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Dimmu Borgir

Rialto Theatre, Thursday, April 17

A dark curse fell upon the Rialto Theatre in the form of Norwegian black metal, courtesy of the genre's kings, Dimmu Borgir.

The tour may have been called the "Legions of the Chosen Few," but this was not the case once the Rialto's doors opened. Although not quite a capacity crowd, a flood of metalheads were crammed shoulder to shoulder on the Rialto's ground floor, even for openers Behemoth and Keep of Kalessin.

As a creepy intro played over the Rialto's PA system and red lights flickered, a pair of individuals dressed as a cross between disciples of Satan and Catholic priests eerily crept onto the stage swinging smoked-filled pendulums, which ignited the darkness and fire within the crowd. The band made its way onto the stage and kicked into "Spellbound (By the Devil)" and "In Death's Embrace," from their 1997 release, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant.

The band, dressed mainly in black, leather and spiked shin guards, evilly stared down the youthful crowd, while the crowd violently roared in appreciation of their demonic heroes.

Imagery was the key factor that set the tone for the mood of the evening. Pentagrams were prominently displayed on the group's keyboards and bass drums. The band brought a video screen stacked with demonic images. The most sacrilegious: an image of Jesus Christ being crucified on a pentagram during the song "The Sinister Awakening."

While black metal is often viewed as talentless, multi-metered music with vocals reminiscent of a choking toad, it was apparent that Dimmu Borgir are masters of true prog music: All 16 songs boasted complex arrangements, varying tempo changes and musical interludes. Guitarists Silenoz and Galder played their solos and rhythmic parts with such virtuosity that they would have made Joe Satriani blush. Bassist ICS Vortex provided beautiful and harmonious backing vocals on many songs, and touring drummer Tony Laureano played phenomenal blast beats.

"The reason we always come back to tour America is because of crowds like you," announced lead singer Shagrath following the group's most popular song, "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse." This was no scripted statement; the Tucson crowd sang, headbanged and moshed in pure appreciation of the rare chance to see Dimmu Borgir perform.

More by Jon Hobson

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