Well now, this is going to be divisive.

What does black metal even mean anymore?

In 1982 it meant you wore as much studded leather as you could, had basic punky riffs, sung about Satan (and being teacher’s pet) stuck a pentagram on everything, got pissed and had a bloody good time.

Ten years later it meant you absolutely never smiled, recorded your material on a Fisher Price tape recorder….stuffed in a sack and rammed in a compost heap, enjoyed outdoor pursuits including wandering round the woods looking evil (probably holding massive axes & swords) setting fire to churches and being generally a bit stabby with your band-mates. All this had to be done, apparently, while wearing “corpse paint”….. because nothing says evil more than looking like a badger.

Still……at least they made the effort I suppose. These days black metal seems to be more about scouring other bands artwork for iron crosses, tanks and any lyrical themes that could be considered hateful or offensive. Once this onerous but highly important task is complete you, must point at said band (on the internet……never in person) and scream “nazi” at the top of your voice….. before returning to mums basement, buoyant having proudly shined up your “good guy badge” and with supreme confidence that you’ll finally be able to get off with that vegan third wave feminist on your FB friends list.

Not very “dangerous” anymore is it? I mean the mighty Winterfylleth just put out a record that makes Val Doonican sound like Slayer.

What does black metal mean? Fucked if I know. For every decent, well produced BM band there’s two dozen that sound like a socket set in a blender.

I’ve always liked Dimmu Borgir though. No, I’m not gonna pretend I’ve been into them since “For All Tid” because I’m not a lying bellend. “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” was the one that grabbed me when it came out and I loved the blend of symphonic and savage. Bit of waft, bit of metal, bit of Satan. Lovely stuff. Obviously the waft /metal / Satan ratio has changed a bit since then but I’ve always had a soft spot for this bunch of Norwegians. You can love them or hate them but they’ve always done things “their way”. Every album has been met with cries of “sell out” by the humourless goons ensconced in their sordid grief-holes but do you think Dimmu give two shits? Probably not.

“Eonian” is the bands ninth album (tenth if you count the re-recorded Stormblast in 2005) and comes eight years after the equally divisive (and a bit dull to be honest) “Abrahadabra”.

If you’ve seen the promo photos you’ll notice two things, firstly the band are still essentially at their core three piece.  Silenoz, Shagrath & Galder are joined here again by Dariusz Brzozowski on drums.

Secondly, the band have ditched the white outfits, which lets be fair, made them look like evil space yetis. The new “look” is just as outlandish (evil space wizards?) but darker.

Onto the music and as soon as I hit play I knew this was gonna be a better and more interesting album than “Abrahadabra” and it is….by miles. “The Unveiling”  begins with a strange industrial intro layered with static before the guitars and drums punch in. Oh hello lads…. this sounds ace. Cue some choral vocals before the keyboards and drums spiral into the main part of the song, Shagrath’s voice sounds suitably menacing and never “comical” amongst all the pomp and symphony and that goes for the whole album. The keyboards and guitars blend so seamlessly it’s hard at times to figure out what’s what but this song is instantly more interesting than anything on their previous record and has a soundtrack like quality to it, obviously firmed up by the beautiful choral vocals. This track neatly leads into lead single and source of internet butt-hurt amongst the trv kvlt edge-lords  “Interdimensional Summit”.

I love this track. A total ear-worm, it’s pure Nightwish meets Satan and is fucking ace! Keyboard runs and a pomp chorus that could be on an old Sparks album. This is a ridiculously entertaining song and is so well put together.

“Aetheric” is next which is a lot more guitar driven and has a riff reminiscent of modern Satyricon.

Second single, “Council Of Wolves And Snakes” follows that and is just as ambitious as “Interdimensional Summit”. There’s a lot going on in this track and it’s fair to say it might be the most “overdone” song here with what sounds like native American chanting mixed in with all the usual palaver.  Good track mind you, check out the video on YouTube.

I’m not gonna dissect the album track by track but suffice to say, I reckon “Eonian” is easily the best thing Dimmu have put out since “Deathcult Armageddon”.

This record has been a long time coming for Dimmu Borgir fans. The shameless grandeur and “epicness” the band have always displayed have been turned up to eleven and the more I play this the more I’m reminded a musical soundtrack, check out “Alpha Aeon Omega” and tell me I’m imagining it.  There’s a lot going on with this record but you could easily just drop the needle on one random track and enjoy it in isolation. I’m not sure I could on the last couple.

Is “Eonian”  black metal? Who gives a fuck. What I do know is that it’s a killer symphonic metal album and a truly captivating and, yes, emotional journey that I’ve played through more times in three days than I did “Abrahadabra” in the last eight years. Well worth the wait and fvk the trv kvlt h8ers!

(9/10 Mark Eve)