Review: Dimmu Borgir “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” [2002 remixed & remastered. Nuclear Blast]

Review: Dimmu Borgir “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” [2002 remixed & remastered. Nuclear Blast]

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On 28th October Norwegian black metal veterans Dimmu Borgir have released the remastered and remixed version of their legendary album Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia via Nuclear Blast Records. Originally released in 2001, it still sounds incredibly pertinent and fresh; when the mix of epic and symphonic sophistication meets heavy and progressive straightforwardness. Yeah, this one was meant to become a classic example of symphonic black metal. Highly critically acclaimed, as well as passionately hated, it still emanates an aura of authority for all the newly-fledged metal bands that preach the ideas of symphonic black.

When Dimmu Borgir started their path towards traditional black metal direction, the world of music was full of tumults and bold experimentations. While somewhere in the background dirty grunge was crawling to the top, metal community evolved independently. Black metal was strong and quite new, but in a way too conservative and restricted as a genre. Many bands commenced to experiment – some played with dungeon synth and ambient tunes, some enriched their sound with folk motives, some explored the infinite opportunities of avant-garde, but some focused their minds on essential sound mitigation. But there was also some interest into classical and gothic music, and even if Dimmu Borgir nearly avoided explicit gothic influence, this classical and symphonic part was sort of revelation for the band’s future. It was a tremendous breakthrough for black metal, as well as a betrayal, destroying plenty of canonic purities of this satanic style. But no one said it would be easy. As being among the pioneers of the genre, they caught their moment of glory to spread the new visions, proving that symphonic pompousness can coexist with black metal’s roughness.

And after the illustrious times, when the band grabbed the attention of the masses, once again there were immense holy wars, because black metal can’t be so mainstream! Of course, now it seems like a total nonsense, if you don’t like how the favorite genre is evolving, just stick to the traditional bands that follow every rule of this style’s code of honor. We are living in a commercial age; everyone wants to make money on doing something they love, it’s absolutely normal. There are thousands and thousands metal bands to satisfy even the most sophisticated or stubborn listeners. And if you consider the music of Dimmu Borgir too mainstream or, well, too weak for black metal, then ban them forever from your playlists and live in peace.

So, instead of releasing new material Dimmu Borgir have decided to re-release one of their most successful albums with remastered and remixed sound. It goes as 3 CD version (also available digitally or on vinyl) – first two discs are, in fact, the remastered version of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, and the last CD Dust of Cold Memories consists of demos, rehearsals and pre-production tracks. The songs are very raw and with unfinished gloss, offering a glimpse into the band’s working process. The quality is poor and glitch, the heaviness is muted, and the symphonic side – a little dull. But that’s fine, this is a compilation of rare tracks and it supposed to sound like that, without an urgent need to comply with the labored perfectionism. And if the first two CDs can be considered as must-have (for those who still don’t own this album), the third is only for devoted fans.

So many words were dedicated to the sixth studio album of Dimmu Borgir, so many praises and critical reviews were circulating in the beginning of the millennium, that you realize, there’s nothing much to add. But if we briefly analyze Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, we can highlight the main points that not only perfectly describe Dimmu Borgir’s conception, but also the laws of symphonic black. The symphonic background isn’t constant here, often presented in rich and contrasting patterns. It is heavily influenced by classical music, and the refined melancholy glows with brilliance, emphasizing exquisite scrupulousness of the arrangements. And forget about synthetic sound, we can enjoy real live instruments provided by Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Thanks to their professionalism and evident classical music’s influence, the symphonic part is tinged with dark epicness and even fantasy elements.

Traditional black metal core is full of aggressive profanities and painful grimness, the opposite of melodic side. Thanks to these contrasting polarities, every song is like a multi-faceted entity, offering various moods, but in a very structural and integral way – without chaotic rampage or dreary monotonous prediction. Dimmu Borgir have never been seen messing around with experimental song-writing principles, so, ICS Vortex’s clean vocals don’t represent Arcturus adventurous spirit and non-traditional approach to song structures. Nevertheless, Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia can be considered as a progressive record, but this side is almost obscure in the midst of the competition of symphonic/classical vs. metal.

New artwork repeats the main theme, but with extra details, full of symbolical references and religious superstitions of dark nature. Every detail is insanely elaborated and located, this album is so holistic and well-designed, not even the slightest miscalculation can strip it from this flawless supremacy. Now this Norwegian band has become a bit lazy, and the gaps between the albums become even bigger. But according to the latest news, Dimmu Borgir are now in the process of writing and pre-production for their eleventh studio album. So we’ll just wait and see.

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