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 HestnÃ¦s 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 KjÃ¸lsrud 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 KjÃ¸lsrud’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.