Nuclear Blast/Demonstealer Records
Black metal riffing? Check. Massive orchestration? Check. Tuvan throat singing? Check and check again. Norwegian symphonic metallers Dimmu Borgir’s ninth studio album is not an album at all – it’s a black metal opera of breathtaking scope. On Abrahadabra, the band have condensed the best elements of their work so far – the primitive black metal vibe of Stormblast, the orchestral arrangements first explored on Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, and the ride-to-the-apocalypse feel of Death Cult Armageddon – into a work of dense magnificence. Goosebump-inducing opener ‘Xibir’ lays the soundtrack foundation to the album, all brass, strings and choir that rises accelerando before you’re walloped by ‘Born Treacherous’ with its precipitous bass-drops and shifting tempos. The song moves with effortless ease between orchestral passages, hushed chants and metal moments with no lack of cohesion. ‘Gateways,’ the first single to be released from the album, was deemed out there with its controversial female vocals but here it meshes into the whole of the album perfectly and is one of the high points of it. ‘Chess With the Abyss’ is a lesson in punctuation, the drums providing the perfect counterpoint to the galloping melodies. But the biggest surprises on the album are perhaps ‘Dimmu Borgir’ that combines the pop-sensibility of an “Oh-weh-oh” chant to drive the whole song and the almost-disco beat of ‘The Demiurge Molecule.’ It shouldn’t work but it’s precisely Dimmu’s grasp of songwriting that makes it work as they layer both songs with just the right amount of brutality to counterpoint the quirks. There are just the faintest reminiscences of Emperor’s Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk and Mayhem-esque riffs and the emphasis of the whole record is on the darker side of Dimmu with the orchestra providing the backbone atmospherics. It should be interesting to see how this works live. For black metal purists, this album will drive one more wedge between them and the band but fans who love Dimmu’s inventiveness will find something new to love on every listen.
Key Tracks: ‘Gateways,’ ‘Dimmu Borgir’