ALBUM REVIEW: Abrahadabra by Dimmu Borgir

Anybody who’s read my last post will know the importance of Dimmu Borgir to me. I need not go into great detail, but the band made me get back into metal for good. Yet over the years I have not listened to them as much as I did back then. About half the songs on Death Cult Armageddon, at best, are forgettable. As far as follow-up album In Sorte Diaboli is concerned, I remember liking the album… but I don’t remember the album (for the most part that is… “The Sinister Awakening” is a great song). I caught them live on the last few tours, and I have to say they greatly disappointed me.

Today and tomorrow they are streaming their new album, Abrahadabra, in its entirety. Aside from the ridiculous number of variations in ways you can buy the album, the content itself is some of the best material I’ve heard from the group in a while. Not a perfect album, but one that deserves a few listens.

The first thing that struck me is how disjointed the album feels. This is best accentuated in the track “Born Treacherous,” the first song after the intro. It feels like they are writing two songs at once: a dark, moody ambient piece using electronics and an orchestra, and a black metal song. While each part is good in of itself, they don’t mesh together well. When first hearing this track, one may feel that their command of orchestral black metal style is escaping them. Somehow I get the feeling that former keyboardist Mustis had a hand in working the orchestration with the metal, perhaps a lot more than they let on. However, I don’t want to sound like I’m taking sides; aside from which, when getting past the first track the majority of the album works a lot better. Not everywhere–in fact, “The Demiurge Molecule” is the albums low point in that respect, at least the first half of it–but it does work well.

As far as vocals are concerned, they downplayed the clean vocals from past albums. As former bassist and clean vocalist Vortex is also gone, this makes sense. However, Dimmu Borgir obviously doesn’t want to rid their music of these elements entirely, and hired legendary Snowy Shaw on both session bass and vocals. While his vocals are certainly more over the top than Vortex’s, (check out the DVD that came with Therion’s Live Gothic for a prime example), they are are sparse throughout the album. They also feel more organic than on previous releases. In Sorte Diaboli felt it had what I call “token Vortex parts.” Here, they actually feel like parts of the songs, which is no small feat when considering the aforementioned disjointedness.

Regarding the regular extreme metal vocals, I will say I am sick of the vocal effects on Shagrath’s. On this album alone they are fine, they work okay, I have no problem with them. After a few albums, though, I feel enough is enough. They were even processed on the Ov Hell release from earlier this year (as awesome an album that is).

Overall, the album is very good. Even though the argument of Dimmu Borgir “selling out” goes around, it’s easy to forget they can write good material. The album is very atmospheric. It doesn’t give you the chills, but certainly conveys a dark mood. One thing in particular I noticed is that besides the intro and one song near the end, all of the songs are roughly the same length; yet some feel longer than others due to how much is going on in them. This album is a bit choppy in places, but it’s some of the better Dimmu Borgir material I’ve heard in years. I give it a horns up.


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