by: Dimmu Borgir

The venerable Norwegian symphonic black metal outfit's tenth studio album, and their first set of new material in eight years, Eonian traces the sonic footsteps of 2010's Abrahadabra, delivering epic, neo-classical metal that evokes the fantasy realms of Tolkien rather than the Lovecraftian deviltry of past releases. Sure, it's more Mordor than Rivendell, but Dimmu Borgir's predilection for apocalyptic visions and souls aflame has dimmed over the years -- some of the bandmembers became parents for the first time during the making of the album -- stealing some of the caustic bite from the proceedings. Still, the mostly impressive ten-track set does manage to traffic in some moments of massive Wagner-ian pageantry, unleashing blast furnace-forged tales of death and destruction like "Ætheric," "Archaic Correspondence," and "Interdimensional Summit," the latter of which suggests what the Sisters of Mercy might have sounded like had they emerged from Oslo instead of Leeds. That these seismic pieces of elaborately conceived aural grandeur lean harder on the choral and orchestral end of the spectrum doesn't take anything away from their icy splendor -- the back half of the otherwise rote "I Am Sovereign" is a Skyrim-worthy cinematic wonder. In paring down some of the sonic malevolence, Dimmu Borgir have unearthed a sort of unstable beauty, with Shagrath's distinctive voice -- an amalgam of Emperor Palpatine scheming and Gollum-esque hand-wringing -- adding just enough fuel injector to help carry the album's less-rugged moments successfully through the black gate. ~ James Christopher Monger

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