Borknagar
Universal

With little fanfare Indie Recordings and The End Records (for the US distribution) have released the eighth album from long running proto-folk black metal act Borknagar.

Now, I don’t think I’m in the minority when I say Borknagar’s last two albums (Origin doesn’t really count) after Andreas Hedlund (Vintersorg) joining the fold, have never matched the bands early Garm and ICS Vortex years, even with main man Øystein Garnes Brun still in the fold, delivering unmistakably Borknagar styled riffs. And the fourth Hedlund fronted album stays the course set by the likes of Empiricism and Epic: Recognizably Borknagar and a solid album of pseudo progressive black metal that won’t taint the bands name and legacy, but nothing that transcend the bands early brilliance.

I really can’t find any faults with Universal other than it seems to be a virtual continuation of Empiricism and Epic. But I can’t really find anything that stands out either. It’s just… Borknagar. Deft layers of Brun’s riffage that balances slightly folky melodic black metal and progressive textures with Lars Nedlund’s (Solefald) keyboards and Hedlund’s rasps and regal croons (which still don’t sound ‘right’ after Garm and ICS’s landmark performances).

The seven lengthy songs (notably opener “Havoc” and “For a Thousand Years to Come”), encompass all that is good about Borknagar: the sweeping organic yet futuristic black metal riffs, injections of proggy Hammonds and of course Hedlund’s voice. But I can safely say, other than once exception, I’m not really blown away by any of them. Though, I enjoy them all. “The Stir of Seasons” is a nice little folky number with flutes and a relaxing gait, but the only track that really grabbed me was closer “My Domain”, another slower number, but one that features the return of ICS Vortex and vocals, imbuing a grin inducing, welcome return to the vibe of The Archaic Course and Quintessence. Not to knock Vintersorg, but since he joined the fray-Borknagar and Vintersorg are interchangeable (listen to the Heldund penned “Abrasion Tide”)

I have to wonder why Borknagar are no longer on Century Media after so many years and why Indie/The End delayed the release of Universal from last fall till this spring, and then released it relatively quietly. It may be — dare I say — because despite yet another solid offering, Borknagar seem to have run their course and are no longer the A-list band they once were.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
March 29th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    Something about this album really worked for me – like it a lot.


  2. Commented by: Stiffy

    “My Domain” and “Havoc” are my favorite tracks. Though I do enjoy listening to the album, I can see it missing the mark with some. Hell, that goes with any Borknagar of late. They can be too progressive for their own good sometimes.


  3. Commented by: appollyonx

    This album bored the shit out of me. Quintessence was the last good Borknagar album.


  4. Commented by: battlefrost

    I’ve only listened to this once so far, but I thought it was pretty awesome. I have a gigocious spot in my heart for Borknagar for some reason, and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s hard to argue with a bunch of musicians this good, and it’s nice to see Vortex away from that b.s. Dimmu Burger for a minute.


  5. Commented by: emperorjvl

    Just like Epic, this album failed to grab me at all (except I really disliked some vocals here right off the bat). Last one I liked was Empiricism; Borknagar has become really boring by now. If I give it a chance some songs will probably stand out but the review is right – this album is blah.


  6. Commented by: Cynicgods

    The two songs I heard were pretty good. Still, I have to give it a proper listen to offer an opinion.

    Erik: What vocalist do you think could’ve done a better job? Succeeding Garm and Simen must be terrifying.


  7. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    Solid album, but I agree that the Vortex era was this band’s heyday. My Domain is far away the best song on the album, largely because Vortex is one of the greatest vocalists to ever grace Heavy Metal. I love Vintersorg, but he doesn’t touch Vortex.


  8. Commented by: Mikeslav

    I agree with Appollyonx, this album quite simply bores the shit out me too.

    You can tell it is Borknagar, but it is almost as if every single riff on the album intentionally goes the wrong way and ends up sounding like someone is making a riff up on the spot whilst shrugging and uttering “I dunno…”.

    It is a well played album, but you could play Humpty Dumpty perfectly and it’d still be an awful song.

    Vintersorg has always sounded like he is trying to sing with his mouth full (this suits some songs I guess…) but on this album his doubled up clean vocals like two mad circus ringmasters belting out gypsy carnival classics from the 60’s.

    Then again, it was ridiculous of me to expect that any once-legendary black metal band would be any good nowadays.


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