Despite the odd way in which DIMMU BORGIR happened to go about their rather sudden line up change with the out-of-left-field departure of bassist/clean vocalist Vortex and keyboardist Mustis, there was still quite a bit of hype for their most recent concoction of Symphonic Black Metal “Abrahadabra.” Coming off the success (both critically and sales) of their previous album, these Norwegians had to step up to the plate in many big ways…and not succeeding with a lot of them.
If there were a one-word title for this review, it would be ‘disappointed.’ The music contained on the album seems to be one of a watered-down sound. The band seems so focused on the epic-ness of their sound that they forgot to make the songs punchy and memorable. They all blend into a mish-mash of uninspired Black Metal riffs, solid but rather run-of-the-mill drum work, over-produced keyboard atmosphere, and rather lackluster guitar licks. The focus on keyboards and choirs for symphonic elements to create the epic sound is a little over used and draws away from the actual band and its lack of focus waters the actual band down.
It doesn’t help that DIMMU BORGIR was a three piece (vocalist and two guitarists) at the time of this album and using hired guns for the rest. This weakens the overall chemistry, which comes off as very lackluster. Snowy Shaw makes an appearance on bass and clean vocals and he sticks out like a sore thumb and never really fits in with his shrieky sound. The drums are good but again nothing compared to what we’ve heard before. Despite some great guitar work and solid vocals, although Shagrath does occasionally sound like a pissed off Popeye, like on “Chess With The Abyss,” this is just a DIMMU BORGIR that sounds fragmented and isolated.
Not all is bad on “Abrahadabra,” as there are a couple of tracks that carry over some solid moments like the chant worthy “Born Treacherous,” or “Ritualist” with its keyboard melody/riff heavy combo sound, but overall, even the best tracks seem weak when compared with what DIMMU BORGIR can do. The flaws of this album heavily outweigh its good moments.
DIMMU BORGIR have always had to ride a thin line of extreme/catchy and proven that they can walk it like champions. “Abrahadabra” is an album that just can’t make it work with the chemistry and ferocity that it could have. The opportunity to strengthen in the aftermath of such a large change was definitely missed and it leaves this album hanging. For fans only.
Songs to check out: “Born Treacherous,” “Ritualist.”
(Online May 20, 2011)