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Thursday, 4 May 2017

Reviews: Dimmu Borgir, Riverside, Metal Church (Review By Paul)

Paul delivers his verdict on three live releases

Dimmu Borgir: Forces Of The Northern Night (Nuclear Blast)

It’s been a long time coming but what a tour de force this double release is. Dimmu Borgir are without question one of the most important bands not just in Norwegian Black Metal but in the metal world over the past 20 years. Forces Of The Northern Night captures an amazing evening at the Oslo Spektrum way back in 2011 when the band performed with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and the Schola Cantorum Choir, who had also guested on 2010’s Abrahadabra. It is simply astonishing and highlights the power and majesty of the band in full flow, with a full symphonic backing. Although performing with orchestras has long been accepted in the metal world, and to be fair, classical music and heavy metal are at ease and linked to each other with their intensity and loyal followings, there are few bands whose music is so compatible as Dimmu.

Side one opens with the symphonic Xibir before Galder hits that riff for Born Treacherous. The rest of opening salvo focuses on tracks from Abrahadabra, including the orchestral version of Dimmu Borgir, followed by the full-throated version which is blistering, the arrival of Agnete Kjolsrud for Gateways and a magical Eradication Instincts Defined, the first of three tracks from Death Cult Armageddon given the full orchestral make-over. Shagrath, Silenoz and Galder are in full flow, supported by bassist Cyrus, Gerlioz on keyboards and Daray’s magnificent powerhouse drumming.

Side two goes back in time with some quite breath-taking performances. Vredesbyrd is imperious, heavy as hell with battering blast beats and skull crushing guitars laced with spiralling whilst Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse, complete with soaring choral parts is simply epic. And then we come to The Serpentine Offering. Possibly the most imposing and stunning song the band has ever released, this version, with the combination of balls out metal riffs, explosive drumming interchanging with swooping string sections and stirring choral harmonies is as inspiring as anything I think I’ve ever heard. It is overwhelming in both its ferocity and gracefulness.

The audience are in fine form with huge roars throughout, unsurprising when you listen to penultimate track Mourning Palace, another quite captivating collaboration with huge horn sections embellishing the song superbly. Forces Of The Northern Night is a statement of just how good this band are. The orchestral arrangements of Gante Storaas, conducted by Rune Halversen quite brilliant. Rumours are that the band will have new material released later this year. I won’t hold my breath given the hiatus the band have been on but it will be a memorable day when new Dimmu arrives. Until then savour possibly the most essential purchase of the year. Miss it at your peril. 10/10

Riverside: Lost ‘N’ Found (InsideOut)

Live albums are often insipid affairs. Black Sabbath’s Live Evil always comes to mind when wondering if the band were performing in front of anyone. The crowd sounded so far away. Every decent one is balanced with an album that you wonder why it was even released. Kiss Alive! Brilliant. Kiss Alive 3? Oh no. Polish Progressive legends Riverside’s latest offering, Lost ‘N’ Found is, thankfully, a beautifully delivered release, which captures the band at their peak during the 2015 European Tour which prompted the excellent Love Fear And The Time Machine album.

Having been fortunate enough to have witnessed this tour, I can testify that the album really does allow you to relieve the concert. Of course, it is poignant, with the dearly missed Piotr Grudzinski’s guitar work throughout a reminder of what a superb player he was. From the opener Lost through to the closing Found, which book-ended the album and the gig, the band, Marius Duda, Piotr Kozieradzki and Michel Lapaj, are in stunning form. With a new tour hitting our shores in a matter of days, this is a stunning reminder of why Riverside is a band that no-one should miss. 9/10

Metal Church: Classic Live (Rat Pak Records)

The return of Mike Howe to the ranks of Metal Church was one of the most welcome personnel changes in recent years. The man who followed the great David Wayne and who made the microphone his own was back. The album that followed, XI, was damn fine and the band proved that in the live arena they are still a ferocious act. Classic Live is a selection of live recordings from their 2016 World Tour, and focuses on the first five albums from the band’s 1980s and early 1990s period.

There isn’t a duff track on this release, it just seems a little bit of a filler. Sure, Beyond The Black still gets the hairs standing on the back of the neck, Watch The Children Pray haunts just as much now as it did then and Badlands and The Human Factor never fail to get you moving. The band are tight, Howe is on top form vocally and the duel guitars of Kurt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt are sharper than a butcher’s filleting knife.

The duet between Howe and Queensryche’s Todd La Torre on Fake Healer, the bonus track on the release is strong and La Torre’s higher pitch supports Howe’s lower delivery. Classic Live is on a par with Armored Saint’s recent Carpe Noctum offering. Absolutely nothing wrong with the tracks, the performance or the production. It just feels a little needless. I’ll still probably buy it when I lose my shit in Bristol next month but I’d mark it as a “fans only” purchase. 7/10

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