posted on 10/2010 By:
Here's album number nine from Dimmu Borgir, and here's another chance for the masses to divide and argue over the bands style, output and imagery. And it would certainly be easy to simply say this is another Dimmu Borgir album, be done with it, and let the fanboys and haters battle it out.
However, nine albums into their career, it appears that after suffering another exodus of key members (bassist ICS Vortex and keyboardist Mustis) and now down to a core trio of Shagrath, Silenoz and Galder (though Snowy Shaw from Therion, King Diamond and Dream Evil steps in for ICS Vortex, but more on that later), Dimmu Borgir is attempting to re-invent themselves somewhat. Now I don't mean that they don't play their patented form of theatrical, symphonic metal anymore, but rather that they at least seem to be tweaking and improving what they play -- and how they look.
Of course, most of you have already seen the video for “Gateways” and can see that, at least thematically and visually, Dimmu has stepped away from the spikes and leather of the Hellraiser school of visual imagery. They have entered into a truly theatrical and lavish wardrobe that’s part Narnia, part Pirates of the Caribbean and part Lord of the Rings and is more fitting of the occult, sensual and opulent Aleister Crowley-based backdrop of the album. However, this image shift at least seems to have re-invigorated Dimmu Borgir musically as, after the lackluster In Sorte Diaboli, Abrahadabra sees the band deliver the kind of quality album they were delivering with Puritanical Misanthropic Euphoria and Spiritual Black Dimensions.
As with Puritanical Misanthropic Euphoria, where the Gothenburg Opera Orchestra provided the symphonic part of the band's metal, Abrahadabra sees the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and The Schola Cantorum Choir provide the pomp -- and it works in brilliant regal, grandiose fashion with the whole affair glossed with an orchestrally epic tone that could be a movie soundtrack -- now granted, it could be the soundtrack for a Disney villain’s entrance, but still, it's huge, bombastic and immensely epic.
Abrahadabra also sees Dimmu up the songwriting a bit, even if it fluffs up the orchestral pomp, with some of their best songs in close to ten years. While In Sorte Diaboli lacked a truly 'great' song, there are several on Abrahadabra; “Born Treacherous” twists and turns with slick menace while the polarizing single “Gateways” is actually a standout also. I know most don’t care for the slightly crazed female vocals of Agnete Kjølsrud, but the song ends on a gloriously triumphant note. For me, the standout is fifth track “Dimmu Borgir”, which for some reason reminds me of Kanye West’s “Power” with its steady beat and early choral presence -- but it’s their best and most epic song in a long time. Then “Ritualist” and “A Jewel Traced Through Coal” (with a great Prokofiev styled march) crank up the intensity with some bombastic blasting showing Dimmu has some teeth still, albeit in a more polished and sneering, sexual visage. The aptly titled and superb “Renewal” has Snowy Shaw deliver some clean vocals, and I’ll get right to it -- no, they don’t work at all for me. Although they're not used that often (“Chess With the Abyss”, "Ritualist" also) and don't ruin their respective songs, they are more like power metal, showing another band that ICS Vortex has left in his vocal wake. (Sidenote: ICS, PLEEEEEEEEEEASE rejoin Borknagar!!!!!)
There are a few fillers such as “”The Demigurge Molecule”, “Chess With the Abyss” and the surprisingly bland closer “Endings and Continuations” (with Ulver's Chris Rygg taking Shaw's place for the clean vocals), which, as the album's sort-of title track, doesn’t quite wrap up the album with a sense of awe and closure as it should. But they all fit in the structure of the album's otherwise excellence and make for what is essentially, and I hate to take the easy way out, a Dimmu Borgir album. Naysayers will hate it; fans will love it; and while I’m really neither, I rather enjoy some of these tracks as examples of bombastic, over-the-top and incredibly grandiose extremity.
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