In 1999 Dimmu Borgir took another step away from rawer Norwegian black metal of the yore. Even bigger than before keyboard driven arrangements were in for 'Spiritual Black Dimensions', the band's fourth full length album. Hmm, maybe it was the step towards the right hand path, I'm afraid.
Personally I do not like a lot about symphonic style keyboards, that are in big use here (then you'll heard those tinkling ones, a lot of 'em, and "carnival" style too, which doesn't work as well as for Arcturus). But that is not the main point, because here the band have created good enough songs at times, the skill which they lost after this album. But the thing about the keyboards is, that they are everywhere in the songs, stealing the attention all the bloody time! This, my friends, is keyboard driven music. Guitars are on the heavy side, so no kvlt beehive sound is heard here. Here, it's the guitars which act more like a mat of sound, contrariwise to common casting, except some good solos. Clean vocals by Simen Hestnæs (Arcturus, Borknagar etc.) are very good, even though probably of love/hate in their nature for a listener, but arrangements are working (just check out the ending of 'The Insight and the Catharsis') and his voice is truly individual, offering a very good opposition to Shagrath's one-sided throat-lacerating growl. Back to the songcraft: It is pretty broadly-based, but still quite harmonious, and dramatics work quite well. There's a plenty of enjoyable music here, but it can get too similar way before the ending, so personally I prefer "random play" for this one. 'The Promised Future Aeons' provide a breather with its long keyboard intro, and the closer 'Arcane Lifeforce Mysteria' has a straight opening. Generally, it's a bit too "different part after different part" type songwriting affair. The symphonic keyboard work and clean vocals alone do not make this a show of technical pyrotechnics, which this certainly isn't.
The Peter Tägtgren production, at his Abyss Studio, is hollow and pretty chaotic. Chaotic in a good way? Sadly no. I don't know what was the goal, but maybe heavy plus spacey. Is there bass on this record? I guess yes, but probably it's all mixed up with the guitars, the synths and the drums. The instruments have no specific space, but are all intermingled and unbalanced, badly. It all sounds annoying, and the best result you can get is listening to this with a set of headphones. There's no nude tits on the cover! Blasphemy!!! Well, not. Booklet's pictures with hooks piercing flesh looks nasty enough, but the lyrics are printed in a shitty unreadable font. There's also a fancy first edition digipak with glittering (yep, you read it right!!!), which looks something new.
Is 'Spiritual Black Dimensions' evil? Probably, because it's all about finding your own "spiritual black dimensions" in your brain. As mentioned, I don't like "symphonic" stylings a lot, but here they work okay. Shame about the production... This album hasn't lasted very well all these years.Rating: 6 (out of 10)
Reviewed by Lane
A good follow-up from 'Enthrone Darkness Triumphant' (1997), but this album didn't surpass it in my estimation. The riffs are good and the synthesizers not overly powerful, though they were powerful. Not enough to drown out the guitars though. I think the riffs were solid, catchy and thick. That's one thing their predecessor lacked. Yes, this album a little more heavy than the last. Just the riff writing needed to be stronger and more creative. That's my view at least, but I still gave the album a "B" rating. And Shagrath does a great job on vocals. He makes Dimmu Borgir who they are. It's too bad the newer releases aren't as strong.
I felt that the vocals, guitar and synthesizers were the highlights to the album. They really hit home with me. It's not my favorite Dimmu Borgir release, but it's up there. I felt that 'Stormblast' (1996) was too mild a release, still good though. They toned it up in a big way in terms of the guitars. But it didn't seem like the guitars flowed with the synthesizers. That's one thing I felt was so awesome about 'Enthrone Darkness Triumphant'. Everything seemed to flow together guitars and everything. Not on here.
Silenoz seemed ultimately angry on here though. It's a positive for the guitars to keep that aggression up there. It's just the riffs weren't catchy enough. They seemed to fall short even though the distortion tone was good, the riffs weren't. That may just be something I had to accept from this album. They really needed a better follow-up to keep the progression cycle in place. But I was mistaken. Dimmu Borgir just has had a winding path from glory to doom. If they continued on a stronger lineup, then maybe that would've transpired. But this wasn't the case. The line-up changes didn't do good for the band. Not on every album, just a good portion of them.
I felt that the production sound on here was good, but the music fell short. It's still good, but just like I said a "B" rating. If you've never heard this one or are new to Dimmu Borgir and their sound, you could make your own determination whether or not it suits you and your taste in symphonic black metal. I like this album, don't get me wrong, it's just not my favorite. I think it'd be best to check it out online to make your determination as to if you should be the CD. I bought the CD, but it sits on the shelf most days because 'Enthrone Darkness Triumphant' is more in my headset. But still, check it out!
Rating: 8½ (out of 10) ratings explained
Reviewed by Death8699