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Ah, Dimmu Borgir. Nuclear Blast’s trusty cashcow and probably the most vapid, inconsequential and populist Norwegian metal act to somehow stumble into a career. So here we are with the second post-ICS Vortex/Mustis effort and the first sign of life from Dimmu Borgir after an 8-year hiatus from the recording studio. “Interdimensional Summit” is their latest exercise in tedium and it cements the notion that their best and brightest days are now well behind them. “Interdimensional Summit” is the scion of the worst aspects from “Abrahabadra” and “Death Cult Armageddon” and probably the lowest the Norwegians have yet sunk. It’s easily the worst this band has yet expelled from its creative colon and a new low in a canon containing treacherously few peaks to begin with.

For the lack of a better descriptor “Interdimensional Summit” sounds like a slightly more muscular Nightwish or Therion (circa “Vovin”) without the sense of grandeur. More troubling is that Dimmu Borgir still insists on chugging (or writing any substantial riffs for that matter) like it’s 1994. “Interdimensional Summit” is power metal in all but name. This is the most enthrone darkness triumphant that Dimmu Borgir has yet sounded. It makes you pine for the simpler days of the neither-here-nor-there populist groove/thrash of “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”, the keyboard-dominant excursions into the “Spiritual Black Dimensions” or even the incoherent semi-industrial debacle known as “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” where Dimmu Borgir badly aped Fear Factory. Therion did what Dimmu Borgir does in 2018 far better in 1998. “Vovin” at least had the decency to be tolerable in its operatics and reliance on choirs. “Interdimensional Summit” is as aimless, purposeless, and portentously pompous as Dimmu Borgir has ever been.

Whether it’s the marching tempo, the orchestral pomp and the heavy reliance on choirs to carry the title song – this is Dimmu Borgir in all of its defective glory. “Interdimensional Summit” trudges and chugs, evidently without any apparent direction or trajectory in mind, with all the repetitive riffing and vocal effects we have come to expect from this band. It is immaculately produced, certainly. Too smooth and glossy for its own good, perhaps. Daray, the Polish import and probably the best drummer this band had the good fortune to recruit, is reduced to keeping time. Geir Bratland has officially replaced Mustis and he’s the least offensive part of the new membership. “Interdimensional Summit” more than anything else, prior or since, so perfectly encapsulates Shakespeare’s famous quote from Macbeth: “It is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Dimmu Borgir could very well be mistaken for any interchangeable Finnish symfo death/power metal band at this point. It’s crass commercialism at its most vile.

If anything it’s conclusive proof that Dimmu Borgir is impervious to any kind of growth or evolution. It’s the culmination of every wrongheaded implication that “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” hinted at. The complete dearth of any meaningful riffs, the standard rock drumming and Shagrath’s tired vocal performance herald yet another transformation for the band. The post-ICS Vortex/Mustis years will remember Dimmu Borgir as the band making their identity crisis their entire raison d'être. The band remains as polarizing as they’ve ever been and, no doubt, a good portion of their undiscerning fanbase will eat this up without question. Dimmu Borgir never was, is, or will be, black metal in any capacity it is traditionally understood. Dimmu Borgir – in case their product in the last twenty years wasn’t enough of an indication – is populist swill for the masses: low on substance, bereft of both intelligence and integrity and blatantly commercialized and commoditized as to appeal to a broad audience as possible. All the signs have been pointing at this for over a decade now. The masks have fallen from The Kings Of the Carnival Creation – and the sight, for those not in the know, is grotesque and deformed.

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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.