Dimmu Borgir: Abrahadabra

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Dimmu Borgir: Abrahadabra
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Dimmu Borgir: Abrahadabra
Melodic Black Metal, Symphonic Extreme Metal
Nuclear Blast Records
September 22nd, 2010
Release length: 48:52
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Dimmu Borgir had been on a great roll lately with each new release that is issued. Sure, some may not appreciate the new musical path that the band has taken, but sometimes it’s best to let bands grow and mature as a group as time goes on to avoid the material becoming stale, and it’s clear that the group has done just that, finding critical acclaim wtih most of their releases since Death Cult Armageddon. However, it wasn’t until the band’s last release, In Sorte Diaboli that Dimmu Borgir started to become a household name. With such a fantastic album as that, how does a band come at the listener to follow-up? Well, unfortunately for Abrahadabra, it’s to create a tamer version of their last album.

Abrahadabra is not necessarily a bad album. The problem here is mostly in the execution. While the album basically follows the same formula that In Sorte Diaboli contained, it appears that the band has brought in two fairly new elements, which include a more mainstream/commercialized sound mixed with their newer Melodic Black Metal sound, as well as a bit of a Progressive element to the song structures and compositions. While the latter isn’t necessarily a thrill killer with the album, the more radio-friendly music that adorns some of these songs, like the more upbeat sounding “Born Treacherous” which kicks off the album, are a little more disheartening, lacking the bite and dark atmosphere that really made the newer releases, or any Dimmu Borgir release for that matter, truly stand out on their own. That song is also the first real indication of the more Progressive approach to the music. Right from the start with the introductory track “Xibir”, it’s clear that the band is focusing once again on bringing in more of a movie score feel to the album, complete with audio samples, random sound effects, and classical orchestra keyboards and backing vocals, a lot of which will remind some listeners of Death’s Design by Diabolical Masquerade, having the music completely stop for these random moments and sound effects. However, when they are incorporated into the music, it winds up sounding pretty good, but there are times where it will sound like overkill, and pretty much not even sound like an actual song at times, but more of a classical opera cluster for a high budget fantasy film.

However, some of the better news with this release is that it mostly just gets off to a rocky start. While the aforementioned classical and sound effect moments plague the album, there are times where these are transitioned into the material nicely, such as during the song “Chess With the Abyss”. This track also shows Dimmu Borgir baring their fangs once more with a fantastic epic-sounding choir in the background of the bridges, and a very appropriate vocal performance that fits not just the atmosphere, keeping to a Gothic/Romanticism-based time period feeling of magic and mystery, but the overall intensity of the song itself. The same can be said for “Ritualist”, though the atmosphere of the song isn’t as rich, though the orchestral elements add a nice bite to the music’s intensity, while the general Melodic Black Metal the band is playing doesn’t quite share the impact, being a little less ferocious in the long run outside the aforementioned orchestral benefits. “Renewal” also makes for a strong track on this release, having a very different feel to the song all together, almost as if it were being conducted by a madman at times, almost as if the song were composed in a kind of carnival fun house. This song also features female vocals that are scattered about the album, though not as strong as on “Born Treacherous”, all working together nicely to create a sort of climactic ending to the album that sets up the closing “Endings and Continuations” nicely.

Abrahadabra has some good material on here, but there’s just no denying the band took their successful sound and just tried to build a much more epic album then they should have. While kicking off with a rough start, the material after “Chess With the Abyss” is pretty enjoyable, though that track winds up being on of the very few songs on here that really ushers in a strong enough impact to really move the listener. The atmosphere is carried through the album nicely, but just isn’t as rich as it could be, and there’s too much focus on the orchestral and symphonic elements to really keep the consistency of the music sometimes, leaving the listener feeling a little worse for wear. If you’ve been on the edge about their more symphonic material these past years, you may want to hold back and sample this album before rushing right out to buy it.

01. Xibir – 2:50
02. Born Treacherous – 5:02
03. Gateways – 5:10
04. Chess with the Abyss – 4:08
05. Dimmu Borgir – 5:35
06. Ritualist – 5″13
07. The Demiurge Molecule – 5:29
08. A Jewel Traced Through Coal – 5:16
09. Renewal – 4:11
10. Endings and Continuations – 5:58
Initial Pressing Score: 5.5/10
Dimmu Borgir (band)
Dimmu Borgir
Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.