American metal fans consider black metal musically indistinguishable
from other forms of the genre. Despite some corpse paint
and a sometimes overwhelming lyrical misanthropy not as
readily purveyed by other heavy styles, black-metal trailblazers
like Venom and Bathory employed the same explosive mercenary
tactics that appealed to an entire generation of longhairs
in the ’80s. Norway’s Dimmu Borgir (or “Dark Fortress”)
challenge this assumption with Death Cult Armageddon,
their latest CD on Germany’s Nuclear Blast label. Metroland
spoke with lead vocalist Shagrath, just before their second
sold-out show at Los Angeles’s House of Blues, about what
separates the band from their competitors.
are not like a ‘pure’ black-metal band, for us it’s more
about creating certain energies where it’s real necessary
to bring in orchestral elements,” Shagrath says, addressing
the band’s extensive work with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
on their new disc. “We have always sought to create a darker
atmosphere through keyboards and sampling, but now that
we have the opportunity and the budget to go for the real
thing, we went for it.”
Formed in 1993, Dimmu Borgir aspired to explore traditional
black-metal themes like Norse mythology and Satanism while
distancing themselves from the “black circle”—bands like
Mayhem and Emperor whose fascist ideals and politics were
manifested in high-profile acts of murder and devastation.
got involved in political thinking, which shouldn’t play
a part in black metal,” Shagrath explains. “You can’t mix
them. The Norwegian press still brings up the killings and
church burnings [with us], but I think they understand that
we’re basically about music, nothing else. This is good
because we’re really sick of it.”
As a result of their efforts, Dimmu Borgir have become extraordinarily
popular in Europe. The new video for their latest single,
“Progenies of the Great Apocalypse,” is in heavy rotation
on metal stations around the globe, while the album currently
holds the No. 2 position in Norway and No. 9 in Finland,
and is charting in the Top 50 in Germany, Austria, France
and Holland. Shagrath would like to duplicate this phenomenon
in the United States, and the fact that they even touched
our Billboard Top 200 (the CD debuted at no. 179) is perhaps
a sign of the times for such music. Local fans can judge
for themselves at Saratoga Winners this Sunday, when Dimmu
Borgir headline their final U. S. date.
press can’t close their eyes to this type of music anymore,
and that’s what has happened lately,” he says. “People have
started to realize that this is a very serious form of music,
with a lot of professional musicians who have the ability
to sell shitloads of albums. It has no choice but to become
more acceptable. We actually get more attention than we
want for ourselves.”
And the unsuspecting American teen on a steady diet of Limp
Bizkit and Godsmack?
still don’t really get the point. That’s the reason why
we’re over here, to promote Norwegian black metal, [since]
it is definitely not a big thing in the States yet,” Shagrath
says. “There’s this sort of ‘new’ metal that’s very popular
right now, but I think that it’s going to die out in time.
Metal in general, of course, is much bigger in Europe. More
of those bands need to come over here and promote themselves.”
The sextet’s aggressive imagery and, some could argue, the
demeaning eroticism they employ to speak out against Christianity
and other religious ideals, raise the question of whether
Dimmu will provoke outrage and calls for censorship—as was
so rampant on this side of the puddle almost two decades
ago when Slayer’s Reign in Blood sent suburban moms
to social workers with their rabid, despondent brood.
certainly fight against Christianity; we fight against religion
itself, basically,” says Shagrath casually. “But I don’t
really think the satanic issues are very present in our
music. It is certainly very anti-Christian, and I do consider
myself a Satanist, but that’s more on the personal level.
It really doesn’t have as much to do with the actual band.
But we create music for ourselves, not for anyone else.
They can say what they want.”
Dimmu Borgir will perform at Saratoga Winners (Route 9,
Latham) on Sunday (Dec. 14), with Nevermore, Children of
Bodom and Hypocrisy. The show starts at 7:30 PM; tickets
are $20 in advance. Call the club, 783-1010, for further
got a MacArthur Fellowship, which essentially labels the
recipient a creative genius, and in the case of Ann Hamilton
those foundation folks were on the right track. Hamilton
is one of America’s foremost installation artists of large-scale
and site-specific work, ever aiming at stimulating the senses
in surprising ways, and frequently exploring the body as
Mass MoCA’s largest gallery will reopen with Hamilton’s
massive installation, corpus. Here she animates the
space by manipulating the light, adding 24 ascending and
descending speakers with a different voice in each, and
millions of sheets of translucent paper, rising and falling
in the room over the work’s 10-month tenure. Now when was
the last time you saw that? Two other galleries in the building
will be under her spell as well.
will open Saturday (Dec. 13) in Building 5 at Mass MoCA
(1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.). Gallery admission
is $9 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-16. For further
information, call (413) 662-2111 or visit www.massmoca.org.
around Albany, Troy or Schenectady and try to imagine what’s
missing. You may already be thinking, “huh?” For example,
look at the Empire State Plaza or the Troy Atrium and picture
the fabric of the city made whole—the vast urban plaza or
the glass-sheathed mall replaced again by the row houses,
churches, schools, stores and theaters that were leveled
in the name of urban renewal. In place of armies of office
workers and unused storefronts, imagine neighborhoods.
Troy-based writer (and recipient of an Individual Artist’s
Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts) Amy Halloran
is in the process of reimagining this past by creating a
work of fiction set during Troy’s period of urban renewal.
Ilium Is: Demolition is based on the interviews she
has conducted with the neighborhood residents, businesspeople
and politicians who lived through that era; interviews that
provide the kind of personal detail absent from “official”
Tonight (Thursday), Halloran will read from this work-in-progress
at the Arts Center of the Capital Region. Halloran—who grew
up near Troy—is a freelance writer whose work has appeared
in various online and print publications, including Salon,
Working Mother, McSweeney’s and (we’re happy
to note) Metroland. Also tonight, the 1964 PBS documentary
What Do You Tear Down Next?—which documents urban
renewal in the Capital Region, and features the views of
architect and preservationist Bernd Foerster—will be shown.
Amy Halloran will read from Ilium Is: Demolition
tonight (Thursday, Dec. 11) at 7 PM at the Arts Center of
the Capital Region (265 River St., Troy). Admission is free.
For more information, call 273-0552.