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The third Dark Funeral is as much a continuation as it is a regression. The album is but a carbon-copy of the vastly superior “Vobiscum Satanas”. “Diabolis Interium” was where Dark Funeral started its gradual descent into parody, and its valiant attempts to come across as misanthropic as possible only end up pushing them into comedic territory. Outside of a glossier production “Diabolis Interium” is as regressive as its, stronger but no less artistically vacuous, predecessor.

A Dark Funeral album wouldn’t be complete without the requisite line-up changes. “Diabolis Interium” was the recording debut of drummer Matte Modin with Dark Funeral, and the only to feature second guitarist Matti Mäkelä. It was the last album to have Bröberg pulling double duty as bass guitarist. The album was penned in its entirety by sole founding member Mikael Svanberg. Of the two major Swedish black metal units Marduk would ultimately prove the most prolific and resilient.

Dark Funeral

“Diabolis Interium” is consistent in style with the preceding album. Svanberg’s melodic sensibility is true to his Swedish heritage but his riffs remain as limited and stagnant as it had always been. Keeping up with the tradition of Latin album titles “Diabolis Interium” translates to “Devil Within”. Where in the past Dark Funeral was at least mildly interesting because of its highly misanthropic lyrics, here they seem to become increasingly toothless. Various aspects of the album conspired against the band, the production and goofy artwork most prominently among them.

The abstract nature of the album title would allow for interesting explorations of a variety of Satanic theories, yet little of note is actually on offer on the album. The band’s steady lyrical decline first manifests itself in this instance. Most of the songs revolve around depictions of hell and Satan. Other themes include anti-Christian rhetoric (‘Hail Murder’, ‘Diabolis Interium’, ‘Thus I Have Spoken’), witchcraft (‘An Apprentice Of Satan’), and vampirism (‘Heart Of Ice’). In keeping with the tradition started on the preceding album ‘Goddess Of Sodomy’ is a thinly-veiled love song (akin to ‘Ravenna Strigoi Mortii’ from “Vobiscum Satanas”) wherein Bröberg describes his want for an unspecified vampiric succubus.

The majority of the record is blisteringly fast with the kind of swirling melodies one has come to associate with Sweden. The lowpoint of the album happens early with the lamentable ‘Goddess Of Sodomy’, a midpaced track that opens with the samples of moaning women. It is the same tiring and tired trick that Tampa, Florida death metal outfit Diabolic pulled on “Vengeance Ascending” with the track ‘Celestial Pleasures’ with similar lukewarm results. Like “Nightwing” era Marduk before them the track evinces just how limited the songcraft of Dark Funeral, or Svanberg rather, truly is. ‘Thus I Have Spoken’ has a few more pronounced slower sections.

The album was recorded and mixed at Abyss Studio, Sweden with Peter Tägtgren producing and Lars Szöke engineering. It was mastered by Peter In de Betou at Tailor Maid Production in Landsvägen. As expected considering the year of release and what facility handled it the production is bass-heavy and crunchy. “Diabolis Interium” that bathes in a typical Abyss Studio digital sheen and nearly synthetic feel while being tonally rich. The fuzzy, hazy digital guitar tone is an odd choice after two records famous for their crunchy tones. The production on “Diabolis Interium” is pristine, and very much what one would expect of a death metal band, guitar tone excepted.

Instead of working with Kristian Wåhlin as on its debut Svanberg allocated artwork and graphics by Daniel Valeriani. The design choices made here would be reflected in the subsequent two albums. It was the first of three orange-centric album covers. “Diabolis Interium” chooses burnt orange which is usually associated with pride, tension and aggressive self-assertion. That the album reveals its true colors and asserts itself as being completely interchangeable with its predecessor is then only expected. Interestingly, it uses the identical template for the production notes as “Vobiscum Satanas” did, only with a different shade of color. The production notes even incorrectly spell the name of Peter In de Betou on the Necropolis edition of the album which is frankly unforgivable considering this was released on a, supposedly, professional label.

If anything “Diabolis Interium” proves that Dark Funeral’s incendiary debut “The Secrets Of the Black Arts” was solely the work of guitarist David Parland. Where “Vobiscum Satanas” at least attempted to recreate Parland’s distinct riffing “Diabolis Interium” has resigned itself to superficially imitating its superior predecessor, and has Dark Funeral at the end of its already limited creative rope. Nothing about “Diabolis Interium” is particularly engaging, and Dark Funeral was as vanilla and populist as they came at this point. The next two albums would be superficially identical but with the inclusion of non-black metal writing - and production techniques.

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The “Live & Plugged” franchise was a shortlived home video series wherein German metal conglomerate Nuclear Blast Records sought to promote upcoming new signees through concert recordings and candid interviews. The series spawned a  total of two installments, and was discontinued upon the advent of DVDs as the popular storage format. The first installment included recordings of Darkseed, In Flames and Evereve on the German club circuit, whereas the second part coupled live recordings of Norwegian band Dimmu Borgir, and Swedish death/thrash metal titans Dissection as part of the shortlived “Gods Of Darkness” festival.

Recorded during the Gods Of Darkness Festival at Live Music Hall in Köln, Germany as part of “The Rape and Ruin of Europe” tour in 1997 supporting Cradle Of Filth, and co-headliners Dissection. Dimmu Borgir was the opening band for the tour, as In Flames at that point had a more established reputation as a melodic death metal band. Promising an “in-depth” look at each of the bands the video includes a professionally filmed live set, interviews, and each of the band’s official music videos. While the package at least delivers what it says on the tin, it is riddled with errors, major and minor, from front to back. The live portion of the package is the least problematic – the interview segments don’t offer up any new information that couldn’t be found through alternative means even back when this was released. The “Live & Plugged” video opens with Norwegian band Dimmu Borgir, and is followed by Swedish death/thrash metal outfit Dissection.

Even though Dimmu Borgir was lower on the bill than its Swedish peers Dissection, the Norwegians get to open the video on the strength of its divisive third album “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”, its first for the label. The first notable error is that the highlight opening reel plays to “The Darkest Day” by composer David Arnold from the “Independence Day” movie soundtrack instead of a studio outtake of the band’s own songs. The opening segment sets the tone for the remainder of the home video. Being that Dimmu Borgir was at this point still a support act there are barely any lights during the show, and for the majority of its set the stage is underlit to say the least. Shagrath was still uncomfortable in the frontman position, and this leads to amateurish in-between song banter. The set itself is a representative cross-section of the band’s material up to that point, even though it curiously omits its earliest releases, specifically the meandering “For All Tid” and its lukewarm companion EP “Inn I Evighetens Morke”.

In the setlist only ‘Dodsferd’ and ‘Alt Lys Er Svunnet Hen’ represent the band’s pre-Nuclear Blast catalog. Understandably the set focuses heavily on the lamentable “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”. “For All Tid” is ignored altogether. Only ‘Raabjorn Speiler Draugheimers Skodde’ appears in its re-recorded form during the end credits. Each of the members is enthusiastic and energetic, although drummer Tjodalv sometimes struggles to keep up during the transitions in new songs. During the many keyboard solos, the top-hatted Stian Aarstad can be regularly seen staring blankly into space. The interview hardly justifies its inclusion as it offers up nothing novel (even this early in the band’s career), and its needlessly breaks up the flow of the live set. Stian Aarstad and Tjodalv don’t appear in the interview segments at all, and Shagrath only appears sparsely. Not a lot of care was put into this part of the video, as at one point Nagash is missspelled as ‘Naqash’ during the interview segments. Dimmu Borgir’s part of the video is concluded by the promo video for ‘Mourning Palace’ which mixes live footage of the concert the viewer just saw with stock war footage.

During the Dissection part ‘At the Fathomless Depths’ is played over the opening credits, why another David Arnold composition from the “Independence Day” soundtrack wasn’t used here is anybody’s guess. Tobias Kjellgren substituted for Ole Öhman on drums for the “Storm Of the Light’s Bane” touring campaign. The band plays a representative selection of its two albums, but also includes ‘Elisabeth Bathory’, a cover of Hungarian black/thrashers Tormentor – and ‘Son Of the Mourning’, an old demo song that never appeared on any of its official albums, as part of its set. The band deliver an energetic set with enlived performances from each of the members. bass guitarist Peter Palmdahl, and substitute drummer Tobias Kjellgren are subjects for the interview instead of Jon Nödtveidt, the actual frontman, lyricist and creative force behind Dissection. In fact Jon Nödtveidt, and Johan Norman don’t appear in the interview segments at all. The Dissection part of the home video is concluded by the promo video for ‘Where Dead Angels Lie’, which on the backsleeve of the video is misspells as ‘Where Dead Angles Lie’.

On all fronts the Dissection segment of the live recording is the superior shot of the two productions. Given the band’s bigger profile at the time (the band co-headlined with British dark metallers Cradle Of Filth, with support coming from Swedish then-melodic death metal band In Flames and Dimmu Borgir) it is not entirely unexpected that they were given a better stage sound and lightshow. Likewise does Dissection receive better filming and editing. Most members share equal screentime, only rhythm guitarist Johan Norman is often ignored in favor for lead guitarist Jon Nödtveidt. It’s apparent that Dissection on all fronts was a better-oiled machine and a tightly-knit unit compared to Dimmu Borgir’s semi-amateuristic showing on the same festival.

In all it was understandable that Nuclear Blast decided to scrap the “Live & Plugged” series at the dawn of the DVD format. Its contents and the dubious quality of the interviews did not justify the existence of the franchise. For what it attempted to accomplish “Live & Plugged” was functional at the very least. It was a budget line alternative to dedicated, single-band live recordings that offered a bit of everything for the casual fan. In light of the advent of widely-spread live recordings it was virtually inevitable that “Live & Plugged” was bound to become redundant, which it did. With the live aspect as its primary selling point the video has nothing resembling worthwhile additional footage. “Live & Plugged” was good for what it intended, but ultimately the brand didn’t proof resilient and strong enough to warrant further revisits.