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Dimmu Borgir – Orchestrating Dark Death Symphonies

Shagrath – vocals
Galder – guitar
Silenoz – guitar
Mustis – synthesizer
Nick Barker – drums
Simen Hestnaes – bass and backing vocals

For the past ten years, Norway’s Dimmu Borgir has been laying down some of the most intense, dark, and beautiful symphonic blasphemy in all metal. From 1993’s, For All Tid, to their most recent opus, Death Cult Armageddon, Dimmu Borgir’s constant lineup changes have not slowed down its crusade to enslave the underground masses. The current incarnation could almost be called a black metal super group, featuring current and former members from such bands as Cradle of Filth, Old Man’s Child, and Brujeria. Currently on tour in the States, Dimmu Borgir return to remind American audiences that Scandinavian black metal is very much dead alive.

I recently had the opportunity to spend eight minutes on the phone with Shagrath, founder and lead singer of Dimmu Borgir, who was at a tour stop in Houston immediately following sound check.

Kaffeine Buzz: Well, I’m definitely looking forward to the show in a couple of weeks in Denver. Can’t wait to see you guys again. You definitely kicked my ass last year.

Shagrath: [laughs] Cool.

KB: You guys always seem to come through with a lot of great bands. Is that something you’re conscious of, or do you just hook up with whoever is going out at the time, or. . .

S: The other bands, you mean?

KB: Yeah.

S: It’s like a very good package of European bands, Scandinavian bands, and also Nevermore from the States. It’s a good mix with Dimmu.

KB: Any chance we’ll see Peter Tatgren [frontman for Hypocrisy and metal producer extraordinaire] hop up on stage with you guys to do some background vocals or play rhythm guitar [as he has on the records he’s produced for Dimmu Borgir]?

S: Uh…

KB: No?

S: No plans for that yet [laughs], maybe at the last show, hopefully.

KB: You guys ever thought about going on tour by yourselves like “an evening with Dimmu Borgir”? Just do two full hours with just yourselves?

S: No, I think it’s good to have the other bands, bands that are different from what we sound like. We get a lot of different types of people in one place, you know. That’s a good thing. Two hours of Dimmu would be too much for people.

KB: Is it too physically demanding as musicians?

S: Yes, that too, but also it would be very boring.

KB: You think so?

S: Absolutely.

KB: Really [laughs]?

S: Absolutely.

KB: And I want to talk a little bit about your newest record, Death Cult Armageddon, with you guys working with an orchestra. Did you guys physically work with the orchestra, or were you sending tapes back and forth to each other?

S: No, it’s like all the keyboard basic ideas…we have like a pre-production studio and made everything in there, and then we worked together with a conductor from Norway who kind of turned all those keyboard ideas into notes, you know for the orchestra to play, and then basically wrote the hard disc recordings.

KB: Were they aware of the song titles or concepts that you had in mind for the tracks?

S: No, no, no. They never worked with a metal band . . . like Dimmu.

KB: [laughs] I was just curious about it.

S: It’s quite different from what they normally play.

KB: I would imagine. . .

S: It was very difficult for them to play . . . when we took the hard disc back to the studio we had to work with it for like two weeks to make everything sound good. We had to do a lot of time stretches and some things were really fucked up and stuff like that.

KB: Was it more rewarding working with the orchestra? I mean, did you get more of a sense of accomplishment than just doing the program tracks yourself or the keyboard tracks?

S: Well, we used the orchestra on the previous album.

KB: Oh, yeah, that’s true.

S: But it was, of course, smaller, it was only a 15-piece string section, and now we have the horns and the strings and the tympani and well…different stuff. It was more difficult, but I think it turned out pretty good in the end.

KB: Yeah, absolutely! Could you ever foresee yourself doing a live performance with an orchestra?

S: Um, no, we haven’t really thought about that, it’s too expensive.

KB: That’s true.

S: But definitely a cool idea, of course. Maybe one day.

KB: That would be awesome. Are you guys able to do Dimmu Borgir full time, or do you have day jobs back home?

S: No, it’s become a full time job for all of us now.

KB: I think that’s incredible. It’s like the dream, right. I mean, you guys are pretty much non stop recording or touring. You guys are just kicking some ass, I think.

S: Yeah, it’s basically, I’ve been able to live off the music for quite a long time now, but the others [current band members] are just started making money for two or three years now.

KB: And do you guys live close together, or is it harder to get together to flesh out song ideas?

S: No, we don’t live that close together.

KB: All spread out, with Nick Barker [drummer] living in the UK?

S: We have a home studio, so we kind of make a lot of ideas, and then we get together in our home studio and try out different ideas.

KB: I have one other question—I notice that you guys happen to be on the road in the States at the exact same time as Cradle of Filth. Do you feel that this hurts or helps you?

S: Uh, if people want to see a proper metal show, then…

KB: Absolutely [laughs], I think the choice is clear.

S: It should be very clear [laughs].

Dimmu Borgir plays with Nevermore, Children of Bodom, and Hypocrisy on Thursday, December 4th at the Ogden Theater. The doors open at 7:00 p.m. and starts at 8:00 p.m. This all an ages show. For ticket information, visit


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