When it comes to organized religion, Erkekjetter Silenoz, the guitarist/ songwriter for Norway's Dimmu Borgir, considers himself to be an equal-opportunity hater. "I think most people—at least our fans—know our stance against religion," he says, his accent as deep as a fjord. "It doesn't have to be Christianity, but as soon as you mention Islam, then you're looked upon as a racist. But, of course, religion in general, we are against it."
That doesn't mean Silenoz and his black-metal confederates—vocalist Shagrath, bassist Vortex, guitarist Galder, keyboardist Mustis and drummer Nick Barker—reject every otherworldly belief. In Sorte Diaboli, the outfit's latest aural assault, is something of a valentine to a mystical figure: the Bible's biggest bad boy. "The story is in the Dark Ages, and the main character works for the local mission," Silenoz explains. "He feels more and more that this is not him, and over the course of just a few weeks' time, he experiences a huge spiritual change. He discovers his true bloodline—and he identifies with the bloodline of the Devil."
Such themes are even more subversive as rendered by Dimmu, which has developed an unexpectedly accessible blend of brutality and symphonic grandeur over the course of its 14-year lifespan. The band's highly cinematic videos have earned airplay on mainstream networks such as MTV2, and Diaboli entered the Billboard sales charts at number 43—an impressive performance for a bunch of Lucifer lovers, yet modest in comparison with their success in Finland, Germany and Austria, where the CD hit the top 10. As a result, some observers accuse the players of selling out—a charge that's circulated since at least 1996, when they began delivering their words in English rather than Norwegian. Silenoz scoffs at such complaints. "If they would actually care to listen to the albums, they'd understand that the music has gotten harder and harder with every album," he says. "And if you look at the band name that we have, it's not really of any commercial value whatsoever."
Nevertheless, the act's popularity continues to grow, and while Silenoz doubts that Dimmu's music would ever sell millions of copies, "you never know. The world is getting more extreme, and the kids probably want more extreme music too."
In his view, society might benefit from this outcome. "There's so many kids who go through a lot of bullshit when they grow up, and if music can be a good escape for them, that's something really constructive," he maintains. "Instead of going out and shooting someone else in the back of the head, you put on an album. If we can prevent some people from doing that, it would be good, you know?"
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