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Album Reviews : Dimmu Borgir – Abrahadabra

By on October 11, 2010

With the rather public dismissal of long time bassist/clean vocalist ICS Vortex and keyboardist Mustis still fresh in the mind of the Dimmu Borgir fan base, many waited with bated breath to see if the legendary Norwegians could continue with the same quality symphonic black metal that they’re famous for. While some may have hoped that Dimmu Borgir might have returned to their earlier, more primal take on Black Metal, Abrahadabra, the ninth studio album for the band, is very much in vein of the Death Cult Armageddon and Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia albums, with memorable songs leaning heavily on gigantic orchestrations and a battery of guitars and drums.

After the instrumental “Xibir”, “Born Treacherous” perfectly gets the record moving with a huge mid tempo riff combining with blast beat filled bridges, backed by some positively epic orchestra parts and spell-binding drum work from the somewhat underappreciated Daray. First single “Gateways” is another standout track, with big orchestral hooks backed by rock hard rhythm section, with the twisted verse stuttering along with demonic violins and choir hits. The clean vocals of guest singer Agnete Kjølsrud are slightly unnerving, as her demented voice will probably divide fans, and this reviewer couldn’t help but think that former member Vortex’s vocals would have suited the track better. Which brings us to the contribution that bassist/clean vocalist Snowy Shaw brings to Abrahadabra, which to be fair are quite minor – his bass playing does the job fine, but his vocals let him down, as his gruffer attack pales in comparison to his precursor’s grandeur, operatic styling’s. On top of that he is also quite underused throughout the album, with his singing only featured briefly on three of the albums ten tracks, as frontman and founding member Shagrath takes up most of the mic time with his trademark gravel-throated gurgles.

Delicate, choir sections and uplifting violins float through the eponymous track “Dimmu Borgir”, before climaxing with some very tasteful guitar melodies, while “The Demiurge Molecule” effortlessly mashes together Galder and Silenoz’s crushing guitar work with massive orchestral parts. The album isn’t without it’s duller moments though, as “Chess With The Abyss” and “Ritualist” fail to match up with the other top draw songs on the record. “A Jewel Traced Through Coal” keeps the album moving along though at a similar style, with arm destroying drum work and complex runs on the piano added to the mix, and the closing “Endings and Continuations” shows off all the album’s best aspects with a creeping string section melody pushed along by restrained guitar chords. Second guest vocalist Kristoffer ‘Garm’ Rygg’s impressive clean singing on the final track raises the question of why Dimmu Borgir didn’t hire the ex-Arcturus man to work more on the record, as he elevates the track to a suitably resounding album finale.

A strong, if not hugely diverse album from Dimmu Borgir, which should comfortably fit in with the rest of their back catalogue and easily please the fans of the Norwegian’s. The release also proves that Shagrath, Silenoz and Galder are quite capable of writing quality songs by themselves – even if they are missing a star clean vocalist. 8/10

Band: Dimmu Borgir
Album: Abrahadabra
Year: 2010
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal
Origin: Oslo, Norway
Label: Nuclear Blast/Riot

Track listing:

1. Xibir
2. Born Treacherous <-Reviewers choice
3. Gateways <-Reviewers choice
4. Chess With The Abyss
5. Dimmu Borgir
6. Ritualist
7. The Demiurge Molecule
8. A Jewel Traced Through Coal
9. Renewal
10. Endings and Continuations


Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.