Norway's Dimmu Borgir is named after a volcano in Iceland and specializes in a symphonic form of black metal that is as fun as it is pretentious. Hugely popular in Eastern Europe, the band has been around for nearly two decades but has yet to make major inroads in the American metal market.
Heavily costumed, the main actors in Dimmu Borgir are Shagrath, Silenoz, and Tjodalv, three fellas who know the value of going overboard. Pretty much everything about Dimmu Borgir is ridiculously over the top -- musically, guitars and violins are layered so thick that it's a miracle that any vocals make it through the din. But in all the mess, there is some coherence, some fundamental musical mayhem that's appealing as much for its chutzpah as it is for its quality.
Speaking from a tour stop in Atlanta, guitarist Silenoz was kind enough to speak with DC9 in anticipation of tonight's performance in Dallas at the House of Blues. Check out our interesting discourse after the jump.
What are the differences between metal fans in Norway and those in the U.S.?
I don't really think there's much difference at all. There are metal fans around the world, but I do think that people in the States are more passionate -- perhaps more dedicated. We've noticed so many people at shows here who know the lyrics. It's very encouraging.
You think the nicer weather over here plays a part?
Yes, back home and across Europe it can be very, very cold. In Atlanta, the weather in very nice -- perfect. I don't know if that means more people will come out or not. In Europe, those fans can take the cold.
Is English commonly spoken in Norway?
Yes, I think most people get started in sixth grade or something. Everyone wants to learn English. It is spoken so many places.
Dimmu Borgir's first albums featured lyrics in Norwegian. Why change to English?
One reason was to be able to communicate more effectively with fans in other countries. We didn't have to translate the lyrics from country to country. English is the language of metal. We knew that in order to expand our music, we would need to sing in English. But we still sing in our own language. We might write new songs in Norwegian.
Dimmu Borgir's music is often termed "black metal." Do you like the term?
I think it's hard to define the term. Is it a band like Venom or is it a band like Mayhem? It's hard to say. Today, black metal is a lot more diverse than it used to be. The sound had to evolve. Every band couldn't just keep sounding the same way, the way they did 20 years ago -- the style would die out because it didn't renew itself. You have to change some things up every once in a while. But we do stick close to the roots of black metal. We keep it dark. There are a lot more people who know about black metal, so it has become more commercial over the years.
Is it expensive to use so much orchestration on your albums?
Yes, it's very expensive. We have a very good relationship with many musicians in the orchestra and that made things easier. That's how it started for us, the combining of metal and orchestra. We wanted to make a huge concert in Oslo and we got lucky enough to hook up with an orchestra there. Then we thought, why not use an orchestra on our album? We use one of the best orchestras in Europe. Those guys are not exactly the types who would be into black metal, but we talked to them during their lunch break and they thought it was cool to play something darker than what they normally played.
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When you are in a black metal band do people forget that you still have a sense of humor?
No, I don't think so. We have a good sense of self irony. We don't have the biggest sense of humor, but we have one.
Are most metal bands and metal fans infatuated to darkness and death?
I think it's normal for black metal to take on some of the darker aspects of life. I don't think about it in political terms, but black metal has a religious association. Metal has always been about the darker stuff. I don't think you can have very happy lyrics when you play in a black metal band.
Do you listen to other bands besides those that play metal?
I listen to a lot of different stuff. I enjoy Muse and Alice in Chains. I even listen to Lady Gaga if I am drunk. We listen to pop bands like Aha. They are from Norway. It's not great music, but you have to be open-minded.
Dimmu Borgir performs tonight at the House of Blues