12/10/2010 - Review by: Ravana
Company: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Symphonic Black
Underwhelming and uninspiring
"Abrahadabra" marks Dimmu Borgir's first release since their widely publicized split with bassist/clean vocalist ICS Vortex and keyboardist Mustis. Although they still mostly sound like the Dimmu of old (or at least of their last few albums), the absence of these two band members resonates fairly heavily. Abrahadabra's keyboard parts were presumably written by band members other than Mustis, and the grand, sweeping, orchestral parts that often stood at the forefront of Dimmu songs are not nearly as prevalent. Keyboards still play a vital role, but they function more as accents instead of really leading songs (although there are some exceptions, as with "Born Treacherous," one of the album's few standout tracks).
Snowy Shaw appears on several songs performing clean vocals (he also played bass on the album), and while he manages to sound amazing with Therion, his full-time band, his performance here does not measure up to what Vortex was able to do for Dimmu Borgir. Shaw's style of singing is more operatic, and does not fit nearly as well as Vortex's voice did. The song "Ritualist" is a perfect example of Shaw's awkward position within Dimmu's music.
Lead vocalist Shagrath definitely varies his delivery style even more than usual, alternating between his "black metal voice," which has weakened considerably over the years (or perhaps has become more refined?), electronically modified vocals, and an almost spoken whispering. The latter definitely leaves the listener craving more power and more energy; if the desired effect is for a spooky or mystical feel, it is not working.
This album is, unfortunately, underwhelming and uninspiring. "Born Treacherous," "Gateways," and "Renewal" are all solid songs, but others seem more concerned with getting from point A to point B using tired-sounding riffs rather than actually doing anything for the listener. Die hard Dimmu fans should (and probably already have) pick this record up, but those looking to listen to this band for the first time would be better off starting somewhere else in the band's discography.