At one point, Dimmu Borgir were a black metal band. Somewhere around the time of 2001's Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, though, they became something entirely different, a kind of monument to pomp and grandeur for its own sake. Peaking on 2003's Death Cult Armageddon and sagging somewhat on the overwrought/underwritten 2007 concept album In Sorte Diaboli, they've managed to combine black metal with John Williams-style symphonic stomping. This album, while not quite the equal of Death Cult Armageddon, does represent a fairly strong comeback. Without changing their style, it's more melodic and even catchier than they're known for being, and the exchanges between lead vocalist Shagrath (who sounds like a cross between Laibach's Milan Fras and Popeye the Sailor) and the trills of the orchestra (real, not synth-based), not to mention the frequent interjections by female voices, make the whole thing almost operatic. Indeed, Abrahadabra is many things, but it is definitely not a rock album. It takes the pomposity of prog to new extremes, throws classical filigree around like comedian Rip Taylor hurling confetti, and generally adopts a more-is-more attitude toward every element from riff writing to arrangements. It opens with an instrumental fanfare, and there's a guest vocal spot on "Ritualist" (by bassist Snowy Shaw of Therion) that sounds like Peter Hammill from Van der Graaf Generator. It might be goofy as hell, but it's also a lot of fun. ~ Phil Freeman, Rovi

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