"some music was meant to stay underground..."

70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise

Dimmu Borgir - "Abrahadabra" (CD)

Dimmu Borgir - "Abrahadabra" CD cover image

"Abrahadabra" track listing:

1. Xibir (2:50)
2. Born Treacherous (5:02)
3. Gateways (5:10)
4. Chess With The Abyss (4:08)
5. Dimmu Borgir (5:35)
6. Ritualist (5:13)
7. The Demiurge Molecule (5:29)
8. A Jewel Traced Through Coal (5:16)
9. Renewal (4:11)
10. Endings And Continuations (5:58)

Reviewed by on October 4, 2010

"When considered just from a musical stand point, the album has a whole lot of high points to offer, but is also marred by a series of noticeable missteps."

Dimmu Borgir has frequently had problems separating the music from the image, and of having the antics of its members overshadow the band itself, and nowhere is that more true than on “Abrahadabra.” The latest symphonic black metal outing is likely to be loved or hated more on the news surrounding Dimmu Borgir and on past allegiance than on the actually quality of the sounds being created. When considered just from a musical stand point, the album has a whole lot of high points to offer, but is also marred by a series of noticeable missteps.

“Xibir” starts the album with a pure orchestral segment, and shows the direction Dimmu Borgir has decided to go for the whole disc, which is much more symphonic than “In Sorte Diaboli” (reviewed here). To be clear, the many different musicians recruited for the release do a phenomenal job, and the orchestral segments are crystal clear and mixed perfectly. There is a serious downside to all the symphonic elements, however, as they frequently sound far more upbeat or whimsical than they have any right to. Since the symphonic instruments are at the forefront for the entire run time, the album constantly has a movie score feel that isn’t menacing or evil in any way.

The next track, “Born Treacherous,” starts off more promising, in a bombastic but very Dimmu Borgir style of combining the screams with the guitars in just the right way. The single “Gateways” is where the music will start to seriously divide fans of the band. Agnete Kjølsrud’s harsh vocals about two minutes in can really be seen one of two ways: either they are purposefully abrasive to exude the feeling of misanthropy associated with black metal, or they are just plain annoying.

Towards the end of “Gateways” there is a semi-clean singing segment that the more conspiracy minded fans have proclaimed is really provided by former member Vortex. According to this idea, the vocals have just been changed in pitch to sound like someone else. Regardless of whether this conspiracy theory is true or not (and it probably isn’t), this segment does remind the audience of Vortex’s absence, and makes one wonder if all the bombastic orchestra elements are an attempt at over compensation.

When the song “Dimmu Borgir” itself rolls around, the choir elements have officially gotten out of control. Why the members chose this song to be the band’s title track is kind of baffling, as it honestly brings to mind some big budget cartoon flick. It’s symphonic, but it’s most certainly not black metal.

Things start to look up from there, though. “Ritualist” has an interesting atmosphere, using throaty growls along with an acoustic guitar segment and the sound of chains rattling. “The Demiurge” has a great flowing feel, and a good portion of the song channels the feel of Behemoth’s latest work. “A Jewel Traced Through Coal” also sounds a lot more like the old Dimmu Borgir material, bringing to mind the “Spiritual Black Dimensions” album.

The appropriately titled closer, “Endings and Continuations,” has crystal clear sound effects and loads of atmosphere, but it’s again too much like a movie score, and the repeating chant at the beginning comes off as cheesy. The song gets better when the metal hits, but it’s still marred by the overly upbeat symphonic score. The sudden appearance of Garm’s clean vocals towards the end of the song is a nice touch and he’s awesome as always, giving a little final parting gift.

So is “Abrahadabra” a must buy album or something to skip? The answer depends on how any given listener views Dimmu Borgir. The album lacks the consistent feel and relatable themes of “In Sorte Diaboli,” but is far more symphonic and has a seriously professional production. Anyone who wanted more orchestration and likes loads of guest appearances should love it, but others may want to listen to a few samples before jumping in head first.

Highs: Production is crystal clear, the various orchestra musicians are phenemonal, and Garm's appearance is great.

Lows: The symphonic segments are far too upbeat and frequently sound too much like a mainstream movie score.

Bottom line: There's a lot to like for Dimmu Borgir fans, but the upbeat and over the top symphonics may turn off some.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)