If only metal musicians were educated, tasteful people with a wide knowledge and experience of the world around them. Heavy metal music would then be much more than this adolescent underground oddity with rare flashes of excellence; it would be a recognized musical genre, respected if not embraced by the majority of musically experienced people. Trying to make this happen is a phase many of us metalheads-with-good-taste go through, trying to transform metal itself by creative endeavors (musicians) or by pointing out the good elements to the said category and leaving out/critisizing the bad (journalists, record-label owners, etc).
This is surely one of the more critisized and shunned-upon records in the metal genre. Dimmu Borgir's carnivalesque, commercial and gothic-leaning, keyboard-laden works have for long been the laughing stock of supposedly serious, intelligent listeners. Their commercial success was at a time even considered a threat to the integrity of the black metal movement, with some pretty volatile and borderline-criminal insults thrown at them through various metal publications. Their music was thrown all-together to the trashcan as a pop-metal variation of bm. Obviously these reactions were pretty much reasonable; to put it simply and bluntly, Dimmu Borgir are idiots, as proven by their eternal oblivion as to the ridiculousness of their aesthetics and attitude. But what of the music? Surely it is a product of the same minds, but the musical mind is in fact not the same as the logical mind, as shown, for example, in savant musical geniuses or the self-destructiveness and madness in the personal lives of many brilliant musicians.
If I had the time for it, I'd make an experiment. I'd upload this album with invented band and song titles, stolen artwork from somewhere else or even new lyrics (let's pretend Shagrath's vocal lines weren't as clear as they are) all assembled according to the aesthetics of currently considered "quality" acts. The "epic" and aggressive songs could be similar to Winterfylleth or Primordial, evoking a kind of elitist, "folk noir", pagan pride of resistance against modern decay and cultural extinction, or the "Luciferian Excellence" of various trippy, 70's inspired occult acts. The atmospheric songs would have a post-rockish, wide-landscape-immersion vibe similar to what matured, genre-transcending depressive/ambient bm bands do. I have a feeling that before someone has a chance to point out the obvious, many victims coming from the younger generation of literate, open-minded black metal fans will have been found, exhalting or trying to find more information on this cult new band.
Although I haven't really discovered so until lately, the music in this album is good. It is often kitschy, but not in a grander way than the kind of naiveté’ we have come to forgive in our favorite 70's rock or 80's heavy metal bands. It is not silly, and although it often seems overtly mellow and emotionally-patronizing in the way of AOR bands, it is all in the context of black metal thinking. If you can like Queensryche, it doesn't really make sense to hate this record (I'm talking about the mp3-without-images-without-lyrics kind of listening session here). And Dimmu Borgir is much more than Queensryche or a gothic-ballad band in this record, in fact they offer some excellent black metal along the way.
The distance between what the band claims to play and what the band actually plays had always been the root of all the fuzz. Enthrone Darkness Triumphant essentially is pretty much about light as it is about darkness. It is about beauty as it is about ugliness. Perhaps Enthrone Darkness Triumphant could even be one of the crowning jewels of Christian black metal in an alternate universe. There’s nothing tormenting in “In Death’s Embrace” music, but a sweetness that would be more easily interpreted as an eagerness to connect with a benevolent divinity, rather than the spit and piss in his sacred flesh that the lyrics mention. Dimmu Borgir is schizophrenic and almost totally incoherent if any kind of parallel course between the music and the outside context is followed by the listener. “Succubus in Rupture” does indeed convey a dark eroticism with a hint of tragedy for its first half, and then unfurls into one of the most elegiac, fragile, pure, white-light-surrounding-all moments heard in all metal. Not exactly my idea of the devil’s whore, more like the first time these guys touched hands with a girl in the flowery yard of elementary school.
Most other songs in the album are basically epic melodic metal songs that are closer to the early childlike wonder of Finnish bands such as moonsorrow or ensiferum. They are like full of joy and discovery for an ancient magical world. This is mostly a power metal album with hints of darkness, that more so depict a dynamic kind of struggle rather than misanthropic hatred.
Of course, this is not High Art. Music needs connecting threads with life, desires, ideologies, stuff stronger than escapism or carnivalesque grotesqueness. However, a creative mind should also train itself to fill in the gaps when it's needed. Metal music doesn't always has to have thoughtful lyrics and awe-inspiring visions; as with experimental, abstract music, it can be enough to only have a spark and a drive. The listener can provide the rest.