Black metal purists are probably going to throw a fit and scream that Dimmu Borgir have completely abandoned the genre with their latest offering Abrahadabra. On the Norwegian acts ninth album, the band (Shagrath, Silenoz, and Galder) find themselves without longtime members Mustis and ICS Vortex, but with a huge guest list that includes 100 musicians and singers from the Norweigan Radio Orchestra and Schola Cantorum Choir, as well as bassist/vocalist Snowy Shaw (ex-Therion), drummer Daray (ex-Vader), and keyboard player Gerlioz. This line-up, along with famed Producer/Engineer Andy Sneap at the mixing desk, has created an epic, orchestral, grandiose work of art here that owes as much to bands like Kamelot, Nightwish, and Epica as it does to the black metal scene. Dimmu has been toiling in this artsy 'hollywood/symphonic black metal' thing for quite some time now, but Abrahadabra is clearly the culmination of where the band started heading with Death Cult Armageddon and In Sorte Diaboli.
Sneap has really given Abrahadabra a HUGE sound, so much so that these songs basically burst from the speakers with the bombast of a triumphant film score. Opening instrumental "Xibir" starts things off in orchestral fashion, before the raging "Born Treacherous" comes crashing into the mix. Right away, you begin to hear a slightly different Dimmu Borgir, less inclined to rely on speedy black metal passages and more into driving power, symphonics, melody, and mood. Shagrath's evil and quite varied vocal styles work well here over mounds of orchestral keyboards, and while Daray's drum work is quite brisk and intense, it's not over the top like Hellhammer's on In Sorte Diaboli. Guitar riffs from Galder and Silenoz are there, but somewhat buried and subdued underneath the wall of keyboards. "Gateways" is pure symphonic bliss, as Shagrath dons his carnival hat and becomes the master showman over some highly effective keyboard orchestrations (boomingly powerful here) and yes, backing female vocals. On "Chess With the Abyss", the band churn out some epic power/progressive metal sounds, and check out the impressive lead work from Galder on this one.
The band finally got around to recording a song called "Dimmu Borgir", and it's a great one, full of majesty, grandeur, and might, with Shagrath's mix of rasps, spoken word vocals, growls, and screams, over crushing riffs and ominous keyboards. The keyboard & synth layerings of Gerlioz cannot be overlooked on this album-he's litterally all over each and every tune in a big way, and teamed up with the Orchestra & Choir gives this entire album a highly bombastic feel. Shaw lends his clean, power-metal styled vocals to "Ritualist", and though he's a bit different than ICS Vortex, he fits in quite well. Fans of Dimmu's more raging, black metal past will love the furious "A Jewel Traced Through Coal", complete with fast paced riffs, relentless blast beats, haunting keys, and Shagrath's evil rasps, though most of "Renewal" is even faster and more brutal, as the band hint at various styles but keep the black metal foundation intact. Closing number "Endings And Continuations" is as epic sounding as this band gets, as Dimmu mixes symphonic black metal, power metal, and progressive metal into a highly addicting concoction that is pure bombast from start to finish. Shaw's clean vocals battle Shagrath raging screams, while crushingly heavy guitar riffs, steady drum blasts, and huge keyboard & orchestra swells keep pace.
Though some might feel that Abrahadabra is not as 'guitar heavy' as previous offerings, that's probably because the keyboards are much more out in front this time around, and mesh with the orchestral passages for a lethal mix, which perhaps drowns out the guitars somewhat. It's still heavy as hell, just more 'symphonic heavy' if that makes any sense. No idea whether Shaw, Gerlioz, or Daray will be sticking around for the tour or additional recordings, but they seem to fit in just fine here alongside Shagrath, Silenoz, and Galder.
The production as I mentioned earlier is stellar, and really jumps out at you. Abrahadabra comes housed in an artful digpack package which folds out four different ways (hazardous to open if you are driving in your car), complete with wonderful artwork, photos, and lyrics in the rather thick booklet. It's available currently for a VERY affordable price, and worth every penny.
Dimmu Borgir are back at their bombastic best, and ready to take over the world!
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)