Mister Misanthropy - Galder of Dimmu Borgir

There's been upheaval in Dimmu Borgir and Metal as Fuck is on the case, investigating the new album, ramped-up sound and what fans can come to expect with only a three-piece line-up.

Black Metal (BM), it seems has almost run its course as the tabloid news' whipping boy du jour; a cult-like, evil and all-destroying force that terrorizes normal "folk" is too hard to resist as the culprit that's bending the minds of youth. The mystery, as they say, has gone. Almost any one on the street can now distinguish a black metalhead from a goth and even KFC has joined in on the party, parodying the black metal culture in a recent television advertisement. While many black metallers would rather curl up and die than see their values compromised, Dimmu Borgir have been one of the few bands that have struggled since the halcyon, controversial days of the Norwegian scene in the early 1990s, and have innovated and expanded their sound from the original “unholy triumvirate” of black metal genre hallmarks – speedy, crust punk drumming; fuzzy, indistinct guitars and bad, bad, bad production. Even in spite of their extreme sound, they had a Number 1 record in their native Norway with 2007’s In Sorte Diaboli. Dimmu Borgir may have pure evil running through their veins, but they also have liquid mercury – metal – coursing through them as well.

Talking to us from Germany, guitarist Galder, a veteran of the BM scene (having played in three-piece black metal band Old Man’s Child) is proud of his band’s heritage but is reluctant to claim ownership of it after being “shunned” for experimentation and not taking themselves so seriously.

“We’ve never been an old-school black metal band,” he says in a brusque, guttural Norwegian baritone not too much unlike the character Toki Wartooth of Metalocalypse fame. “Dimmu Borgir has always been about doing stuff what no one else dares to do. Even when we started out and had keyboards it was not really accepted in the scene. I mean, that’s fine – everyone uses keyboards now. We always liked to mix different elements in the music – heavy metal, thrash metal, black metal, death metal – into the music. We also like to have some movie-style themes in there to blend with the orchestral stuff.

“I mean, we covered Twisted Sister. It’s just fun for us to do. But we also did Venom covers and Bathory covers so we like to experiment with a lot of different things. We don’t like to follow one path, so to speak.”

Their experimental streak has unsurprisingly continued with their new album, Abrahadabara (a more easily remembered name than previous efforts such as “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" – but don’t worry, Galder “can’t remember them either”) based on the works of legendary occultist Aleister Crowley. Galder isn’t an adherent of the occult, but has a healthy, intellectual curiosity about his philosophy.

“It’s not something I follow personally,” he confesses, “I mean, I read every day and stuff, but I think every BM musician has some sort of interest in those sort of things. Silenoz was reading lots off stuff about Aleister Crowley and has been following all his work and he wrote some lyrics about him and we thought it would be great to use one of his titles for the title of the album. Abrahadabara means a new beginning – a transfusion of new blood, karma and rebirth. That’s what this album is all about.

“Oh, and to move away from having three words for the album titles, because we always seem to do that.”

Apart from being the first album without three words in a title, it was also the first to utilize a full movie score orchestra and choir – although the decision to ramp up their sound from the (relatively) sedate In Sorte Diaboli came through light-hearted discussion in jam sessions.

“We were in the studio and we discussed that we wanted to make a different album this time,” Galder explains. “We wanted to explore new ideas and experiment a little with the sample work – oh, and we wanted to have the biggest orchestra we ever had as well as a full choir that we have never used before for some reason.”

“It was recorded in several different places. The vocals in Sweden, guitars in Norway and we mixed it in England. It was the biggest recording we had ever done.”

The production might have been larger than life but the band now remains a three-piece with the unceremonious departure of vocalist/bassist ICS Vortex and keyboardist Mustis threatening legal action over lack of songwriting credits. The usual procedure of finding new musicians has been completely eschewed – what you now see is what you get.

“We’re not going to have a new line up,” Galder announces, quite proudly. “We’re going to just use session musicians. We had like, six people in the band before and now it’s just going to be us three [myself, Silenoz and Shagrath.] Everyone has different ideas and it’s very hard to work like that. It’s better to keep it as a three piece and just have guests coming in and use the best musicians out there; and we know a lot of good musicians. We want to focus on us three." 

Galder isn’t dismayed by the beatups in the rock press about their internal troubles – he’s quite used to it by now since the band has had “a lot” of musicians join and leave the ranks in its time.

“I’m used to reading lots of different things about the band on the internet – it’s nothing new for us. It’s always been like that. What people tend to forget is that we’ve had many many musicians come and go since the first album – I mean, Vortex and Mustis were also replacing other members back in the day. We’ve had many line-up changes over my eleven years as guitarist. I think it’s just happened to all bands in history, this was just a first for Dimmu Borgir.”

One question on fans’ minds – especially now they are slated to play the Soundwave Festival in Australia - is how the band will successfully reproduce all their orchestral and clean vocal material on stage. Galder reassures us that there’s nothing to fear – the wonders of technology and massed singing will account for any deficit of individual talent.

“I think we will focus more on having choirs so people don’t expect to see one person singing all the clean parts all the time. It’s going to be a lot more than what they are expecting and much less personal. That will make up for it if they are expecting to see Vortex sing or whatever. It’s not just the clean vocals that is hard to reproduce for us but it’s the orchestra – we need to have certain parts of the orchestra on tape and we use all the keyboard stuff we play and that’s the hard thing we have to do to reproduce our sound as good as we can live, but that’s what our plan is.”

“I’m sure they also want to hear the orchestra too, but it’s our only solution. We can’t really bring out an orchestra with us!”

Though Dimmu Borgir have found success in their style of extreme metal, it’s also a risky endeavor to quit one’s day job and become a full time musician, regardless of the genre. Galder says it was a gamble, and fortunately for him it paid off.

“Of course you take chances when you make music. If you choose to follow a certain path that has been done before you will most likely fail. It’s better to take chances and dare to do something new. It’s very, very, very hard. I think you also need a very big portion of luck to succeed; there’s so many great bands that never make it either. It’s not enough just to be a good musician, you need to have the whole package and work really, really hard.”

Even though Galder isn’t his real name (it’s Tom Rune Andersen Orre for those wanting to know) most BM musicians take on pseudonyms (the most famous being Euronymous or Fenriz) – presumably to cast off their earthly selves. But Galder says it’s more of a transformation from the everyday to the performer within.

“I think it’s like this – when you play live, when you put on your make up, you sort of become ‘Galder.’ You sort of have to leave your normal life behind. You have to go into this demonic presence,” he laughs. “You have to change your personality a little bit on stage. It becomes sort of like this different character – I mean, we don’t go around and call each other Shagrath and Galder all the time.

“It’s just like this thing you do and I think in metal it’s very normal to have these different names. It just goes along with the rest of the image.

“I mean, [using our] Norwegian names just doesn’t sound very evil, you know?”