Interview: Shagrath of DIMMU BORGIR

Antihero Magazine recently had the opportunity to chat with Dimmu Borgir founding member and frontman, Shagrath, about the recently released double DVD package, Forces of the Northern Night, which contains complete performances from Oslo, Norway and Wacken Open Air which feature a full orchestra and choir. We also talked about the upcoming release of the much-anticipated tenth studio album from Dimmu Borgir, as well as possible new material from Chrome Division.

Dimmu BorgirAntihero: First, I wanted to congratulate you on the recent release of the double DVD, Forces of the Northern Night, through Nuclear Blast.

Shagrath: Thank you.

Antihero: These are performances that you recorded in 2011 and 2012, so this project has been something you’ve been working on for several years. How does it feel to finally have these performances released?

Shagrath: Yeah, it’s a magical moment, to put it like that. I’m so glad we finally got to share this with our fans across the globe. And yes, these shows were done in 2011 and 2012 and time flies, but I’m really happy that we finally have it, the package is out there. People seem to really appreciate it and it’s something to be really proud of, so I’m very happy with the result. And I also woke up to the news today that we have entered a chart position at number one in both Germany, Austria, Finland and Sweden. So, the fans are still with us and we really, really appreciate that, so it’s great.

Antihero: That’s awesome to hear about the chart position. I understand that there’s a documentary involved and I’m very interested in checking that out. Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect from the documentary portion?

Shagrath: Well, this is just basically we see a little bit of the planning and we have small interview cuts with people from the band and the people behind the scenes and you can see a little bit how we build a show like this, because it’s a lot of preparation and a lot of details and communication, commitment, discipline. It’s a lot of people involved in this process, so we want to include the documentary for people to see what it takes to be able to perform and to do such a grand thing as that. So, that’s why we included it also on the DVD.

Antihero: I’ve seen a little bit of the footage of YouTube, like “Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse,” and the footage is incredible, the camera work and everything. It’s quite a thing to see the full orchestra and choir on stage with you guys.

Shagrath: Yeah, it’s something also that we are very, very proud of. Dimmu Borgir are known for using orchestral elements in music since 2001 when we released the Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia album. We used orchestra on all the albums, but really glad also that we got the chance to perform two really big shows and also to have it out on a DVD package so that the people that didn’t attend the show, they are actually able to see this and it is really kind of a highlight in the career so far, for us anyway.

Antihero: I’m curious what it takes to prepare for a performance like that with a whole orchestra on stage and just how do you keep everything together?

Shagrath: Yeah, as I said before, it takes a lot of time to plan everything and to organize all the details behind it, but you can also check out the credit list and you can see how many people are actually involved in a show like that. It’s a lot of hard work but we were fortunate enough to work with very professional people and they knew what they were doing, and people that are great fans of the band, and we made it happen. But yeah, check out the credit list, you will see.

Dimmu BorgirAntihero: I know that a lot of people are anticipating a new album, it sounds like it’s going to come out this year. Is there anything that you can elaborate on in that process?

Shagrath: I can’t go really into details, but what I can say about it is that we have used now three years to make a new album, it’s just finished right now actually, so the plan is that it will be out during fall. These days we do the preparation in connection with that release. If I can say something about the album it will be that we are very proud of it, it sounds great, it’s very atmospheric, and it also includes a lot of the elements which Dimmu Borgir are known for, so I think the fans will not be disappointed. It also includes a lot of themes and riff ideas that you can link back to ’93. So, it’s like a combination of different themes throughout the history of Dimmu Borgir. It also has a lot of symphonic elements and we are using a big choir on this new record, and it’s also darker, more atmospheric, more primitive, more black metal. Yeah, a mixture of different things basically.

Antihero: I had read a little bit of an interview with Silenoz where he mentioned that you opted not to use a live orchestra on the new album. I was curious if you’re still using live choirs?

Shagrath: Yeah, no, there’s still a lot of the symphonic orchestral arrangements on the album but this time we are using samples instead. I think that Forces of the Northern Night kind of represents an end to an era, because we used orchestras on a previous album but this time we wanted to do it ourselves, so with more samples and keyboards and stuff like that. But we have, yeah, you’re right, we’re having a huge choir on this new record.

Antihero: So, you had mentioned there that as far as the musical direction of the album you are returning to some of the roots of the band but you’re also experimenting with new techniques and sounds, is that correct?

Shagrath: Yeah, it’s a mixture of everything, but in Dimmu Borgir you can expect the unexpected. That’s how we like to, when we do something we want to, there is no limits for where we can take it, in which direction, and that’s how we want it to be, it needs to be. It’s progressive, also, the new album, but it also includes a lot of atmosphere, as I said. Elements from, like the riff atmospheres from Enthrone Darkness Triumphant album and the ‘For All Tid, the debut record, and all that stuff. So, it’s a good combination of it all, but at the same time it’s also progressive and that’s very important for us as artists to stretch the limits and try out new stuff. We are a band, we have never been afraid of going into new directions and as an artist it’s also important to not try to repeat yourself too much, because then it would be boring. But we are not a band like AC/DC, where you buy an album and you know what to expect. But Dimmu Borgir are quite different, even though I’m a fan of AC/DC.

Antihero: So, you’re done with final mixing and mastering and that stuff, or is that still in process?

Shagrath: No, the album is ready.

Antihero: Have you got a working title or cover art or anything that you are able to share?

Shagrath: Yeah, we’re not able to share that at this moment. It’s still going to be some time before the album is out so I can’t go too much into details about that.

Antihero: And do you have plans yet for the touring that will come, obviously after, to support that?

Shagrath: Yeah. Also, that’s a part of the planning these days is to organize a world tour in connection of the new release. So, I can’t say specific dates but I think we’re going to be back in North America around March and April 2018, approximately.

Antihero: Well, hopefully there are some dates around the Kansas City area, because that’s where I’m at right now.

Shagrath: Okay, cool, yeah.

Dimmu BorgirAntihero: You have a couple of other bands that you’ve been involved with, you’ve collaborated with several artists in the past, but I was curious if Chrome Division is still an active band?

Shagrath: Yeah. We have made a new album for Chrome Division also, but we didn’t have time enough now to record it and finalize it, so that’s still on my agenda during this year, if we get time.

But in the same time Dimmu Borgir requires 100% of my attention at the moment, so I just have to figure out the plan where we have time to actually record it. But we have made a new album, I’m very happy with it and hopefully we will get it out there as soon as possible.

Antihero: How would you describe the musical direction of Chrome Division on the new album specifically?

Shagrath: I think that the new Chrome Division album is a mixture of hard rock with metal, it’s kind of a standard recipe that we have used before. Bad-ass rock and roll, down tuned, but it has also a lot of melodies, which you can also relate to a lot of the ’70s inspiration type of bands.

Antihero: Does that offer you a much-needed creative outlet that takes you away from the structure and writing that you are used to with Dimmu Borgir?

Shagrath: Yeah, this is two different worlds so I don’t like to, I’m a big fan of rock and roll music, but rock and roll music I don’t want to implement in Dimmu Borgir‘s sound. So, I keep it separate and that’s very important to me. But I like both genres, but going from one thing to another it can be, of course, challenging and difficult because it’s two different worlds. So, if I’ve been working on a Dimmu song every day for a week and then suddenly go back to Chrome Division, it takes a bit of time to adjust, to be honest with you. But at least we have a new album in the making and hopefully we get it out there as soon as possible for the Chrome Division followers, you know?

Antihero: I also wanted to ask if you still take part with the Ov Hell project?

Shagrath: That’s was more or less a one-time thing that we fit in well with the schedule. King Ov Hell asked me to try some ideas for putting on vocals and he obviously liked what I did and we just decided, okay, I’m going to do the vocals for the record. But there are no future plans for that project and, first of all, I don’t have time for anymore projects either.

Antihero: Yeah, it sounds like you’re pretty busy, at least for the next year or two with Dimmu Borgir.

Shagrath: Yeah, I also get a lot of request from other bands if I can do guest appearances on albums and stuff and I would like to that but it’s just there is no time. So, my focus these days has to be Dimmu Borgir, for the time being.

Antihero: Absolutely. Are there any other things that you wanted to mention that we haven’t touched upon?

Shagrath: Well, I just hope that people will check out the Forces of the Northern Night edition and preferably the Earbook edition because it’s very unique, it’s very special, it includes a 48-page huge booklet, it includes both of the shows in audio versions and Blu-ray discs, and it’s really a nice package. And of course, watch out for the new album that will come out hopefully in the fall, and we will be back on the road again in 2018, so watch out.

Antihero: I appreciate your time chatting with me today. Thank you.

Shagrath: Thank you very much. I appreciate your support, so thank you.

Thomas Woroniak

Owner/Editor/Photographer/Journalist at AntiHero Magazine -- Thomas is a concert photographer and writer living in the Kansas City, MO area. When he isn't elbowing people in the photo pit, he makes an actual living as a web developer and freelance motion graphics designer. He is also a guitarist and studied music composition at the University of Illinois at Chicago -- Author: Thomas Woroniak

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