cult’ is arguably the band’s crowning achievement. For some, the modest successes that ‘Eonian’ does offer (‘Interdimensional Summit’, ‘The Unveiling’, Rite of Passage’) will not atone for the creeping feeling Dimmu Borgir has created little of note over the past fifteen years. Moreover, without any outstanding tracks commanding one’s attention, one may nitpick the more regrettable traits within, such as Gerlioz’ keys on ‘Lightbringer’ evoking Crazy Frog‘s rendition of ‘Popcorn’ and ‘The Schola Cantrum Choir delivering the cheesy “Life is a trial / And the passage is death” line on ‘Archaic Correspondence’).
Neither ‘Chinese Democracy’ bad nor ‘Wildflower’ good, Dimmu Borgir‘s return with ‘Eonian’ is welcome, albeit inessential. Likely concluding a decade of “solidly OK” music, ‘Eonian’ may remind fans who have drifted away, “Oh, yeah, Dimmu Borgir was a thing,” but will struggle to command their rapt attention. As the black metal leviathans enter their 25th year, it seems the latter half has been anything but excellent. Of course, Silenoz argues that ‘Eonian’ will require “the listener a few spins to get under the layers,” so perhaps the album simply requires time. Either that, or we’ll have to savor the record during the band’s next decade-long absence.
The full tracklist is as follows:
1. The Unveiling
2. Interdimensional Summit
4. Council of Wolves and Snakes
5. The Empyrean Pheonix
7. I Am Sovereign
8. Archaic Correspondence
9. Alpha Aeon Omega
10. Rite of Passage
‘Eonian’ is out now via Nuclear Blast.