Black Metal has always been an odd, corpse-painted duck to me. In my formative years, the intentionally abrasive production was hard on my baby ears, and at the time I thought the theatrical elements were way too goofy. Because I was so cool in 2003. Dimmu Borgir’s Death Cult Armageddon was the record that changed my entire attitude towards black metal and exposed me to a new world of musical textures.
We were in the school computer lab, playing online flash games and looking up music videos. My friend had somehow conned the school librarian into giving up the password to school’s fascist internet firewall. That’s when he pulled up the video for “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” and I learned that black metal could be so much more than a handful of Scandinavian dudes recording themselves whispering about how spooky satan is whilst inside a tin can.
I remember the first time I heard the sound of horns and strings sweeping through the air on that track and that feeling of “whooaaaaaa” that speared my teenage age brain. The fact that the video had boobies in it cemented it as the coolest thing I’d seen in my life that far. The large and in charge drumming of Nicholas Barker and the simple but heavy as hell guitars amplified the epicness of creeplord Mustis’ orchestral score. P”rogenies” sounded like Star Wars in hell.
And that’s all before ICS Vortex comes out of nowhere and belts out some opera vocals over it all. That guy’s pipes are what made me go out and buy that CD that weekend. ICS Vortex’s voice was so awesome they literally had to replace him with an entire choir when he left the band.
Death Cult has other songs on it. Some of them are pretty good too. “Vredesbyrd” is a killer track and features one of the greatest instances of a vocalist announcing a badass part with grunting “ugh” noise in the metallurgic record.
“Allehelgens Død I Helveds Rike” is another gem. I have no idea what it’s about but I remember singing gibberish along with the clean vocal part. And while not quite as complicated and layered as some of the other tracks, Allehelgens has a cool structure and the ending makes me crack a smile every time I hear it.
At a time when my CD collection consisted of the Foo Fighters, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, and one Cannibal Corpse record I bought for the shock value, Death Cult played a significant role in my moving forward and developing my musical tastes. Even though I can appreciate Dimmu’s previous records and other black metal bands as ‘better’ this record holds a special place in my warm and fuzzy place.
Death Cult Armageddon is overlong, a little inconsistent, and melodramatic as all get out. I fucking love it.