After the loss of ICS Vortex and Mustis, masters of Symphonic Black Metal, Dimmu Borgir, show they still have plenty of life with the release of their ninth studio album, “Abrahadabra”. Even with Shagrath, Galder, and Silenoz conveying the song writing/composing process, many fans were still anxious and worried to hear the final result. Mostly due to the fact that the album would not be graced by the bone-chilling vocals of Vortex, there was a lot of anticipation as to how this would affect Dimmu Borgir. Finally, it was released in the fall of 2010. Is it still Dimmu Borgir? Can it compare to their last album, “In Sorte Diaboli”, which I personally found to be a masterpiece?
Sadly, it fell a little short. Though, that is not to give the impression this album is not worth your time, it is actually a great album. So why am I saying “Abrahadabra” doesn’t live up fully to previous work? There are a couple of reasons. As stated by Dimmu Borgir themselves, there is more emphasis on orchestral and symphonic arrangements, reminiscent of early albums such as “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”. It has always been there on Dimmu Borgir albums, but with “Abrahadabra” it at times feels so heavy and reliable on these elements, it seems like the other instruments are just for background noise and support rather than being side by side working together. I love their Symphonic side, but throughout this album it often feels so overpowering over the rest of the band, taking center stage. Galder is a phenomenal Black Metal guitarist, and paired with Silenoz on rhythm, they supply amazing Black Metal guitar work. To have the both of them overshadowed by a keyboard and choir so often is a crime. Although there are a few times it does work well, as with the self-titled track “Dimmu Borgir“. Galder and Silenoz flow very well with the symphonic work and choir, that the song has a very powerful and epic feel behind it. The choir vocals on this song are just a taste, as there are a lot of choir vocals through-out “Abrahadabra”. This however is not really a downside, the real downside are the vocals that are there to fill the shoes of Vortex.
This now brings us to the main issue: Snowy Shaw’s clean backing vocals. Yes, all the fear and doubt about this album was correct. Without ICS Vortex, there is definitely the feeling that there is something missing in the Dimmu Borgir formula. Vortex’s vocals were haunting yet beautiful, a vital sound to Dimmu Borgir. On “Abrahadabra”, Shaw is there to replace Vortex, unfortunately he did not even come close. Shaw’s vocals sound awkward, failing to fit the flow well with the music as Vortex had in past work. How they decided it was a good idea to go from Vortex to Shaw is beyond me, there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason behind the decision because of the large distinct differences in their vocal abilities. Agnete Kjølsrud, the female vocals that can be heard on tracks “Gateways” and “Endings and Continuations”, seemed to be a much more comfortable fit. They should have had her take on the clear backing vocals throughout the entire album and given Shaw the boot.
Other than that, this is a great album. I really enjoyed it, having listened through front to back several times. It is a great addition to the Dimmu Borgir discography. Having seen them in concert shortly after the release of “Abrahadabra”, I can safely say the new material works fantastic live, as they played several new songs. Their cover of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers”, which can be found on a few different limited edition releases, is fun and entertaining to hear. There is not one song I feel impelled to skip, but to me there is not a track that is quite as memorable as previous hits like “The Serpentine Offering” or “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse”.