Sound — 10
Side note- Let me just state now that this is the first review I've ever written for an album. So please excuse me if I tend to be a little redundant. The absence of Mustis (Ex-Keyboardist/Songwriter) and ICS Vortex (Ex-Bassist/Clean Singer) left alot of fans wondering where Dimmu Borgir would go. Some said that Dimmu Borgir was finished, and that was it. They'll never be the same. But the avid fans of the albums For All Tid and Stormblast, and the more "grim and cold" sound, were left wondering. They knew the band they labeled sell-outs so long ago would never return to the grim and frostbitten, atmospheric, primitive, symphonic-black metal that they know and love, but they were waiting for Shagrath's (Dimmu Borgir's Vocalist) next move. The reason for this long introduction, is because I believe the sound is still rooted in Mustis and Vortex, even though they are not present. They were key players in Dimmu Borgir's sound, as Vortex's operatic and epic cleans have always been a high point of the (what Fenriz would call) "plastic modern metal" era of the band, and Mustis overlooking every point of the song, driving it with his epic symphonic keyboards. Its already hard to top "In Sorte Diaboli", the bands previous effort. But if you remove the key players in the sound, it makes the journey much longer and harder, with other members having to put forth 3x as much effort to compensate the loss of the other members. Now, onto the review- With all this being said, the sound remains completely intact, heavier than ever before. Listening to this album brought me back to the first time I heard Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, but it retained the polished production of Death Cult Armageddon. The orchestration on this album has exceeded my expectations by far. I thought the idea of bringing in a 100+ person orchestra to replace a single member was a little ridiculous, until I learned that they didn't actually need it. Abrahadabra is still an amazing album if you take away the orchestration, because the riffs are constructed better than ever before, with some work even being reminiscent of Galder's other project, "Old Man's Child". The clean vocals are where the (what I like to call) "Hot Topic Fan" might say something along the lines of it not being the same without Vortex, and they're very right as Snowy Shaw' vocals are of a completely different style of singing. Anyone familiar with Snowy-fronted band Therion can tell that there is an immense difference in their voices. But this is not a bad thing. I believe Snowys voice is the second breath of fresh air into the new Dimmu Borgir. Although I miss Vortex's voice as much as the next Dimmu fan, change can sometimes be good, and in this case it definitely is. With the two big topics addressed, its time to move onto the other aspects of the album. Shagraths voice is not as processed anymore, which is definitely a step up from the "megaphone" effect he's been using on every song for the past decade. This is also the first appearance of Vader drummer Daray on a Dimmu Borgir album. And although Daray's drumming gets the job done, as a black metal fan, I'll always miss Hellhammer's frantic skin pummeling. One could also compare Daray's drumming style to that of Behemoth, which is not so unexpected as the drummer has played for fellow Polish Blackened Death acts, Vesania and Crionics.
Lyrics — 7
Ahh, the one downfall of any Dimmu Borgir album: The lyrics. Let me tell you, I love Black Metal, but not for the lyrical content. I love the cold and grim atmospheres of Mayhem, Darkthrone, Emperor, Immortal, Burzum, etc. But I can't help but laugh at the idea that these bands have been singing about the same topics for the past 20-30 years, saying the same things over and over in a million different ways. I've always been a little bit ashamed of this about my favorite genre of metal, but I've learned to look past it. What you see is what you get with this album, the typical evil imagery and metaphors. There's nothing new here compared to every other Dimmu Borgir album in the past ten years. But nonetheless, dark lyrics mix well with dark music. They compliment each other quite well, regardless if the lyrics are the same thing we've heard over and over again. To me, it's more so the delivery and tone that mix well with the music, and in that aspect it's outstanding.
Overall Impression — 10
In closing, Mustis' and Vortex's departure are just minor set-backs for Dimmu Borgir, and it is no reason to not listen to their (what I would like to think) best album since Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. Do not let the single 'Gateways' fool you. I hated that song upon first listen, and immediately was disappointed. Writing off the album as another cash crop for Dimmu Borgir. But let me be the first to say, 'Gateways' is by no means a good representation of the album. I was not let down when I heard the finished product, and am extremely glad I gave it a chance. The album is definitely a step up from the band's latest efforts, and if this CD was ever stolen from me, I'd more than likely go out and buy it again, if I didn't hunt the bastard down and take it back from him first. Even though there are a few minor setbacks, like guest vocalist Agnete Maria Forfang Kjlsrud's minor contributions, mainly in the song Gateways. The ending of the song is phenomenal, but when she first appears in the song, her voice reminds me of some kind of demonic cat being raped and castrated at the same time. Overall, the production is crystal clear and beautiful, everything shines through perfectly. The musicianship is outstanding, and Shagrath has definitely stepped up in the vocal department, and even though I can do without his lovely new head-dress/helmet thing, I try to look past it, no matter how large it is. This is a must for any Third Wave Symphonic Black Metal fans. I suggest running out to your nearest underground, dimly lit satanic black metal store (or Best Buy), and purchasing this immediately. You will not be disappointed.