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When I first heard Gateways, I was impressed and excited, especially with the second half, with the interaction between Shagrath and Agnete and the traditional tremolo riff just before that. I really thought that the song was a preview of what was to come, but sadly, there could not have been a more literal way of putting it! And if only that song was to be the only flaw of the album... Abrahadabra was not the first symphonic black metal release of the band, but the guys were so obsessed by the idea of having an orchestra since 1998 and incorporated it a few times in their works, so the novelty was gone about a decade before this came out. We were not told why the desire to reuse it after many complaints since 2003 about the mixing nightmare that was going on in the studio, but now it seems that nobody had any issue with it, although many metal fans are furious because the guitars are quite silent.
And by silence, one can imagine unimpressive, subdued, complementary, topping (for the orchestras), background noise or toys for useful idiots, and not just instruments barely audible. I must confess that there is some black metal to be found under the extreme half-thrash metal which garnishes the orchestral music, but it's like watching a soccer game, when a player is approaching to score a goal without having getting a chance to hit the ball. The false expectations are so often that it is impossible to make a successful list of deceitful attempts without revising it on and on, due to subjective assessments. You need to understand that this was my favorite band since the first days of my metalhead years, so you cannot make me tell you which song is more black metal than the other. Some traces can be found in the aforementioned Gateways and about the entire first half of the album (minus the opener), but only one repetitive riff or two here and there, continuing with tracks 6 and 8.
Seeing all the previous reviews, I must be the only naive guy still thinking this is black metal, even in eclectic form, and I believe I'm right. Just because it doesn't feel honest or vigorous, or sterile, as opposed to atmospheric, sinister, and more minimalist, it doesn’t mean it doesn't have the ideological message, the evil vibe or the misanthropic edge. It still feels like it tries to transmit a message, one about the occult, honesty, life, and other topics, but it is more appealing to teenagers than a Dimmu Borgir veteran or a grown up fan more picky than everybody else. Silenoz, besides composing lousy riffs, now seems to be devolving as a lyricist even more than on In Sorte Diaboli, to an embarrassing level even for the retarded For All Tid times. And with no input from the others, it looks like every member stays in its own place, with the left not caring what the right is doing. Are we still talking about a band? Because this mentality is not healthy at all and it's not promising at all for the future of this band! (You need to read the lyrics for Gateways to see the irony here!)
Speaking of honesty or dishonesty, ever since In Sorte Diaboli, the lyrics are addressed in second person, as if the vocalist is talking or "screaming" at the listener. It's a very clichéd trick used by the pop industry as a marketing strategy, so the naive tool would think that the songs are personal and he could identify with them. It's so fucking hilarious to see a black metal band using clear satanic messages with means like this. During the SBD times, the band had similar goals, but the execution was more honest, even brutally honest, and with lesser payments in return. Shagrath was more venomous, convincing, passionate and imaginative than now and a voice in shape; now, we are hearing an over aged smoker, too tired and careless to even make an effort to impose on the listener. And with the orchestra on the background, one can image the New Year orchestral performance with a hobo conducting. Pretty picturesque, don't you think? One would assume that, with all the guest singers, the band would have found one for Shagrath's position, but it's O.K. to fake change in such a pompous manner, right?
From all this morally bankrupt soup, there is one hope for this band: the song Dimmu Borgir. Let's forget the lyrics and the pathetic vocals for a second and really think about the instrumental parts. When you hear a black metal song, you hear minor keys - sorrow, despair, horror, coldness, and negative emotions, but here we have innovation! Using major keys in the first half of the song, just like power or epic metal, and switching to the stereotypical black metal in the other just manages to create an unique painting of mixed emotions and a changing landscape, a more dynamic and complex one. I think, for once in more than a decade, the band managed to revolutionize black metal, but I guess for many it's too late to take them seriously or they just didn't realize what they've done. Maybe at best, they would reuse the formula and screw it up or they would play it safe, like on the previous album, and make something more in a classical manner, generic or old-school.
It's time for some conclusions! I don't want to dwell more on the compositional details, because the band created everything around the lyrical department, with the orchestra barring the hard work of translating their ideas in order to play them, so it's pretty stupid to get caught in the minor issues when the album has a structural problem big as a house and deep as its foundation. Then, even if the message transmitted by Silenoz has a noble meaning, its honesty is easily contestable by Shagrath's unconvincing and deplorable performance, and the musicians' increasing lack of interest in the final product, which is their supposed transposition of their vision. In the end, the album represents not their rebirth, renewal, or substantial change, but only a compilation of rehashed ideas, put together to support an orchestra, which in turn, backs the lyrics. I suppose Dimmu Borgir's Chosen Legacy is, in their own words: "Hypocrisy that surrounds my temple" (the band).
Just download the instrumental version of Dimmu Borgir; the other songs are optional (bad teasers). Maybe the GGFH cover, D.M.D.R. (Dead Men Don't Rape), is also worthwhile, because it's somewhat weird.
In my review of “In Sorte Diaboli”, I discussed about how the “plastic extreme metal business” has dumbed down the standards of our favourite genre. That album is praised to death by the “average metal fan”, while it’s just a mediocre collection of rehashed ideas, not impressive at all for everyone who knows his shit about the genre. But, well... at least, indeed, it was just a weak and mediocre release, without falling under the 50% rating. Now, prepare for this new review... because, for Dimmu Borgir, being a mediocre modern symphonic metal band with so-called “black metal” elements and pandering to metal kiddies is not enough. They need to ruin every fucking trace of credibility they still possess. This is what “Abrahadabra” is about.
Well... now, I have something to confess: I don’t hate this album as much as I hate “In Sorte Diaboli” and all the other various “hits” such as “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse”. Obviously, the previous albums are far better than “Abrahadabra”; but they inspire me more grudge for having generated all this exaggerated praise around an overrated band that doesn’t release anything truly relevant since 1998. In the early 2000s, Dimmu Borgir fanboys used to “come outta the fucking walls” (cit.) and no one was allowed to say something bad about them. “Abrahadabra” contributed to kill this tendency in the last years, because even those fanboys who loved “In Sorte Diaboli” hated this new release and calmed a bit their enthusiastic tones about the band; so I feel a bit of “sympathy” toward this album, because at least it contributed to make the world a better place, but also because I’m a big fan of “trash” stuff and, well, this is a big piece of trash. Not nearly as much as “Illud Divinum Insanus”, but it surely does its best to sound pathetic and laughable. Right from the intro track, named “Xibir”, which starts with the gargles of a random guy, you know what to expect; and guess what... this time, reality will even exceed expectations.
First of all: after the more basic formula used on “In Sorte Diaboli”, Dimmu Borgir went back to the “pretentious style” of “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” and “Death Cult Armageddon”. You know what it means: cheesy and overdone orchestrations, overambitious compositions with lots of useless tempo changes, and tons of dumb filler parts (consisting mostly in tasteless chugging and boring “epic marches”). Now, imagine to multiply all these components, making them even worse and more intrusive, detracting the space for almost EVERY good idea. In fact, let’s not forget that the aforementioned two albums, despite being severely flawed, had still lots of potential that could’ve been expanded further; in few words, they also possessed a lot of good moments, especially “Death Cult Armageddon”, where the most “blackened” parts were usually awesome. Forget all of this, on “Abrahadabra”. This time, Dimmu Borgir have run out of mercy for everyone’s ears.
When this abomination came out, the band declared that the intent was to create a “cinematographic” atmosphere. Obviously, this means one thing: more fucking orchestra, of course! This seems to be the biggest orchestral group ever used by Dimmu Borgir. Of course, the orchestra puts a lot of effort into its job (surely more than the band itself...), yet the only song that perfectly achieves that so-desired “cinematographic” feel is “Dimmu Borgir”: honestly, if it wasn’t for the triggered double bass to set the rhythm, I wouldn’t even be able to find something in common with metal, because I don’t hear guitars at all; but, at least, it’s a “regular” song, the orchestrations are used in the right way and the effect, for once, is actually “majestic” and quite catchy. But it’s the only entirely savable song from the album. Apart from that, you could find some decent orchestrations in the refrain of “Ritualist” and on “A Jewel Traced Through Coal”: the rest is a total symphonic nightmare.
Imagine a ridiculous, exaggerated parody of all the stereotypes of classical music, delivered through a fucking big orchestra. I always said that, on “Death Cult Armageddon”, the orchestral parts were overdone, but believe me... that album will sound “normal” and “equilibrated” after having listened to “Abrahadabra”. It seems like the band suffers from the “horror vacui” syndrome: the orchestrations have been put randomly EVERYWHERE, trying to fill every single fucking empty space, often also where it’s not even remotely necessary in terms of “atmospheric enrichment”. I can predict right now your epic facepalm when you will arrive to the second fast part of “Ritualist” (around 1:25), embarrassingly invaded by a bunch of redundant high-budget orchestral instruments that don’t fit at all in the mix and create an annoying mess of “baroque” cliches that would make puke even the most die-hard fan of classical music. But it’s not over yet: I forgot to say that Vortex doesn’t play in the band anymore. He preferred to devote himself full-time to better bands such as Arcturus, instead of singing cheesy “pseudo-epic” choirs for Dimmu Borgir. But the famous Norwegian circus company decided to create a Vortex’s surrogate: stay away from “Renewal” if you don’t wanna puke all around, hearing Snowy Shaw (if I’m not wrong) substituting Vortex’s clean vocals. I never liked Vortex’s choirs in Dimmu Borgir tunes, but this awful imitation makes me regret them.
Now... it’s clear that the orchestrations are absolutely the most predominant element on this record, but what’s buried beneath them? Theoretically, there would be some riffs. Yeah, theoretically. Because guitars, on this album, seem to stay just for the sake of being called a “metal band”, but without doing anything useful or relevant to improve the music. Excluding some rare fine guitar parts here and there, like on “Renewal”, “A Jewel Traced Through Coal” and the first arpeggio of “Ritualist”, you won’t find anything relevant. At least, some quality black metal riffs à la “Death Cult Armageddon”? Forget it. Insipid and utterly generic pseudo-black riffs à la “In Sorte Diaboli” at best, the ordinary inconsistent “0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0” march over double bass at average, obsessive and ridiculous chugging at worst. I know, this isn’t a novelty in Dimmu Borgir’s sound, but remember what I said before... every bad element here is repeatedly multiplied. So, don’t be surprised if “Born Treacherous” contains even more lame breakdowns than an average shitty deathcore song. They’re repeated so obsessively and pathetically that, maybe, even Suffokate, Emmure and Suicide Silence could sound less laughable, by comparison. But I totally gave up when I heard how a part of “Ending and Continuations” was structured: a symphonic line defined the whole melody, and the guitars under it just played the same note over and over, keeping strumming just for the sake of doing it. Hey Silenoz, hey Galder... that “thing” in your hands is called “guitar”, and it’s supposed to be “played”... yeah, “played”, do you know what it means?
But all the points I’ve listed above aren’t enough: we still need the “coup de grace”. You know, most of Dimmu Borgir’s weak albums have the “joke song”, that song that’s unbelievably weak and ridiculous even for the album’s low standards: “Death Cult Armageddon” had “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse”, “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” had “Puritania” (eeeeewwwwww), and now... “Abrahadabra” has “Gateways”. This track could even reach the second position as “Dimmu Borgir’s most retarded song ever” (the first one is obviously held by “Puritania”). Think about the worst and most disjointed way to blend all the characteristics I listed above: you’ll obtain a formless, indefinable soup of horrible chugs, generic and ridiculous orchestral parts that sound exactly like a parody of the most “baroque” form of classical music, an awful and inconsistent fast-paced black metal riff that you’ll forget a second later, and most of all… a totally laughable mess between Shagrath’s pseudo-black metal croaks and other random choirs or female guest vocals, mixed together in an unique, delirious overkill that will instantly blow up your head. And not in a positive sense, at all.
So, this is the story of how Dimmu Borgir managed to turn themselves into a total joke, without any redeeming quality factor. Gone are the haunting melancholic atmospheres of “For All Tid” and “Stormblåst”; gone are the elegant, complex and majestic (yet well-balanced) keyboards of “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”; gone are the dark and sulphureous atmospheres of “Stormblåst MMV”; gone are even the occasional great ideas of “Death Cult Armageddon” and “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”. Everything of this has been destroyed. The funniest thing is that, in the same period, Dimmu Borgir’s best known rivals, Cradle of Filth, were releasing “Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa”, a true return to form for the English vampires... and even the most die-hard Dimmu Borgir fans had to admit that, this time, “Dimmu Burger” had been totally defeated by their rivalry.
I'll be brutally honest, any lingering hopes that I had of Dimmu Borgir pulling it together after the limp-wristed In Sorte Diaboli were disintegrated to molecular dust the moment "Xibir" rumbled through my speakers with what sounded like a long, rasping belch. Deep down, I hoped that the band would manage another Death Cult Armageddon (which is honestly the best we can hope for anymore), and although Abrahadabra sounds similar enough to much of the material the band has released post-Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, it yet again falls flat and tastes the barren soil it so proudly boasts of marching upon.
The loss of Hestnæs and Mustis worried and divided the fan base, but why? Mustis single-handedly brought down Spiritual Black Dimensions and always lived in the shadow of the admittedly average Aarstad. Hestnæs had his moments on the first two albums featuring him, but was wholly overused on In Sorte Diaboli, managing to even stink up a number of otherwise-passable tracks such as "The Serpentine Offering". A multitude of guest vocalists take his place and help maintain some variety in the otherwise-stagnant vocal department, as Shagrath finally takes his hand at the keyboards like I knew he always could. To be honest, I kind of wish there were more keyboards, as Shagrath is actually a decent multi-instrumentalist. Sadly, the more prominent than ever orchestra makes a concerted effort at drowning the entire album in a thick, soupy layer of bombast that never truly leaves the peripheral area, always waiting to come in and blow everything to dust just when the riffs finally get something cooking. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
I will share the sentiment of many that the band's eponymous epic "Dimmu Borgir" is the clear highlight. In fact, it might be the best song the band has done since "Cataclysm Children" or "Vredysbyrd". The funny thing is, it has more keyboards and operatic vocals than perhaps anything else on Abrahadabra. The sublime melody the song revolves around is far too upbeat as the band tries to sell out while still maintaining their grotesque temperament, but it matters little in the end. I could forgive the overuse of the orchestrations elsewhere if they were truly bombastic and triumphant sounding like on "Dimmu Borgir", but nearly everything else fiddles around in a minor key trying to sound sinister and evil. It is so overcooked and pontifical that it makes me puke. "Renewal" busts out of the gates angrily enough with some solid tremolo work, but the band yet again deceives as the orchestra patiently waits in the wings to destroy any semblance of vitriol.
Other than the wise decision of dropping the pretentious consistency of titling all songs in three words ("Chess with the Abyss" is an amazing song title), this just comes off as an inferior Death Cult Armageddon. Abrahadabra is somehow more bloated than the band's oft-abhorred 2003 release, but at the same time sounds trite and meager in comparison. I'm not saying Death Cult Armageddon is amazing, but it sure as hell came off as such after suffering through this overbearing gunk. The new blood injected into the band either has little say or little care of what comes of it all. Daray simply takes the next place in the line of underutilized Dimmu Borgir drummers, doing absolutely nothing interesting and paling in comparison to his output on Vesania epics like Distractive Killusions.
As if having the drums and guitars buried beyond recognition wasn't enough, the band shoehorns in a bunch of inane sound effects like the aforementioned belch that regally opens the instrumental "Xibir". "Born Treacherous" is decent enough until around the halfway point, when the guitars constantly drop out and defer to what sounds like someone playing with a vocoder alongside pigs squealing. "Endings and Continuations" ends Abrahadabra on an even lower note, bringing back the vocoder abuse alongside what sounds like someone opening a candy wrapper? Donald Duck drowning in a bathtub? What else am I supposed to do but guess what the band was thinking during the recording sessions?
I can't believe that the eternally low bar set by In Sorte Diaboli was actually breached here. Even more confounding is the fluke that is "Dimmu Borgir". If the entire album was in a similar vein, we might have something. Sadly, we don't.
I'm going to start this off by stating that the only reason I gave this a 20% is because I still have a soft spot for Dimmu Borgir. I've been following this band for quite some time now and while they have releases I actually quite enjoy, I was a little awestruck by this album. In fact, I feel the same about every release after Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. Let it be known (if you didn't know prior) that Dimmu Borgir is the like the lonely goth kid sitting alone at the lunch table; when it comes to black metal, it simply does not belong
The first drawback to this album, which I also think is the biggest flaw, is the overuse of the orchestra. It seems as if they paid off the composer to write the entire album for them and then decided later that guitar riffing would be a good idea throughout. The orchestra is actually so loud in some songs that it takes away from the potential of any catchy guitar lead. I feel the album would have been more respected if they left this part out entirely.
The guitars in some of the tracks were actually quite impressive, given how poorly written these songs are. Not Dimmu Borgir's best work, but it also seems they're not hard pressed for ideas after being at it for so long, which is probably due to the fact that everyone and their mother has been in the band at some point. The track "A Jewel Traced Through Coal" I felt was the best song on the album. After listening to the rest of the smut prior to this track, I was actually pleased to hear something good come out of it. However, about halfway through, I snapped back to reality and realized it was Dimmu Borgir. I instantly disregarded any good this song did for the album when I reminisced on their prior material. Albums such as Stormblast and Enthrone Darkness Triumphant seemed legendary in light of this record.
There's not a whole lot to comment on when it comes to the vocals except that Shagrath decided that layering his voice four or fives times might actually make him sound better. The overproduction of the vocals was easily another major mistake on this album. Any gain or presence in his voice almost seemed programmed, like the producer ran his voice through a Line 6 combo amp on the highest gain setting imaginable.
How anybody can sit in the studio while recording this and actually think this is worth releasing is beyond me. I'm actually very disappointed in this record and I'm certainly not going to hold my breath for a comeback. Ever since Death Cult Armageddon, I feel as if Dimmu Borgir is trying their hardest to feature on the next kid's bop record. Hell, we may even see them on the Disney channel in a few years if they keep this up. I feel I've spent more energy on this review then I did listening to the entire album, so I guess I'll wrap this up by simply saying, don't waste your time!
The principle dilemma haunting any band that wants to go the symphonic metal route and actually employ an orchestra is, how to avoid the first word of the sub-genre's denoted element from battling the rest for dominance. Dimmu Borgir isn't alone in this quandary, but they are among the most visible examples of it and there is no shortage of colorful metaphors being thrown around in an attempt to nail down what the actual issues is. They've always been something of an accessible element within an infamous scene (namely the Norwegian affiliates of the 2nd wave of black metal) from their very inception, lacking the outright technical commitment and atmospheric obscurity of others employing dense and elaborate textures over the traditional guitar, bass, drum and shriek arrangement, and becoming more so since Nuclear Blast's endorsement found them a higher fidelity production character. However, their latest studio offering is perhaps the most blatant example of this tendency, one that inspires adoration or scorn depending on the audience.
"Abrahadabra" is the ultimate expression in how Lovecraftian Horror clichés can be played up to the point of ceasing to be a focused metal album and more of a wildly unorganized operatic genre. Part of this could be blamed on putting way too much orchestral gimmicks and downplaying the traditional metal arrangement, which is actually possessed of some impressive riffs and the occasional lead guitar break. There are literally points on several songs where the massive horn and choir parts rob the guitars of their punch and thunder, something that was evident though less in degree on the last two albums. Similarly, the assortment of guest vocalists that function as stand ins for the departed Vortex move the sound pretty far from the cold bleakness of the "Spiritual Black Dimensions" character that this album was reaching for when going by the songwriting to something along the lines of a B-grade Gothic sound. The particular examples of this ooze out of the female guest slots heard on "Gateways" and "Endings And Continuations", two songs that are among the more distinctive of what is heard on here.
This isn't to say that the album is a complete wash or even that it sinks to the level of the band's creative nadir "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia", in fact, there are a few songs on here that are among the better offerings out of the band since the close of the 90s. The zenith is "A Jewel Traced Through Coal", which blasts and thrashes with the fury of a thousand hammers smashing up against tempered steel, and also contains some of the most active and enthralling riff work the band has ever come up with. In fact, the handiwork of Galder and Silenoz seems to take a noticeable upward swing on the last 3 songs after a mixed bag of rehashed Emperor worship and Vader inspired death metal grooves, with a lot more moving parts of course. "Renewal" grabs the ears from the lead guitar side of things, stopping just a few steps short of morphing into a black metal answer to Wintersun, and loads up on the drum work of course. One thing is certain, Dimmu's albums never cease to please in the drumming department with all the wild double bass work and digitally precise showmanship by whichever mercenary is manning the kit, and former Vader drumming Daray is no exception.
At the end of the day, this is the sort of album that isn't unworthy of hearing, and can even wow the ears at times, but just goes way overboard in elaborating the peripheral at the expense of the core. Most symphonic metal albums listen like a metal band with an orchestra along for the ride, while this album sounds like the exact opposite for most of its duration. Granted, someone who is really into the recent output of bands like Epica and Therion will definitely go for an album like this, but even compared to them this comes off as a bit unfocused and overdone. It literally stops just a tad shy of becoming musical Chinese food, tasting fantastic while its being consumed, yet quickly moving through and leaving little permanence after the cycle has finished. But apart from the somewhat lame and contrived lyrics and the outright ridiculous album cover, there isn't really much of this album that can be outright hated, though it's definitely a far cry from what passes for greatness.
Once again I find myself getting into bands just as all their former fans are abandoning them. I'm a big fan of Vortex, and it was upsetting to hear of his departure from the band (as for Mustis, well, I guess you'd have to be a keyboardist/composer to recognize his skill). I felt that the new Dimmu Borgir would be less without him. And it was with bated breath that I waited for news of their latest release...
Then the single for "Gateways" came out...and the fans of Spiritual Black Dimensions began their troll-wars. Then the album came out, and many were wishing that the whole thing was better than that song with the chick who, in their words, sounded like Dani Filth.
At last, the new album was unleashed. And even more hate came because of the new direction the band was taking aesthetically. Just because they wear white doesn't mean they're not black metal anymore. Shagrath still sports his inverted crucifix and Galder and Silenoz still have their pentagrams emblazoned onto their white garb. Possibly the most retarded trolling the band has received in regard to this album is Shagrath's head-gear, which looks like the front of the album. Honestly, have you even read Lovecraft? Silenoz said that the mask on the cover is based on Lovecraft's old gods, who, in his words, see the existence of man as the blink of an eye. This fits in well with the eerie, post-apocalyptic settings of their videos, and one should not be ripping on Shagrath's Ktulu-inspired head-gear.
Okay, now to the album.
After a brief intro, the album picks up with "Born Treacherous." Apart from an epic chorus chanting, the symphony, Daray's brutal drumming and the audio-byte, which just might be the most evil man himself - no, not Gaahl, Aleister Crowley, this album is Crowley as well as Lovecraft - its a good start to the album.
Now the dreaded single. The chorus' intro to the song is chilling, not to mention the once-again over-dominating symphony and a guitar track that has been, once again, pushed to the back. It's about rebirth - the rebirth of life on earth of the old gods once man has gone, and the rebirth of the most famous black metal band ever. For as much as people want to rip on Agnete Kjølsrud, her part towards the conclusion of the track is perhaps the most hauntingly epic. But wait...this song has satanic connotations. "Be the broken or the breaker" stands out to me as one such line, though there are others, of the satanic connect of this song: obviously, the band is still Dimmu Borgir at heart, even in white clothing.
Track number five. Every band needs a theme song. Black Sabbath has Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell had Heaven and Hell, Iron Maiden has Iron Maiden, etc. "Dimmu Borgir" is almost Viking in its epic feeling. The symphony works wonders along with the chorus and Silenoz's lyrics, which have references to the recent members who were removed ("We'll weed out the weak and their weep", "Talent is worthless unless exercised", etc.). Around 4:10, the song suddenly takes on a feel like a track from In Sorte Diaboli.
Now let's skip down to the tenth track, with the theme of rebirth that has carried through this album coming to its proper "Endings and Continuations." The symphony, of course, takes the lead, Galder and Silenoz just beneath audibility and Daray pounding his way through the "supreme unknown." After a portion that sounds very "old school black metal", the chorus takes up the magic chanting of Aleister Crowley: Abrahadabra (which has nothing to do with Harry Potter, thank you very much...retards). Then, we hear a melodic voice taking up his aria. Garm can put his talent wherever he wants to: he is not limited to just Arcturus or just Ulver, and though he is not a permanent member, his aria is the most epic thing on this album. Agnete Kjølsrud sings a soft, melodic interlude with the band (no screeching, I promise), and a slide guitar solo wails its way into black metal history.
So far I've just spoken of three or four members. Well, now let's get to the bonus track and I'll mention the guest star of this outfit: veteran of Therion, King Diamond and Mercyful Fate...Snowy Shaw. His part has been pretty much throughout the good part of the album, though, for some reason, he chose not to remain with the band. On the second bonus track, a Deep Purple cover (once again proving that Dimmu Borgir is a worthy band, since they can play regular music that is form-based and skillful), we get a chance to hear Snowy Shaw in all of his Dio-impersonating glory. That's how he sounds on "Chess With the Abyss", "Ritualist" and "Renewal." As for the track itself, though it holds no candle before "Burn in Hell" and "Black Metal", I was shocked at how boring and bland the original was in comparison to this.
In conclusion, yes...the symphony does overpower the metal. But that is the risk when playing with a real symphony, as we saw with Metallica's S&M live album. A lot of the tracks that Snowy sings on are very repetitive, except for "Chess With the Abyss" and "Perfect Strangers." Though it might not be the way of narrow-minded, underground "trve kvlt" black metal, the fact that Dimmu Borgir can sing and play about more than just the old Satan-n-spikes shit, and well at that, means that they are a force to be reckoned with. The compositions for the symphony are well done (I'm sorry, Mustis-fans, if I seem too neglectful of him. I'm not much of a keyboardist myself, so I can't comment on how hard it is to compose such masterpieces as he did), and I never thought I'd hear myself say that I like this album even though ICS Vortex isn't on it (you will be missed, though).
I think Dimmu Borgir should have the final say, though...
Don't get me wrong, this album is nothing compared to their early work and the absolutely golden Puritanical, but it was a refreshing and surprisingly great release. After the horrible Death Cult Armaggeddon and weak, but slightly better In Sorte Diaboli, Abrahadabra came as a slight shock. I was surprised that Dimmu still had what it takes to create such a well-crafted album despite the fact they will never return to what I fell in love with. That being said, a band like Dimmu is constantly evolving and this time they evolved into a better being.
Overall, the album is virtually flawless. Shagrath's vocals are always a pleasant sound. If anything, he's become a better vocalist as the years have gone by. The songs are very good and each is crafted so perfectly that you don't feel like you're listening to the same one over and over like on In Sorte. Daray's drumming is extremely impressive and is rivaled by Hellhammer's, which was the only thing that saved In Sorte from being a total plastic and cliche waste, and when I say cliche, I mean lyrically. The dramatic change from the commercial Satanism approach to lyrics changed for the better on this album as the band wrote lyrics more on mysticism and Norse mythology. Silenoz and Galder continue to write great guitar riffs and they both compliment each other and the music very well. And now for the last aspect of the album that ultimately made me love the album even more: the symphonics. The use of a real orchestra and choir instead of synthesized orchestral music really made each track stand out.
It is a fantastic album, but it still has its flaws, albeit they are minor. Snowy Shaw's "clean vocals" were an unnecessary addition. I found them to be unattractive to listen to. Another criticism of mine was the album was too short. I enjoyed every song on it that once the end came I was striving for more (although this proves Dimmu made a very solid album that left fans craving). And finally, not directly related to the album, but the firing of Mustis. I could care less about Vortex as the man was a drunk and his clean vocals were given too much credit. But Shagrath...you went too far with firing Mustis. That is an opinion shared by me as well as many, many fans.
Overall, this album is proof that Dimmu Borgir has redeemed themselves (even if that is only in my eyes). I hope their next release is as good or better than this one, because they definitely have the skill and craftsmanship as a band to produce music as amazing as their early work still.
Dimmu Borgir are not black metal anymore. They've descended into that uber-rotting realm of writhing dog turds known as "extreme metal" - basically a catch-all phrase for any band that has ditched its roots, changed its logo to something intelligible, started wearing expensive stage outfits, and now plays watered-down versions of death and black metal so that the kiddies out there won't be scared off when they hear it. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Dimmu Borgir are like ABBA compared to real black metal. They only rub it in with the release of this pompous used colostomy bag of an album.
It's all here folks - fist-pumping stadium anthems (soon they'll be doing ballads, just watch), "scary" satanic posing, farting orchestras, lengthy song-titles that remind one of a Fallout Boy album. This time though, Dimmu is starting to sound like Marilyn Manson if he wanted to play some actual metal.
But to the album itself. Expect more of the same shite that they've been churning out since "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia", albeit much worse. I could handle PEM back in the day - it was a risk of an album, but I enjoyed it well enough despite its being considered one of the biggest sell-outs of all time (though really, they sold out much earlier than this album). "Abrahadabra", however, sounds like "Death Cult Armageddon" all over again, yet poppier. Yes, you read that right - poppier.
Dimmu, at least as far as black metal is concerned, is pure pop fluff - take a listen to the hit single "Gateways" and see what I mean. It's bloody pop metal for kids who hate their parents paying their rent and who think rebellion is skipping out on church.
"Gateways" is by far one of the worst tracks that this band has ever recorded - the epic orchestras and swirling choirs are like overcooked pasta draped over the veggie-meat guitars and spray-on cheese vocals. It is by far the most accessible this band has ever gotten for a mainstream audience; that is, if they can navigate through the mess of blaring horns.
"Chess With the Abyss" reeks like an old pile of seaweed left to bake in the sun - goofy carnival keyboards, more fist-pumping anthemic guitars and choruses, and essentially everything but the kitchen sink thrown into the awful mess. "Xibir" is a waste of orchestral manure sounding like a rejected track from the latest Tim Burton film. "Renewal" is an f'ing mess of power metal soloing, "evil" key bits that I assume are supposed to sound like a big hairy spider crawling up on you, but end up sounding like a big hairy bogey protruding from your nose on a first date.
The album goes on and on like this in the most ridiculous of fashions - for Dimmu, the music is predictable, bloated, utter crap. And guess what? It will sell like wildfire on the prairies in the August heat, and angry teenagers everywhere will proclaim with loud and squeaky voices that this is true black metal.
What a load of bollocks - points for the instrumental skill of the members, and little else.
Honestly, I never thought I'd live to see this day. The day when Dimmu Borgir would release an album that would be worse than both Death Cult Armageddon and In Sorte Diaboli combined. And honestly, I had much more expectations off this album! But in the end I fell disappointed off my chair as the album ended. Everything I hoped that Dimmu would return to now that Vortex and Mustis were gone had been just an illusion. This album was no Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, it was far from it. It was like a pathetic attempt to make another Death Cult Armageddon.
First of all, the album begins with Xibir, a classical music intro with choirs, strings and horns. Everything is nice until Born Treacherous kicks in. We get some simplistic guitar riffs and all the elements that I've despised from new Dimmu: cheesy and boring symphonic riffs, useless speed and heaviness, weak vocals. And speaking of vocals, Shagrath has now proven that his voice is totally worn off. Whenever he tries to shriek or even growl, he fails epically at both. And by the way, just for your information: both choir of how many people you want and Snowy Shaw will not be able to replace the amazing work that Vortex did! EVER! With this being said, let's move on to the next song.
The 3rd track of this album, Gateways, is actually one of the greater songs. It features some great classical symphonic strings, amazing female vocals and some quite good guitar solos. This song is sure to be a fan favorite, as its epicness is undescribable. The duet between Shagrath and Agnete at the end of this song was the proof that the band can still be saved... if they morph into an extreme metal version of Nightwish. Because as I've mentioned in my review of Death Cult Armageddon, Dimmu should've left the whole symphonic metal thing for a band which knows how to handle it, like Nightwish.
Chess with the Abyss had some decent choirs and strings here and there, but the rest was just bland. Dimmu Borgir, however, was the only other song off this album that managed to strike some particular chords for me. Its beautiful choirs, epic orchestration and bad ass guitar solos are what made it worthy of both a music video and becoming one of the few top tracks off this release.
Sadly, after this song, the only things that are even worth MENTIONING from this album are Snowy Shaw's chanting on Ritualist and Endings and Continuations, and some of the orchestration and choir work from the final track. The rest of the album... was bland and boring just like its predecessors: In Sorte Diaboli and Death Cult Armageddon. With this fast regress of Dimmu Borgir in quality of song writing, I fear that the future of this once amazing black metal band will be dark... and not at all dark in the metal way...
Favorite tracks: Gateways, Dimmu Borgir
From a metalhead’s point of view, Dimmu Borgir is either despised or loved in their community. The band is regarded as “sell-outs” and “posers” to the average black metal purists while others regard them as a decent modern symphonic black metal band. Their eighth release (not including the Stormblast remake), Abrahadabra, won’t change opinions, more or less. If you are a fan expecting them to release a new album, this is pretty much up your alley. Otherwise, I know for sure that Dimmu will still be an effigy for the average metalhead.
For me, Dimmu Borgir is a pretty enjoyable symphonic black metal group. While not much special in comparison to other bands, their music pleases whatever time I have in my hands and can get addicting at times.
One of the most prominent parts of Abrahadabra is the orchestrations from the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and the Schola Cantorum Choir. Perhaps even more so than the bombastic Death Cult Armageddon, the use of the orchestrations are more extensive than before and their work is actually very lush and well composed. It has a very dense layer of sound that fills throughout most of the album, creating a very dramatic, sometimes unsettling atmosphere. There are moments that the orchestrations can range from enjoyable to downright thrilling, like the end of the track, Gateways. Some gripes I have, however, are that the orchestration can feel cheesy at times and sometimes a bit gimmicky.
The other instruments seem to be more simplistic, particularly the guitar work of Silenoz and Galder. The two guitarists rely on power chords and tremolo-picked riffs that, while are pretty generic on their own, help support the orchestrations. Snowy Shaw’s bass work generally follows the guitars, so there is not much to write home about the bass. Session drummer, Daray, is a very proficient drummer. While not as technical as Nicholas Barker or Hellhammer before him, Daray is very consistent behind the kit.
And here we get to Shagrath. Sadly, his vocal work is a far cry from the Enthrone Darkness Triumphant days. While he does an okay performance overall, his shrieks are pretty dry and he has a tendency to speak in spoken word quite a lot. Thankfully, the uses of vocal effects are much more tolerable here without sounding too artificial.
The production has an acoustic feeling that feels less robotic and a bit more human. In particular, the drum triggers are not as obvious. In fact, it helped the album flow smoothly. If it had the same production has In Sorte Diaboli had, the score would be lowered to around 60.
As I said before, if you are a fan of Dimmu Borgir, this will pretty much please your needs and then some. Still, it leaves a bit more to be desired and it is still as flawed as their other recent works.
A lot of criticism has been leveled at Dimmu Borgir lately, with fans and detractors alike claiming that the band has "gone soft", selling out their black metal roots for popularity and mainstream attention. Fans who are continuing to stick with the band despite their new commercial attitude are becoming a minority, and I can understand why.
There are some real problems with this album. For one thing, Shagrath's vocals seem to have gone downhill quite a bit, with the infamous black metaller growling most of his vocals (which keeps the Dani-Filth-style shrieking to a minimum, but still doesn't sound particularly good).
Other than that, the track "Born Treacherous" inexplicably incorporates a breakdown at the end of the song, which I didn't know how to feel about. In all honesty, this breakdown was somewhat well-done and added more to the song, but it also had me half-worried that the next song would have Shagrath break out into post-hardcore vocals and start shrieking about suicide.
The above might seem like a small point, but the entire album feels like that to some degree, and you know something is very wrong when a black metal album sounds like it could turn into metalcore at any moment. This album isn't bad necessarily, but it has a very mainstream edge to it, and it'll make any fan of their underground work a bit uncomfortable at the least.
There really isn't much else that I can consciously dislike about this album. There's just something subtly disturbing about it. It feels a bit like the creepy old man at the end of the block who stares at you as you walk by, never blinking and never saying anything. He's not doing anything wrong, but he could be, and the longer he stands there, the more awkward you feel.
I did everything I could to like this album, and I succeeded, to a degree. Fans of true black metal will be outraged as usual, but the albums's faults are overlookable to the rest of us, and there are a even couple of tracks that should be quite enjoyable for fans of symphonic metal. It's a little bit uncomfortable to listen to (there's something very off-kilter about this release that I can't put my finger on), but it's workable. This album is exactly what it's supposed to be, which is an inoffensive, commercialized version of true black metal, but metalheads looking for more will be disappointed.
I don’t know what’s gotten into me to make me write a Dimmu Borgir review. I know this band, and I’m pretty aware of the hatred they got from selling out years ago or something like that. From what I can remember, their older works (“For all Tid” and “Stormblast”) were fairly simplistic black metal pieces that got the atmosphere right, despite being kind of boring on the long run.
I don’t feel particularly interested in reviewing their entire discography, so when you come to consider they’ve been writing pretty much the same shit (In a downward spiral) since “Spiritual Black Dimensions”, this review will work as a medium for my general opinion about this band as much as an analysis of “Abrahadabra”.
The thing is, I never actually understood this band’s point. I find them to be absolutely aimless and directionless, as if these six guys (Three, as of 2011) just couldn’t find a sense of cohesion or purpose to work with.
The exercise of listening to a post-Stormblast Dimmu Borgir album is, at least to me, something of a curious experiment of sorts, because every time these musicians seem to be at a loss about what to do next in the song (which happens quite frequently), they resort to over-the-top orchestrations, completely un-related riffwork or stomping repetition, repetition, repetition… A perfect example of this would be “In Death’s Embrace” from “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”. What I’m trying to say is that Dimmu Borgir seem to be eternally trapped in some kind of “Hey, let’s act like we’re jamming forever instead of recording a previously thoroughly written and wrapped-up song” state, if you get what I mean.
However, things could’ve changed after some uninteresting shit went on, causing ICS Vortex and Mustis to depart from the band. As I witnessed the rabid discussions about the group’s future coming from pretty much everywhere (metal-related, that is), I couldn’t help but to feel a tad curious about the direction the band was heading after the split, so a chance was given to “Abrahadabra”, their funnily-titled new album.
When key members leave, it is expected for the band’s sound to change a bit, because, you know, there’s this sense of renewal, of gathering the rest of the group’s best ideas and really working them to come up with the best resul… But hey, who I am kidding? This is Dimmu Borgir, so we can all expect them to stick to their ever-worsening formula forever, so let’s get this going.
First, the lyrics are nothing special, as per usual. They go from pseudo-intellectual deep/metaphorical/whatever mysticism to good ol’ MTV satanic bullshit (“Constant retribution calling from the shadows of three consecutive sixes!”). They’re not utterly ridiculous like modern In Flames’ or your average cookie-cutter contemporary Metalcore, but are far from thought provoking as well. Doesn’t smell good, but at least it has the decency of not being a complete stinker.
Guitars don’t do a lot, as probably expected. Most riffs seem like an afterthought instead of an actual part of the songwriting and leads are kind of sparse. The only song with actual memorable guitars parts I can think of is “Renewal”. Abrasive-sounding power chords are everywhere and uninspired chugs also make an appearance.
Every once in a while, the orchestra backs out and we’re treated with a boring chugging riff or a sloppy tremolo part, as if to show us (or help us remember) this band still has two guitar players and they’re supposed to do SOMETHING. But once again, this is Dimmu Borgir, and they can’t seem to be assed to write a guitar-driven song anymore, so the orchestra quickly comes back and drowns the guitar with a fury akin to a white shark ascending to entirely swallow a small dolphin, as if to say “Ok, time’s up, this ocean is mine”. Silly metaphor aside, it gets irritating.
Clean vocals are present as not to alienate the people who used to tolerate this bunch of crap just because of Vortex, and this time, they’re sung by Therion’s Snowy Shaw, this Agnete chick I’ve never heard of before and fucking Garm, of all people. These three contribute effectively to the atmosphere of their respective songs, and even Agnete’s slightly abhorrent and chipmunk-ish vocals on ‘Gateways’ serve their purpose as attention-grabbing, at least.
Shagrath’s voice, however, is really bad, obnoxious and completely drenched in effects. For the most part he doesn’t even care to sing, going for the perpetually boring trick of the spoken-word dialogue. Man, this shit barely worked for Morbid Angel’s “God of Emptiness”, so you just can’t expect it to sound good in here, as the songwriting is way too schizophrenic to effectively match the song’s momentum with the “scary” vocals, in order to enhance the atmosphere. It’s a mess.
Oh, and speaking about messing up, this band should just give up the orchestrations, seriously. I know it will never happen, but every time I listen to this record I cant’ shake this feeling that the orchestrations are just way too good for these guys’ sound. Strong (Kudos for the excellent work of the Schola Cantorum choir), very well arranged (By composer Gaute Storaas, who previously worked with the group in “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”), but very distracting when played alongside generic, weak black metal.
Daray from Orion’s Vesania is on drumming duties, and he’s up to par with Dimmu’s former drummers. I find him less inventive than Nick Barker, but more focused than Hellhammer, so it is nice enough. Andy Sneap’s production job is as expected: clean, modern and sterile. So it suits the band’s recent sound like a glove.
As for individual songs, only one of them kept my attention for its whole run: Dimmu Borgir. Contrary to the other songs, this one has a direction, some fine (if simplistic) melodies and riffs going on and an interesting (if a tad silly) set of lyrics, reflecting the band’s stage of reformulation and unification after the former members’ departure. The orchestration and choir work are downright beautiful on this one too, fitting the arcane, warlike atmosphere perfectly. The black metal element is also present (by the song’s end), and the transition between it and the otherwise very melodic song sounds pretty natural and organic. If the album didn’t have this one, my score would go down to 3%, probably.
The first minute or so from ‘Renewal’ also kicks ass before turning into a borefest, and ‘Ritualist’ features some pretty nice ideas (the discrete acoustic guitar plucking right below the first verse onslaught and Shaw’s cool clean vocals), but it gets kind of ruined by a pedestrian chorus. “Gateways” bores you to sleep only to suddenly (and I mean SUDDENLY. This has got to be one of the most awkward transitions of the whole album) awake you with Agnete’s psycho vocals, then running around aimlessly like a cockroach being pursued by a stomping human foot until the last minute and a half, where the song finally seems to pick up (After ‘Forever more!’) and ends on a high note, with a cool tremolo part and an eerie Shagrath/Agnete duet that is interesting but not enough to save the rest of the song.
Overall, Dimmu Borgir lacks staying power/catchiness, cohesive songwriting and falls prey to the mistake of thinking that layers and layers of overblown orchestras and theatric antics will make up for it. A worthless idea for band that is as desperate for a direction as it is for money. Wait… scratch that. It’s probably just the money.
Highlights: “Dimmu Borgir”, “Ritualist” (Just the verses), and the ending segment of “Gateways” (Last minute or so).
For my first review I shall give to you an album from a band who I am quite fond of, and how they have made wonder if they can still carry on. After the dismissal of ICS Vortex (who I will refer in future as Awesomeness incarnate) and Mustis (the emotionless keyboardist who’s last name means ‘blackbeard’) I thought “well looks like Dimmu has gone down the shitter” and their first and only single Gateways confirmed that only made worse by a female singer (the fuckers have done a Cradle of Filth) and a music video that makes as much sense as an Acid trip while being distracted by a double rainbow, only it’s a bad Acid trip and your crying that evil rainbow is going to eat you.
So when I picked up ‘Abrahadabra’ out of curiosity and I was expecting a lump of shit, and what I got is a feeling whether I should hate it and throw it onto a pyre of a burning church or to cherish it and apologize for all the mean words I cursed at it. But when I really think about it I choose neither options, It’s not good enough to embrace and it’s not shit enough to wipe off the face of the earth, it’s somewhere in the middle, meaning swimming in the murky waters of mediocrity.
With this album they are trying to create a truly symphonic experience, which is executed quite well, the orchestration is interesting, and unfortunately for Dimmu it is the only thing that is interesting. The guitars are bland and half the time would sound better and more atmospheric if they weren’t even there, the bass is hard to hear and may as well be useless (which is a painful thing to say, I am a bassist myself) It is only heard by itself at least once, the drums are commendable, but it isn’t mind blowing either, the drumming can basically be the feeling of the whole album. Last and certainly least is the Vocals, Shagrath, mate, do you really need to keep doing those annoying synthesized spoken words, I get it you want to experiment with your voice, but you don’t have to do it every fucking song, it was effective in the previous album ‘In Sorte Diaboli’, but in this he just comes off gay. He’s sheiks aren’t in top form either, it’s like he’s performance is getting more and more half-assed after every album, it’s depressing. The clean vocals are fine, Snowy Shaw (who also plays bass apparently, if there is a bass there) but are inferior to Vortex in almost every way, in range and quality, some female vocalist sings on ‘Gateways’, which is something that I doubt because she sounds just like a tuned up Vortex, like his voice is pitch shifted, it felt like they castrated the great man, those motherfuckers!
Now the songs, the only song I enjoyed was 'Born Treacherous' and semi-enjoyed A Jewel Traced Through Coal (It has a good vibe and is the only song with a solo, this is because Galder is the faceless guitarist on the face of the planet) and Endings and Continuations (that is because Garm sings on the song, an being a Arcturus fanboy I couldn’t help but shriek like a schoolgirl). The rest are unforgettable, and two songs are shit, that being obviously Gateways and their self-titled song ‘Dimmu Borgir’, it sounds like a Nightwish song (the biggest lot of ponces the walk this earth who try to hide their sexuality with a female singer, but fail because their main song writer is the Keyboardist. A man who wears eyeliner, plays on-stage with an unbuttoned shirt and is a fan of Disney, come on, that’s like at new type of uber-gay).
So in conclusion, a nothing special album from a once great band that is easily forgettable and really isn’t worth buying, with this your better off with illegal torrent sites.
Most reviews try to get you to buy or not buy an album. That's the idea, otherwise my reviews would just be lists of bandnames I like and conjecturing on why metal is better than other music. Essentially, it would be like talking to me. This review is designed to make you not buy Dimmu Borgir's latest CD.
Abrahadabra boldly steps away from beloved Dimmu Borgir convention by becoming only the second album not to have a three word title, and then boldly steps back into it with an album cover tonally almost identical to that of Death Cult Armageddon.
After the obligatory orchestral 'Xibir', 'Born Treacherous' allows itself the usual pomposity of the Dimmu Borgir marching band before some actually pretty good black metal riffs leap into life. Unfortunately the studio orchestra soon takes centre stage, and with the blaring symphonics one quickly forgets there are any guitars being played at all. When Galder smashes out some power chords later on and draws attention back to the actual metal, it only makes you notice how instead of integrating "symphonic" and "metal" Dimmu segue bewilderingly between the two, as if unable to do more than one thing at a time. Which is ironic considering that the ability to (apparently) do just that is what made them famous.
By the time this song has finished, as with most tracks throughout the album, so many pace-changes and non-sequitur orchestral arrangements have occurred that any tension and propulsion has drained away completely. Your attention has been broken, your brain a thousand shards of melted synaptic disarray. The single 'Gateways' is another example of this tendency, I reviewed it elsewhere but the constant switching between Therion-like choirs, industrial-style verses and gods know what else proves my point. The band try to do everything, but leave you with nothing.
The guitarists try to get a bit more involved than on the sterile In Sorte Diaboli, with some catchy if recycled spiraling lead-work on 'Chess With the Abyss' and a rehash of 'Cataclysm Children' in the form of 'Renewal', but again the endless fucking symphony abuse... it's like I'm trying to listen to metal, but someone keeps running up to me and playing a trumpet right in my ear with a look of grim dedication on their face. I said you can FUCK RIGHT OFF! I actually enjoy it more when it's keyboards and samples being used, such as the beginning of 'Endings and Continuations', which pleasantly reminds me of the video game Soul Reaver.
Snowy Shaw of course sounds pretty good when guesting on 'Ritualist' and singing the cover of Deep Purple's 'Perfect Strangers', but frankly Therion give him more interesting things to do. ICS Vortex is as much the target of scorn as any member or former member of this band is these days, but his vocal appearances were one of the things I used to enjoy. He was overused somewhat, and they always had him sing basically the same melody, but he has an awesome voice. Hopefully he'll find a home that does more justice to it. As for Mustis, don't really care, apparently he wrote all the music but there is no discernible difference in approach or sound here, just the gradual decay of exponentially rising profit and waning interest.
The eponymous song at track 5 is actually one that I think is quite catchy and cohesive, with its joyful strings and surprisingly consistent beat. The choirs sound like they should have been on the soundtrack to James Cameron's Avatar, but the faster mid-section is pretty exciting. However, this is the song that seems to have caused most offense among the Dimmu community. The only reasons I can find for me liking it is that it's different enough to the squishy half-arsery surrounding it that it gives me a welcome break, or perhaps that Dimmu simply sound a lot more comfortable here, when they give up trying to be all poe-faced and arcane and all that crap, and just fuck about doing whatever they want, playing silly, happy melodies, processing Shagrath's voice so much he sounds like radio static, and hemorrhaging money on studio orchestras and Andy Sneap.
I gave the single 'Gateways' a 50%, in order to represent apathy to it. It didn't offend me you see, it was only a few minutes of Dimmu doing not that much that they hadn't done before. This album, on the other hand, is a solid hour of boredom. I feel like I might be able to quite enjoy 'Renewal' on some level if I hadn't just sat through the rest of Abrahadabra. I've reached my Dimmu Borgir absolute limit. If I put Enthrone Darkness Triumphant on once this has finished, I think I might have to get up and leave the room, and I quite like that one! Yes, I could just turn it off again, I know. Probably just do that. Anyway fuck this for a game of goths, get Nazxul's Iconoclast instead, an album which renders this one forever obsolete.
Well well…here we have it…the latest chapter in the increasingly festering slab of nothingness known as Dimmu Borgir. Before tackling this latest musical attempt (emphasis on “attempt”…), I sat down and thought back on the days when the Borgir boys took that pop star ambition with a splash of corpse paint and became the biggest examples of what to do and what NOT to do when shooting for a career in black metal. Looking back on their discography, their career seemed akin to a heart patient’s EKG reading, wherein the ups and downs are so very noticeable; it’s either been a great and prosperous time (“Spiritual Black Dimensions”, “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”, “Stormblast MMV”) or a bottomless pit of soul-crushing despair (“For All Tid”, “Stormblast”, “Death Cult Armageddon”) with only middling moments of a fuzzy gray area of neutrality (“Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”, “Godless Savage Garden”, “In Sorte Diaboli”), and the way they fluctuated so violently between up-and-down period albums is like the movies Curly Howard made during his last, stroke-addled year with the Stooges.
So with that in mind, I’d actually hoped that their latest work would be one of those up moments to counteract all their bullshit…
Before diving in, I’d had the misfortune of partaking in their first official single, “Gateways”, and I found it a bland, tepid, soulless, anger-inducing foray into a whole lotta nothin’ that acted more as a slap in the face to all of us long-suffering fans who’ve had to deal with their increase in revenue and egos. Like Ulver before them, Dimmu seem to have come to terms in thinking that they’re better than their fan base and don’t seem to give a fuck anymore, the way they thumb their silver-spoon-clad noses at the ones who made them who they are. And that’s a very shit-headed, vainglorious thing to do, if you ask me. As a result of how this album came out, I’m convinced that Dimmu Borgir are the Lindsey Lohan of the black metal world, where they at one time showed some real, definitive talent in the early days before years of Hollywood-style excess caused them to implode. Said implosion is the most evident here with “Abrahadabra”. Never in my life have I heard a band so completely fall apart on itself on an album as much as this…if “In Sorte Diaboli” was the first flaw in the band’s foundation, and “Gateways” was the concurrent structural damage, then “Abrahadabra” is that wrecking ball strike that brings the whole damn thing a’tumbelin’ down. In laymen’s terms? This sucks. Horribly. Massively. AIDS-inducingly. I guess we sorta saw this coming, pride coming before their fall, never heeding the warning buried deep within us all (to paraphrase a far far FAR better and more talented group and album), what with the whole Satyr-like ego trips and whatnot. Yes, I know I sound embittered and vengeful, but I’d like to think that my anger is well deserved; like the people I once knew who cut their hair in protesting accordance with Metallica’s “Load” albums, I hereby shake my fists in virulent rage at a band who has been, over time, seriously getting on my nerves due to a sudden, self-inflicted lacking of ability, talent, and overall common sense. No amount of repetitive, weak-kneed guitar riffs, pompous symphetics, plastic, artificial drum beats and snarky, holier-than-thou vocal croaks coupled with that getting-more-annoying-by-the-second robotic vocoder abuse would EVER a good black metal album make (though I guess the Dim’ boys don’t classify themselves as “black metal” anymore…such a cute excuse for this exercise in soul-killing worthlessness), and with all these elements in play the coffin that contains the band’s ability and true existence is shoved several feet lower than it originally was many years and albums back. There is absolutely nothing of worth in this album, and it seems as though Dimmu Borgir aren’t even TRYING to bring back the long-dormant black spirit, and would rather bathe themselves in gallons of Cristel in the back of their pentagram-strewn limos en route to the next Red Carpet Premiere. Such is the façade they seem content on portraying for now and evermore, where songs like “Xibir”, “Chess with the Abyss” and “The Demiurge Molecule” act as acid in the faces of all of us who’ve suffered their slings and arrows time and again, leaving us scarred, begging for mercy, and only getting derisive laughter. What a way to end it all…
In the end, “Abrahadabra” is the last straw to break this camel’s back. The integrity is gone, the spirit has been raped into oblivion, and no doubt this will sell like sugar to demented crack heads. There’s no turning back, at this point…not because the band can’t find that necessary return to form, but rather it seems they just don’t WANT to. If that’s the case, then I’m done. Thanks, guys, for those few years of assurance that you were a real, quality-laden band, but I’m hanging up my long-beaten Dimmu shirt and bidding you adieu. For the sake of everyone, GET OVER YOURSELVES! And fuck off…
No word can more fairly describe "Abrahadabra" than mediocre. It would probably be unfair to call this album awful but it really is not all that good either which is particularly unfortunate because Dimmu Borgir have proved in the past that they are quite capable of producing truly exceptional albums such as "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" or "Death Cult Armageddon".
It is clear from listening to the album that it has been created very professionally by experienced musicians who know what they are doing and the production also is excellent. Unfortunately this does not save the album from being filled with a majority of tracks which simply do not really stand out in any way apart from the occasional moment. The only song which I can genuinely say I enjoy is "Dimmu Borgir" and "Gateways", the first single of the album, definitely picks up during the second half of the song. But even these two tracks which are actually quite good, pale in comparison to past epics like "Mourning Palace" and "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse". The album is also lacking in the fire and intensity that was present in previous releases, in fact it almost seems as though Dimmu Borgir have begun to mellow which surely cannot be a good sign. The loss of ICS Vortex is also a shame because some of his vocal performances were truly incredible and the guest vocal appearances by Agnete Kjolsrud, Kristoffer Rygg and Snowy Shaw do not really add anything to the album.
Other than the album being very mediocre, the other main criticism I would make of the album is that the orchestra tends to overshadow the band. I am not saying there is anything wrong with the band combining an orchestra with their music and in fact I really like the way the band has utilized orchestras in the past. It can really help to add a powerful atmosphere to the music but I feel that on this relese the orchestra has overshadowed tha band. It is almost as if Dimmu Borgir have lost some of their individuality and simply become a generic symphonic metal band which is a shame.
Obviously this review has been fairly brief and that is because in all honestly there is not very much to say about this album. Most of the songs just tend to pass you by and leave no impact. There are not any terrible songs on the abum but the majority of them are just very average which is disappointing for someone who is a big fan of the band. Hopefully Dimmu Borgir will one day make a return to former greatness but it seems almost certain that "Abrahadabra" is destined not to leave much of a lasting impression in the history of Dimmu Borgir.
So Dimmu Borgir are like a retarded cousin at a reunion: every relative tries to avoid them for fear of being thought of as anything like them, while their very presence brings down the entire affair. DB have been going through the motions for years, producing half-assed but largely inoffensive albums like In "Sorte Diaboli", but now they have attempted to 'evolve' again, and as is usual with people who have no idea what's cool, they have made their music noticeably worse.
The sound is less overloaded here than it was on albums like "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" or "Death Cult Armageddon", and the songwriting is less an attempt to cram in too much with studio digi-shitty effects. Like on their last album, the actual compositions are much simpler and less hyperactive, while this time pretension has been piled on to compensate. Rather than being content to be a fun, evil band, DB seem to think they are a 'relevant' act with some kind of message, and their songwriting has made room for a lot of self-important huffing and puffing. The single "Gateways" is a pretty good example of what this album is about: plodding, uninteresting music, lackluster performances, awful narration and soggy clean backing vocals. ICS Vortex is gone, so we do not have to put up with his Nickelback-grade singing, but the female backing vocals are pretty hideous. The production is overdone while somehow still sounding flat and dull, and the band plays most of this like they were half asleep. Shagrath sounds better than usual, as he kept the Dani-esque shrieking to a minimum. Galder is as faceless a player as ever, and new drummer Sven Kopperud is an amazingly undistinguished musician – I don't know if DB have ever had drums that sounded this boring.
I seem to be talking a lot about this album, and it does not really bear much discussion. Suffice to say that yes, it sucks, it just sucks less in the ways we expect a Dimmu album to suck and has instead found new ways to be shitty. Don't waste your time with it.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR: http://demrockritic.in/review-dimmu-borgir-abrahdabra
Metal has a tough audience to please. When a band establishes itself with a certain type of music there is also a sense of elitism that gets attached to that particular sound of the band. Anything sounding remotely more ear-friendly or different is very often written off as ‘sold out’ and tame. Giants like Metallica, In Flames and Children of Bodom have fallen prey to this.
Dimmu Borgir is another band that has faced this treatment ever since they changed their sound to a completely symphony-driven one on ‘Enthrone Darkness Triumphant’. With their new release ‘Abrahadabra’, they seem to finally have achieved exactly what they hoped to achieve with symphony-driven metal. it is very clear that musical design was what mattered most to the band. Every song is riff-heavy. Not in the disjointed way that many bands record their music but one where the modern sections really speak and interact with the orchestral section. There is a wonderful trade-off that takes place between the two. When one is ambient, the other goes melodic and when they play melodies together is when the power in the music really shines forth.
The album itself is supposed to be the sequel to their previous release ‘In Sorte Diaboli’, continuing the story of a priest who defects from Christianity. The musical relevance to the Pagan theme in the album is very fulfilling. From the low, tribal vocal beginnings on ‘Xibir’ to the very organic sounding guitar-orchestra harmonies on ‘Dimmu Borgir’, the music really tells the story on its own. There are never sections where the orchestra drowns out the string rhythms, nor are there bland guitar rhythm sections where you are silently begging for the orchestra to kick in and make the music more interesting.
Vocally, though Shagrath sounds like a blur in comparison to regular black metal screeching, his heavier pledges and the occasional digitized soliloquies sound very good. The clean vocals by Snowy Shaw have a certain grittiness to them that sounds as good as anything by former bass player ICS Vortex. The crowning glory on the vocal from though, are the choirs and the traditional tribal vocals. Both work together to explore a large vocal spectrum and make the album sound more like a film score than anything else.
Having thrown all this praise in, one does at times wish the album was more aggressive in sound. It could do with a few more heavy tremolo barrages, a few more blast beat attacks and definitely a lot more guitar harmonies. Overall though, while this album will continue to divide fans over their opinion on Dimmu Borgir, the fact remains that it has raised the benchmark for symphonic metal songwriting up massive levels and has shown that orchestra can really bring out the relevance of metal in today’s musical times.
There’s something particularly bothersome with disliking a Dimmu Borgir album these days, and it’s something I discovered while browsing the far reaches of the internet. I ended up talking to a metalhead who, after a while, mentioned Dimmu Borgir’s new album, Abrahadabra, to me. He asks me if I had heard the single off it, called Gateways. I told him I didn’t like it. Before I can even begin to say why, he leaps at me, accusing me of being ‘closed-minded’ and that I just can’t accept a band who wants to ‘evolve’ their music. I’m sorry but… I dislike Dimmu Borgir’s newest release and failure has nothing to do with them evolving, it has more to do with them regressing. They just don’t have very much range anymore, musically or otherwise, and as far as I’m concerned, their music evolved and changed a lot between '93-'97, and after that, there hasn't been they haven’t ‘evolved’ or changed very much, especially after Death Cult Armaggedon, although their songwriting has noticeably deteriorated since then, while their cheesiness has increased. And this time around, Dimmu threw some money at classical musicians to try and help their sound, but... it just failed.
Abrahadabra is Dimmu Borgir's most recent album, an orchestrated symphonic metal album that Dimmu Borgir threw a bunch of money at in an attempt to make something completely new to Dimmu Borgir. Well, it just isn't good. Not at all. It isn't as bad as In Sorte Diaboli, though. That’s the one thing I think every Dimmu fan can agree on. Thank God it isn’t another In Sorte Diaboli… thank God. But really, that isn't saying much. I can say that Dimmu Borgir was right in saying that Gateways is one of the lesser songs from the album. It is. The rest of the album isn’t really very different, except that the female vocalist only gets to ruin that one song. Anyway, you can tell pretty much right away that Dimmu have gone all out this time around, hiring a choir and orchestra that has a grand total of over 100 members.
How do these extras do in the album? Well, they sure as hell don’t act like hire-ons. The first think I think about them with this album is that they’re all consuming. I could tell almost right from the start of Xibir (and remembering what Gateways sounded like). They just swallow everything almost all the time. Everything else in the production comes second. They almost totally dominate the music. I think the way they had the orchestra situated in PEM was much better. It didn’t swallow Dimmu Borgir, it eccentuated the music. It worked, at least somewhat. Here, it feels like you’re playing a classical CD while playing Death Cult Armageddon on another player…with the volume on the classical CD turned way, waaaay up.
As for the actual band members, I don’t think they’re quite as impressive as the choir and orchestra. Namely those guitars. Dammit, Silenoz, you can do better than that! If chugging was behind you in 1995, why are you doing so much of it now? There are some nice solo sections and single-note melodic bits here and there, but they’re pretty flat. Not only that, but they’re pretty low in the production. I think if the guitars were higher in the mix, even a little higher than the orchestra and choir, a lot of the overall sound of the album would fall in to place, at least somewhat. The drums are pretty friggin good and it’s clear that that Daray guy certainly knows his way around a drum kit. They don’t have a ton of range on them, like previous Dimmu albums going for sheer speed rather than style, but they are still very satisfying. It would be nice if they weren’t so high in the mix, because they seem to consume a lot of the sound. The synths… well, they’re corny. Goofy. Sometimes annoying. But to me, that’s nothing new from Dimmu. Again, there’s a lot of instrument-clashing in this album. At times it seems like there’s too many different sounds being piled on top of each other, making the sound a tad sloppy. Again, I feel like the band is taking toomany ideas at once and trying to articulate them in a good way, but not succeeding very well.
Another problem is that Abrahadabra doesn’t seem to be a new Dimmu album…not really. Although they said they were going for something different, they really meant “Let’s see what happens when we simplify a lot of stuff from Death Cult Armageddon and stick a big choir and orchestra in there (which Dimmu Borgir has done once before, only difference is they used a smaller orchestra on P.E.M. The atmosphere just isn’t there, the raw emotion just isn’t there, and when I finished the album I felt like a lot of the concepts of the album came off as weak. Not to mention the production is sterile and souless, you feel like the sound of the album could have come off an assembly line. There’s not much difference between this album and Death Cult… except this one is glossier and less cohesive, I suppose.
Now, let's talk about the band members that left the band before the recording of Abrahadabra. A lot of Dimmu Borgir fans have been flaming the poop out of each other about the departure of Mustis and Vortex. Well, here's what I think of it... there isn't too much of a difference. The synths sound very similar to how they did on In Sorte Diaboli, and Vortex, as I said in my Gateways review, is better off lending his awesome vocals to a better band. (GET BACK IN ARCTURUS!) Anyway, I think Vortex's vocals would have been wasted on this mess. His bass would be incredibly hard to hear. I don't think Dimmu Borgir is better off without them, but if they were on this album, there would be nothing worth contributing. This album couldn't have been saved with or without them.
So okay, the Dimmu album still hasn’t sruck any particular chords for me. It just doesn’t seem that different from previous Dimmu Borgir releases, despite Dimmu’s desperate attempt at making the album diverse from everything else they’ve done before. Sure, it’s clear that Dimmu put a ton of work into this, but it’s an average album at best. The strings come off as corny, and contrast with everything else that’s being pushed at you. The atmosphere just isn't there, and the production is mechanic and lifeless. Sure there’s some awesome drumming, a cool solo section here and there, and I gotta give em points for trying… although I sorta condemn them for the incohesive way they did it, the way Dimmu seemingly threw everything but the kitchen sink at this album without organizing it… and the fact that I think Dimmu had the right idea buried somewhere in there. This album had potential, but it just fell flat. If you hated In Sorte Diaboli, you’ll be relieved by this, because it is much better than that pile of Dimmu doo-doo. If you expect TTLY BROOTAL BLACK METAL, well… come on. The band hasn’t released real black metal since Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. They aren’t even trying to reach that audience anymore. They’re trying to reach the Dimmu Borgir audience. I think Dimmu is trying to reach a goal of a perfect album, (after For All Tid and Stormblast) that has a more accessible flair to it, and isn’t as… raw. So far, they’re pretty far off the mark… doubtful they can pull it together.
Originally posted on spirit-of-metal.com under the username InfinityZero.
The new direction of Dimmu Borgir is quite clear. They go away from their black metal roots and focus on a more symphonic style which is comparable to classic and dramatic movie scores.
This must not be a bad thing. Other Scandinavian bands like "Therion" or "Amorphis" went away from their roots and released lately two very intense and diversified albums. They reinvented themselves and I feel very positive about this innovation and courage.
But Dimmu Borgir completely fails with their approach. The bombastic orchestra destroys the dynamic and heaviness of the songs. After the very dramatically and overloaded kitsch intro "Xibir", "Born treacherous" sounds extremely weak and has no connection with the introduction at all. It seems to me that the band doesn’t really know what to do or where to go and that's why this song sounds really faceless.
The band really tries to be innovating and add something new to their sound. The first single "Gateways" has it all: dark chants, female guest vocals, several changes of speed and style - but it all feels too forced, too hectically and simply overambitious.
The song "Dimmu Borgir" shows perfectly what the main problem of this album is. The band had maybe three good ideas and stuck them all into one single song. This sounds like a weird potpourri of ideas that doesn't fit together at all. After the orchestral introduction of this song, I would not have been surprised to listen to the voice of Andi Deris from the German power metal legend "Helloween" and I think that this is somehow a shame for a Norwegian band with black metal roots. The most stunning fact is that the latest release of this power metal band sounds heavier than Dimmu Borgir in the year of our Lord 2010.
Where does this band want to go? This album is simply overloaded and goes nowhere. Fewer ideas which could have been developed in a better way would have created a better dynamic and atmosphere. Maybe they should have done two new albums with all those ideas. Let's hope that the bands takes its time to create more healthy arrangements in the future and takes a clear path that they may follow instead of a dozen ones at the same time.
Dimmu Borgir has, undoubtedly, been a topic of much musical debate over the past decade. Some loved Death Cult Armageddon's sweeping high's and lows with the grand orchestra, some hated it. Some loved "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia"'s new found keyboards and industrial sound (Need I mention the track Puritania here?), while others cringed away. Regardless, the band HAS proven that they are masters of experimentation and can still provide music that has both repulsed and awed metal heads alike.
Now, I was a huge fan of Death Cult Armageddon, with tracks like "Eradication Instincts Defined", "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse", and "Blood Hunger Doctrine" sitting an all time amount of plays for my playlist. So naturally when I heard about Abrahadabra's ambitious recording and use of a full blown orchestra, I was quite keen to hear what these guys had been up to.
I have never been so fucking dissapointed.
The album starts off with "Xibir", a purely instrumental track that showcases the orchestra used for this album. At first I was literally ecstatic, I felt like I was about to listen the soundtrack that many might define as "Death Cult Armegeddon II". However as the album drones on, it is clearly apparent that this is NOT such. It's not that the music is bad here; it's that the the orchestra and, well, "rest of the band" just don't mix at all. For example, "Born Treacherous" has an extremely annoying hammer on pull off riff at the start but later brings in the orchestra, however the latter completely overwhelms any of Galder and Silenoz' guitar work at parts and other times fades into the back behind incessant riffing. And it's not just this song, this whole damn formula happens several times over the length of the album.
It just feels like "Abrahadabra" is just too ambitious for it's own good- by the time I began to develop any sense of rhythm, or even find some form of recognizable melody, the tempo completely changes to something else entirely and throws off anything that was accomplished thus far and the guitars and orchestra trade places. I daresay that the guitar work is almost boring at times- tracks like "Dimmu Borgir" start off with some eerie chanting and showcase the orchestra once again, but the guitar just falls flat and provides background noise. And it's not just boring guitar work that pushes me away from this album. At times I could have -sworn- I heard a Dani Filth scream and other times wondering if Shagrath was actually singing, or just auto tuning the fuck out of his voice once again.
Keener readers may recall I wrote a review as well for "Gateways", the albums first single, and I gave it generally high praise. That's because the song has some form of melody and coherence, and ends on a pretty damn epic note. It stood out pretty well, with Agnete's vocals and the effective use of black metal blasting and orchestra. However, the rest of the album just feels like I gigantic piece of filler material, with nothing leaving a really notable impression. Some songs have their moments, like Snowy Shaw on "Renewal", and the guitar march/orchestra trade off during "The Demiurge Molecule" along with the slamming booms that follow, but ultimately it's just cheap thrills and a few occasional moments of interest.
While the band lineup has changed noticeably over the past few years, I was not to concerned because Dimmu has always been able to adapt to new sounds for the most part, but ICS Vortex's lack of presence is VERY noticeable on this album. While I was as big a fan of him and Mustis as the next, I was not one of the fanboys insisting that Dimmu was dead. In the past however, Vortex was the one who was usually pounding out the bass chords (Which actually arent that bad along side Galder and Silenoz on this album) and providing the wailing melodies (See: Progenies of the Great Apocalypse) that pushed the whole thing forward. Such is not the case here. Instead of the usual formula, we're left with either creepy Shagrath robot narrative, or boring bridges or random spurts of orchestra.
Ultimately, the album falls flat in the end. Ironically, the title, "Abrahadabra", roughly translates to "I will create as I speak", and it sounds like they're literally sticking true to that. The album just seems to make itself up as it goes along, producing a piece of music that will be remembered by it's failures, rather than successes.
Depending on which side of the spectrum one lies, Dimmu Borgir is either the most loved or most loathed of Norway's black metal exports, having ridden the road to popularity without any of the usual apologist backpedaling, firmly ignoring the necro diehards that think of them as the very symbol of what they never wanted to happen to the genre. Through it all, the band have consistently written albums that have by no means sucked as hard as they are given credit for, arguably peaking creatively with 1997's Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and making budgetary allowances with the formula since, since the band can now afford to work with actual choirs and orchestras rather than just a keyboard player.
On the other hand, they've not been quite as good as some make them out to be, either, at least not for a decade plus change. Oh, they'll occasionally have a song on their hands that is difficult to deny, like the catchy "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" which has been used in numerous films, commercials and whatnot. I even found the previous album In Sorte Diaboli to have its moments, but despite the band's ability to create massive, sweeping orchestral black metal epics these past few forays, they never seem able to nail a true masterpiece. Their latest album, the tragically (to some) titled Abrahadabra, we have another case of a symphonic tour de force, that despite all its best intentions and the efforts of the remaining Dimmu core (Shagrath, Silenoz, and Galder), just doesn't really last well beyond the initial impressions made when anyone hears the simmering strings, serious business choral sections and creepy organs.
Since the band parted ways with bassist/clean vocalist ICS Vortex and synth player Mustis a year or so back, there were a few holes to fill here, and they did so using Snowy Shaw for both bass and vocals. Shaw's been quite the metal mercenary of late, working with the recent but sadly mediocre Therion outfit, and he's certainly an adequate replacement here. Drums are played by Darek 'Daray' Brzozowski (Vader, Vesania, etc), with the professional thunder expected of anyone to wield that seat in this band, and there are additional vocal guest spots here from Agnete Maria Forfang Kjølsrud and Kristoffer Rygg (Ulver). Andy Sneap is in the mixing both, and the band have chosen to use the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Schola Cantorum Choir to round out the proceedings.
I'll add that never before has a Dimmu Borgir record been such an ambitious undertaking. Most of the prior albums had their 'symphonic' element, but this is actually pretty evenly a symphonic black metal record, with the former just as pronounced as the latter. There is so much to take in at any given time that I often found myself listening back through specific segments of tracks to listen for particular melodies I thought I heard. The production is stunning, integrating the orchestra with the largely Spiritual Black Dimensions core of the songwriting. A few of the songs carve out an even further ambition, like Silenoz having his way with some shredding in "Renewal", or the bleak an intriguing dark ambient intro to "Ending and Continuations", with its creepy Shagrath narrative.
But the bulk of the record is sheer drum & orchestra driven fare, like a more distinctly aggressive, black metal alternative to Therion (circa 1996 and beyond), and this is where it both excels and begins to fall apart. Rousing monoliths like "A Jewel Traced Through Coal" and "Born Treacherous" center themselves around traditional Dimmu blasting rhythms and thick, charnel house chords, but the metal riffs themselves almost never seem to be nearly as interesting as what is going on around them, serving only as vehicles to the next sweeping vista of grandeur. This is not for lack of riffs, mind ye, for Silenoz is often churning out a dozen or so per individual song, and he's developed a proficient technical ability. But for some reason, you get the feeling that if you stripped out the orchestra and choir shouting 'Born treacherous!', it would be a middling affair at best, with fast and frenzied but ultimately forgettable guitar lines.
There are a number of 'treats' on the album, so to speak, tracks where the hard work here really comes together, like "The Demiurge Molecule", which has a fresher, more spontaneous feel as the guitars crash along to Shagrath's snarling, subtle currents of symphony choosing submission to the simplistic, slow escalation of diabolic majesty. The pure orchestral pieces like "Xibir" and the bonus track version of "Gateways" show a clear influence from a Hans Zimmer or John Williams, and both make suitable soundtracks to whatever grandiose fantasy you're about to indulge in. Huge choir-driven tracks like "Dimmu Borgir" and "Chess With the Abyss" have their moments of bristling cheese, but despite Silenoz' great playing in the latter, and the mountain high majesty of the former's bridge, they just didn't resonate with me for very long.
Like any release from this particular band, message boards will flare up, virtual battles being waged between the firmanent & purgatory of the bands' lyrical Acheron by anonymous twats and cable modem scholars the world round, Abrahadabra being either praised as the second coming of Death Cult Armageddon or blazed into the cinders of the same prepackaged hatred that always follows the big Norse acts like this around. In reality, it's an album the band have put a great deal of work into, which sadly is just not all that great. Individual components meet their polished prime, perhaps, and one cannot really fault a lack of musical skill or foresight in the structure of such an undertaking, but the moments that lapsed me into an inattentive coma sadly outweighed those of edge of my seat rapture.
If you truly appreciated the band's past catalog beginning with Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, and you've hung on to the edge of your own seat through offerings like Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, then you'll likely wrench an appreciation out of this roiling mass. If you hate the unconsecrated ground the band walks on, well then take a number, and if you're lucky you'll get to voice a complaint at the front desk before you're forced to shift over to the Cradle of Filth line. Personally, I'm not impressed other than the palpable amount of effort here, but neither will I greet its yawning, pseudo-Satanic eaves with an unending tirade of expletives.
It’s that time again! Dimmu Borgir is releasing a new album. It’s been a while, actually, and after having a scruff in the media with former keyboardist Mustis and having the mighty vocalist and for show bassist Simen Hestnæs leave the band (to the joy of Arcturus and Borknagar fans), there was actually a bit of anticipation to see what would happen with this album. I, like many, believed what Mustis said about writing all the music in the band and not getting the credit he deserved—and Abrahadabra proves that I think—but instead of being an indictment of the band, it may have been an idictment of Mustis’ writing.
I have to be honest with you, though, I haven’t been interested in a new Dimmu Borgir since Puritanical Euphoric Pretentiousness was released in 2001. While I saw the band live on that tour, I was just generally unimpressed with the record. This was followed up by the even more mediocre Death Cult Armageddon, a re-release of Stormblåst (that admittedly I never heard) and 2007′s In Sorte Diabli a record that in spite of the size of Shagrath’s headpiece, wasn’t at all interesting (thought the imagery was really the height of their promotional strength). These records have just been getting more and more stale and uninspired, to the point where the only reason I was going to check out anything that had to do with Dimmu Borgir was that they had a devil shooting fire out of his/her head on their mightily designed webpage (sadly, said devil is now gone).
So when I first got Abrahadabra I was pretty much expecting another steaming pile of shit, but this time sans their excellent vocalist and the guy who’d been doing all their orchestral programming and writing (if you believe him). Of course, two things may haveslipped my attention—first off, Galder is in the band and his Old Man’s Child records have riffs upon riffs upon riffs that rule. And secondly, Dimmu Borgir is Dimmu Borgir, they’ve got the money to hire people to make their orchestral stuff not suck—and not suck it does. So instead of being a heaping pile of evil shit, this record has some pretty awesome stuff on it.
Let’s talk about those awesome things—first, the production is amazing, the orchestrations are really, really good and the use of a real orchestra and choir adds a dimension to the music that really had been missing on their previous stuff (despite their orchestrations being very, very professional sounding). Secondly, the writing on here is just really outstanding in certain places. While the lyrics on the opening track “Born Treacherous” are treacherously stupid, the music itself is riffy and awesome. “Gateways”, the other single, has some of the best vocals I’ve heard in a long time from the female side (turns out Djerv frontwoman Agnete Kjølsrud is a hot commodity in Norway right now). The track “Dimmu Borgir” is actually pretty awesome, with the orchestrations really showing off the best of the melodies the song has to offer, and the same is true of “Ritualist” as well.
This record really has life, and it has continued to grow on me as I’ve listened to it more. I wasn’t so impressed at first, but the more I let it get under my skin the better it’s gotten. This really is the first Dimmu Borgir record that I would actively choose to take out and listen to since Spiritual Black Dimensions (which is my favorite). While this is not the Dimmu of old, per se, these guys didn’t sound like this early on not because they wanted to have lower quality production and cheesy quality, but because they were a metal band from Norway without a lot of commercial success. Now they have the money to put out the over-the-top products that they want to put out—and they do that very well, regardless of whether or not you like it.
While I have minor complaints about the record, for example that in several places the choir sounds like it’s straight out of a Harry Potter film (“Bum, bum, bum, BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM!” Such a bad choice..) and the clean vocals (with the exception of Kjølsrud’s and certain parts in “Endings and Continuations”) are not as good as Simen’s, I think in general this is a step in the right direction. If the band can continue writing this kind of material with strength and conviction and keep the budget high enough to really get an orchestra to do exactly what they want, they’re going to continue producing good records. Change may have been the best thing for the band, while there may be some mediocrity going on here (there is just some filler on here), I’m glad to see this giant of commercial black metal right the ship a bit.
Originally written for AngryMetalGuy.com.