By Carl Begai
It’s been seven years since Norway’s #1 loved and loathed black metal export Dimmu Borgir released their ninth album, Abrahadabra. Not the best record in the band’s catalogue according to many a fan, but more than enough time has passed to warrant a crushing return to glory… which makes Dimmu Borgir’s decision to release a live DVD / Blu-ray package featuring performances over five years old confusing. Make no mistake; Forces Of The Northern Night is a beautifully crafted memoir for diehard followers featuring the band performing two special shows with a full symphony orchestra and choir, but after this amount of time people were expecting brand new music. According to guitarist Silenoz, the fans only need to stretch their collective patience until the end of the year because there is in fact a method to their current madness.
“We did some touring with Abrahadabra but not that much, and we took a break that just got longer and longer,” Silenoz says of Dimmu Borgir’s prolonged silence. “We’ve never been the typical run-of-the-mill band that records an album, goes on tour, records an album, goes back on tour. We’ve always taken our time and it works for us, which is the only formula we have.”
The break from touring and recording played a big role in enabling the band to pull off the two shows featured on Forces Of The Northern Night – first in 2011 with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Schola Cantorum Choir (KORK) in Oslo, then with the Czech National Orchestra at the Wacken Open Air 2012 – and compile the material for official release.
“It really takes a lot of preparation to pull off something like the orchestral shows, and it’s been a dream of ours for many years to be able to perform with a live orchestra since we’ve utilised symphony orchestra on our albums. It was just a matter of time until it happened, and it was great that the orchestra approached us about doing it rather than the other way around. That’s what made it feasible for us to be able to do it. Then the Wacken Open Air asked us if we could do a special orchestra show in 2012, and because we did it the year before one thing just led to another. Next thing we know, we’re playing this epic show in front of 80,000 people with 100 people on stage, and we didn’t really have a soundcheck (laughs).”
Silenoz and his bandmates – vocalist Shagrath and guitarist Galder – consider being approached by an orchestra to put on a symphonic metal show a huge victory for Dimmu Borgir.
“It feels like an accomplishment because it means people have noticed us outside the so-called boundaries of metal. It helps that certain people in the KORK were fans of the band. They’ve been following us for years, and they were the ones that took the initiative to do this way back when we were writing songs for the Abrahadabra album. At the time we were thinking that we would need proper orchestration for the material we had, so the timing couldn’t have been any better. They played on the album and we started planning the show when we released it. Thanks to the orchestra everything came together.”
With some invaluable assistance from Norwegian composer Gaute Storaas, who brought the symphonic production alive on stage.
“The songs are all written with our own orchestration in mind, and we’ve had help in the past from Gaute Storaas transcribing the material for the classical parts we want,” Silenoz explains. “He really undertands our music, and it helps that he’s just as crazy in the head as we are (laughs). I don’t think it would have worked as well with anybody else. He was involved this time around and that was really helpful because he knows how to get the darkness out of the orchestra and choir.”
It’s foolish to think that every member or the orchestra was on board willingly, however; we’re talking about classically trained musicians being asked (or told) to perform music better suited for Hell than a pristine and posh theatre.
“That was another great feeling of accomplishment because, as you said, there are some conservative players in the orchestra that have to go through with it because the majority of the orchestra and the conductor have decided on doing the project. After doing the Abrahadabra album, and the shows in Oslo and Wacken, many of the more conservative members of the orchestra admitted they were reluctant to do it at first because of how we look and the genre of music, but they were grateful for the experience and thanked us for it. I take that as a big thumbs up, a huge compliment.”
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