In 1997 Dimmu Borgir released "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" a defining record for the band, evolving their identity with a rich wall of sound production and writing music to captivate the more rhythm eccentric styles of metal, producing mosh friendly aggressive riffs and manic break down moments. Its symphonic component was to be praised too, with gorgeous synths deepening the wild and dark atmosphere the band created a vastly more appealing sound, only true in spirit and theme to Black Metal but ditching the low fidelity and anti-music aspects. Before it came this gem of a record which I adore, more so for the years of my youth I listened to it religiously than its actual merit. Twenty or so years later the band would go on to re-recorded it with a similar aesthetic to EDT. Musically though it is very different regardless of what aesthetic its wrapped in.
The original Stormblast shows the band maturing quickly from their flawed but spirited "For All Tid" debut. The songs are rather similar in stature, simplistic power chord progressions from the guitars, tuneful synths with atmospheric tones backing them and narrow rattling drums pattering without a lot of force or intensity. Previously their drummer, Shagrath steps up as the front man playing guitars and performing the vocals with a textural approach, stretching the gutturals and snarling at the listener from a safe distance. They don't have an oomph or immediacy about them, but simply growl and groan with throaty textures over the rest of the music in a why I quite like but could easily see how it would turn others off. Some of the vocals are clean, deep and bellowing with a medieval heathen tone and in Norwegian, something I always adored, it ads mystery and an ancient feel to the record which is mostly more uplifting then it is dark. Most of the songs find a way to shift gears between darker and lighter passageways, often controlled by the synths tone and guitar riffs direction.
The songs themselves are relatively simple affairs with multiple riffs, verses and choruses. As no spectacular fete of song structure they tend to drone at the same intensity for the most part. Each song has its moment of creativity "Antikrist" for example messing around vocal distortions and reverbs in its opening momentum shift. The symphonies mostly exist in the backdrop, adding a soft layer of atmosphere and in a few bright and uplifting occasions pianos come to the fore front and treat us with gracious melodies dancing over steady guitar riffs. For example, the title track "Stormblåst" climaxes at the end, its best riff rocking out over and over with a gorgeous piano flowing a soothing melody over the top of it. The album is opened with a string and key section, an enchanting melody playing over soft, sorrowful strings. "Sorgens Kammer" is the only solo track for keyboardist Stian Aarstad, its a memorable one that it was unfortunately discovered through the internet had been lifted from a computer game without the rest of the bands knowledge. It still fits perfectly into the record.
Picking this record out after a fair few years since my last listen it occurs to me that the production is rather narrow and thin. Each instrument alone is rather underwhelming, the bass guitar isn't very deep, the guitars fuzzy distortion is thin and tan, the drums lack punch, the pedals loose and overall it feels rather narrow. Its amazing how it comes together, the synths fill in a lot of lost space and in its individual inadequacies it finds a charming, spell bounding chemistry as a whole. Its a soft record, despite being Black Metal everything except the vocals don't feel particularly harsh of abrasive and something worthy of note are the base guitar riffs that on every other song or so find a moment to step up with a complimenting melody and given their lack of depth sound pleasant playing higher notes.
Its a record of atmosphere and indulgence crafted through simplicity, the result an ancient realm of nostalgic wonder helped on by the Norwegian lyrics, something the band would ditch on their next record. This record represents a large portion of my youth and my love for it is bias but trying to take a more objective view whats fascinating to me now is how primitive this record is, you could argue the production is poor and the music not as wild or unchained but through all that the charm is undeniable for me. "Stormblast" is a one off, not a genre defining record or even worthy of mention when discussing Black Metal's history but a brief moment in Dimmu's history that does wonders for me personally.
Favorite Tracks: Broderskapets Ring, Sorgens Kammer, Stormblåst, Antikrist, Vinder Fra En Ensom Grav