A rewarding listen

Forces of the Northern Night represents Dimmu Borgir’s landmark 2012 performance in Oslo, in tandem with Kringkastingsorkestret (the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Choir). With more than a hundred people on stage, this was an ambitious undertaking. But how would it fare?

After an orchestral run through ‘Xibir’, proceedings proper kick off with ‘Born Treacherous’, arguably one of Dimmu Borgir’s most well-known pieces. As they make their way through the track, the vibe hits, this hitherto unknown synergy that just feeds through the band, choir and orchestra. All three elements working in tandem to create this utterly majestic feel; each song serving as a means to highlight how closely in sync they all are.

Dimmu Borgir have chosen an ambitious, career encompassing set list, perhaps to show off how well their orchestral/choral experiment is faring. The set is packed with favourites, deep cuts and orchestral interludes. A notable highlight comes early in the set, as ‘Gateways’ (from their most recent album, Abrahadra) features current Djerv vocalist Agnete Kjølsrud reprising the guest vocal role she performs on the studio version, and to great effect. Another unexpected moment comes with ‘Dimmu Borgir’ effectively serving as an introduction to itself. The song is first performed solely by the orchestra and choir, with the band then joining in for a reprise.

As I listened through I was repeatedly struck by how effortlessly this seemed to coalesce for Dimmu Borgir, the choir and orchestra. Silenoz and Galder’s guitars blending in, the keyboards and drums offsetting any number of orchestral accompaniments whether they be trumpet, claret or violin. And finally Shagrath’s vocals both leading and following the choir at times. I can appreciate the attention paid to the orchestra with the interludes and the highlights on classics like ‘Progenies of the Great Apocalypse’ and the closers, ‘Mourning Palace’ and a orchestra-led ‘Perfection or Vanity’. This may have been for all intents and purposes a Dimmu Borgir release, but much of what makes this work is down to the band, orchestra and choir working harmoniously as one, instead of the latter two merely feeling like afterthoughts included to spotlight the band.

Forces of the Northern Night might perhaps not be the best place to begin for the Dimmu Borgir neophyte, but for the adepts, extreme metal fans, or anyone who just enjoys it when bands challenge themselves to stray out of their established sound, it should serve as a rewarding listen.

1. Xibir
2. Born Treacherous
3. Gateways
4. Dimmu Borgir
5. Dimmu Borgir
6. Chess with the Abyss
7. Ritualist
8. A Jewel Traced Through Coal
9. Eradication Instincts Defined
10. Vredesbyrd
11. Progenies of the Great Apocalypse
12. The Serpentine Offering
13. Fear and Wonder
14. Kings of the Carnival Creation
15. Puritania
16. Mourning Palace
17. Perfection or Vanity