Dimmu Borgir // Abrahadabra
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — Massive improvement
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: dimmu-borgir.com | myspace.com/dimmuborgir
Release Dates: EU: 24.09.2010 | US: 10.12.2010

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 Stormblast (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 have slipped 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.

  • I’m listening to it right now and am about halfway through. While I disagree with you on past releases I do have some common ground in that I’m enjoying this album more then I have any of their releases in a long time. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be crap due to stupid things like the album title and those ridiculous Narnia costumes but the music so far is fantastic. Anybody still missing Vortex and Mustis after this should go get their head checked.

  • faust666

    Excellent unbiased and accurate review of an excellent, creative and revitalised album. And I’m glad that someone besides me thinks that the female vocals (especially that section near the end, gasp!!) on “Gateways” are awesome. Cheers!!

  • well I think this album should break all records .. kickass stuff! n I guess it was your review that was posted by someone at metal-archives .. same happened with me .. :)

    • Yeah, people want to boost the Dimmu score over there, I think. Personally invested in the band. But plagiarism is fucking lame.

  • dheim

    yeah, this is a great improvement over the awful in sorte diaboli, and feels more inspired than the previous two weirdly named albums (that i liked very much in places, i have to say… much more than the previous two wanna-be-symphonic-if-only-i-had-the-money-to-do-it albums).
    BUT, awesome female vocals apart, i miss Simen (Vortex)…

  • Raktavijan

    I’m listening to Abrahadabra at the moment, roughly halfway through. I have to say.. It isn’t what I was expecting but in a good way. I kinda enjoy the way they’re heading towards. Renewal is playing right now and I can’t but notice a slight similarity to Thyrane’s Travesty of Heavenly Essence, at least the guitars in the beginning. Only thing I’m not liking about Abrahadabra is the (in my opinion) fairly poor drum work however, I absolutely love the orchestra and choir in the background, really brings the songs alive. An improvement over In Sorte Diaboli, in my opinion.

  • I agree on what you wrote about Abrahadabra, I even thought too about Harry Potter at some moments ^^, but how can someone say that Death Cult Armageddon is “mediocre”… that is beyond me!

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  • Hellmaster

    Anyone who thinks this album is anything but superb has fuckin lost their mind. This is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard, significantly better than ‘In Sirte Diaboli’ and pretty much every other dimmu album.I totaly agree with everyones coments about the orchestra and the choir. The album is more melodic, symphonic and meaningful than the previous ones and all the forced satanic elements seemed to have gone. I think they have achieved their most epic sound yet!

  • NocturneKing

    I am going to disagree with you Hellmaster..Death Cult Armageddon is not a mediocre album it is damn good, Alot better than this album in my opinion..The clean vocals on this album are horrid,the operatic stuff done on on this is interesting although i think Dimmu overdoes it..The music on this cd is good i will give them that..But how can you say that Death Cult is a mediocre album when it had such songs as Progenies of the Great Apocalypse,Lepers Among Us,Eradication Instincts Defined and the violent work of art Unorthodox Manifesto all of these songs are so much better than the songs on this album..For shame Hellmaster…lol \m/

  • I’m surprised to see that you didn’t comment on the ridiculous sounding voice modulation they used throughout the record. I found this to be a major drawback personally.