The insanity-filled white summer nights have long faded away in the grim north of Europe and the darkness is slowly rolling in. As pathetically ominous as this might seem, it is the actual state of things nowadays. The winter creeps in and it just makes you hate the world a little more. It is hard to imagine a better time for the Norwegian sympho-blackers from Dimmu Borgir to crash in Helsinki as a part of their current Darkness Reborn 2010 tour and blow off the roof of Kulttuuritalo (the House of Culture) in Helsinki. Naturally, they brought along their own warm-up retinue consisting of two Norwegian bands: Sahg and Enslaved.
Check out our interview with Shagrath HERE!
Dimmu Borgir’s last visit to Finland was in 2008, so it’s no wonder that many of their fans couldn’t wait to see them again. Kulttuuritalo was sold out and a line of very peculiar-looking people (to say the least) was waiting at the doors an hour before they were opened. However, later I discovered that even the most normal or even geeky type of person might also be a die-hard Dimmu Borgir fan, throwing up horns at the show and headbanging like there’s no tomorrow. Indeed, don’t judge a book by its cover because that goody-two-shoes near you might be a latent black metal fan.
I got to hear Sahg first when they were doing their soundcheck and involuntarily wondered who was wailing there. Yet, one of the main reasons to check out this band was the quasi-legendary King (ex-Gorgoroth) playing the bass. When they got on stage, the venue was still quite empty as most people would show up later to see the headliners, naturally. Sahg sounded nothing like the bands that followed them that night. They are a different breed of Norwegian metal and it was both a pro and a con for them. They managed to stand out, but at the same time, the audience watching them wasn’t much into that kind of music. To me they sounded like a heavier, “Norwegian-ized” version of Nickelback, which at first seemed interesting, but became frankly boring during the next quarter of an hour.
Enslaved have undoubtedly got a bigger following in Finland than Sahg, so their reception was much warmer. This was my first time seeing this band, and if I closed my eyes, music-wise it might have been a dozen other Scandinavian bands playing on stage at that moment. Nothing worth mentioning, nothing outstanding, nothing you haven’t seen before on every damned frozen corner of northern Europe. It’s still good metal, bearing the area quality trademark and a solid genre fanbase, but it won’t appeal to you in any way if you’re looking for something different. I knew what I was in for and Dimmu Borgir delivered the treat right after that.
Once the covers were pulled off of Dimmu’s stage set, it was impressive enough for everyone to take out their phones and start taking pictures even without the band there. Three massive spotlight installations reminiscent of a mix of machine guns and flame throwers only added to the mind-blowing impression. Soon after that, the lights went out and the show started with the instrumental composition from the latest album, Abrahadabra, called “Xibir,” which was used as an intro, accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful blue light effects. Suddenly we were absolutely crushed by a wave of massive guitar riffs as the band slowly entered the stage. Shagrath was the last one to appear and greet the crowd with his famous virulent growl and immediately rush the band into a breakneck performance of “Spellbound (By the Devil)” coming from the legendary 1997 album, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. How often does it happen that a band starts the show with your favorite song? The 15-year-old kid in me could burst into pieces out of sheer excitement.
Shagrath’s blistering stage charisma instantly whipped up the crowd to maximum frenzy. While the guitarists, Silenoz and Galder, did what they do best – performing the art of shredding at its finest – Shagrath held the audience in a tight, suffocating grip, making it quite clear who ruled the night. The new white image of the band is absolutely stunning. I could write a whole other article about the peculiar details of their attire, even though the frontman’s wardrobe change halfway through the show into something that looked like a kinky black night robe was quite entertaining.
The setlist was filled with ear-candy as the new songs were mixed with the old hits, such as “Puritania,” “Mourning Palace,” “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse,” “The Serpentine Offering,” and so on. Since the tour was originally done in support of Abrahadabra, I was quite surprised to hear so many great compositions from the band’s discography, but I am sure nobody could complain. Dimmu Borgir played an extremely tight 90-minute show, which I would consider to be absolutely flawless, except for a couple minor technical mishaps that not many would have noticed.
For those who had doubts about whether the band’s new line-up would be able to keep up the high level set by Dimmu Borgir in the past – rest assured, this is by far the most top-notch performance you can get under the black metal label.
2. Spellbound (By the Devil)
3. The Chosen Legacy
5. Dimmu Borgir
6. Chess With the Abyss
8. The Serpentine Offering
10. The Blazing Monoliths of Defiance
11. Born Treacherous
12. Progenies of the Great Apocalypse
14. Mourning Palace
15. Perfection or Vanity
Text: Tanja Caciur | Photos: Ane Orue-Etxebarria