Borgir Kings

There's more to black-metal exporters Dimmu Borgir than upside-down crosses

"A real symphony would be too much hassle or too much work."

Ummm, disappointing answer, Mr. Shagrath, but I'm not gonna ask the kids to leave the room just yet. By now, I'm getting the distinct feeling that Shag is a really nice guy and that the occasional sniff I hear in the background is either a stifled laugh or . . . nasal spray! "Buffalo -- it's pretty cold, but not as cold as Norway," Shag remarks before the conversation steers comfortably back to Satan and why America needs more of him.

"We have been concentrating on the American market. In the U.S., heavy metal is more about drinking and partying. Black metal is very serious," Shagrath says later. "Very anti-religious, very anti-Christian, and it's based on Satanic elements. It's very evil music."

From the bowels of hell come -- really ugly pants! Dimmu Borgir rises.
From the bowels of hell come -- really ugly pants! Dimmu Borgir rises.

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But I suspect that it's not quite as evil as Shagrath suggests. In an attempt to soften Dimmu for the American market, the album's packaging includes photos of hot nurses in plastic suits and girls on leashes, just like Spinal Tap's rejected Smell the Glove art. Young kids dig Satan, but they're more scared of hot chicks during those emotional Wonder bread years. So it works both ways. But my girlfriend wants to know why they put the tree of life in artwork for "Unorthodox Manifesto." Is Dimmu cuckoo for the cabala now, and are the lyrics "A bringer of evil I am/And therefore also a carrier of Light" a spiritual tip of the hat to Madonna?

"That was a concept of the art director," says Shagrath, whose matter-of-fact tenor shows he has no interest in any tree that doesn't have a pile of skulls in front of it. Frankly, neither do we. What we really want to know is -- are the spiky pants for real, or are they rubber protrusions like the ones worn by KISS?

"Our spikes are made out of very light metal material used for airplanes," he says, beaming. "It's very light but very hard. They get caught on things all the time. Custom-made for us. They're very dangerous. They could be a murder weapon, and we always bump into each other onstage."

Of course, if these guys tried to board a commercial flight wearing them, they'd be arrested before you could say, "Sons of Satan Gather for Attack." When was the last time you could say that about Marilyn Manson leisurewear?

But here's a question: How Satanic can a band be if it lets onetime drummer Tjodalv take time off for paternity leave? Or consider that in the band's 10-year history, they've totaled 15 members in the lineup. That's a lot of upside-down crosses. But perhaps people leave because Shagrath's such a swell boss -- and they signed on only to be teeth-gnashing servants of the final holocaust.

Forget you heard me say so and just remember that Dimmu Borgir is here to stay, with strings attacks, with goddamned cellos, but always with the atmospheric, depressive touches parents will hate. When you show them the CD art, be sure to tell them the big carbuncle on the front is, as Shagrath puts it, "the shaft or hole to Armageddon and we're all just going down it. One way."

Insert your diabolical Drano-ingesting bellows here.

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