Review : DIMMU BORGIR – "Abrahadabra"

Dimmu BorgirAbrahadabra
Release date: 2010Sep24 (US)
Label: Nuclear Blast
Rating: 3.5/5

While I would never call myself a black metal “aficionado,” I would call it one of the more progressive and innovative subgenres of metal. The fact that it has evolved from Bathory to including everything from Xasthur to Marduk to Cobalt never ceases to amaze me. The one style that has always given me trouble, though, is the symphonic stuff. It’s not that it’s bad, it just more often than not comes off as cheesy and/or gimmicky. This does not apply to every band in the scene, however.

Though Dimmu Borgir have lost both keyboardist Mustis and bassist ICS Vortex, the Norwegian trio—formerly a quintet—manage to “still [have] all those elements [they’re] known for” “without any of {those} guys’ input.” The one difference is that they seem to have majorly amplified the orchestral arrangements and production costs. Where past albums have had the orchestra as a primarily atmospheric tool, Abrahadabra places it way up at the forefront of the music, all but drowning out the guitar. The composition is great, but too many strings in my metal is like too much honey in my tea: I love both, and they go great together, but you need to know how to control the amounts, which generally depend on the type of tea you’re drinking. Some teas require no honey due to their simply wonderful taste; others need a little something to spice it up. However, over-sweetening of said beverage lies on the verge of desecration (I’m looking at you, Arizona).

That said, the band are writing some of the best stuff they have in a while. Tunes like “Ritualist” are testaments to Dimmu‘s ability to make music that is heavy as balls while still wondrous in its string arrangements. There aren’t any times on Abrahadabra where I found something to be utterly terrible—that is, with the exception of the awkward transitions on the otherwise-awesome “Gateways”. I really do like the band’s new heavy usage of guest musicians as well. The album features vocalist Kristogger Rygg (Ulver, Arcturus), on “Endings and Continuations”, and guitarist Andy Sneap (most famous not for playing on, but producing albums by bands like Opeth, Megadeth, and Killswitch Engage), on “Gateways” and “Renewal”, among others.

While Abrahadabra is a solid album, it certainly won’t be appearing on any best-of lists. This is still the Dimmu Borgir we’ve known for over a decade now. The problem is, any time you remain in stasis for that long, not much progress can be made. I do, however, see a little forward movement here that could suggest big change in the future.

FCC OK
Try 2, 4, 6, 10

01. Xibir
02. Born Treacherous
03. Gateways
04. Chess With the Abyss
05. Dimmu Borgir
06. Ritualist
07. The Demiurge Molecule
08. A Jewel Traced Through Coal
09. Renewal
10. Endings and Continuations

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