Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-10-15 14:01:53
Death metal can be quite beautiful. This may appear to be the most ridiculous statement, but the better death metal acts have long since mastered the subtleties that define the modern incarnation of that genre.
If you were to take away the grunting and the double bass and distorted power chords that make up the very heavy bottom end you'd be left with delicate, mellow, psychedelic or spacey music. It is when you look for this juxtaposition of apparently disparate elements that you can appreciate the subtleties and the progressive elements of this otherwise brutal music. With eight years and six CDs under their collective belt and a consistently improving standard of musicianship, Norway's Borknagar is one of the few bands with the potential to bring extreme metal to a previously skeptical public.
The imaginative arrangements evident in the songs on Epic feature shifts from lead-heavy grinding death metal to gentle acoustic guitar and clean sung passages, then onto a more traditional format akin to progressive metal, and all the way back again to the furious distortions of extreme metal. There are layers of keyboards, female vocals, flutes and a choir, and courtesy of new vocalist 'Vintersorg' there is an amazing range of vocal techniques ranging from clean through shouts, screams, growls, and a sinister whisper.
There is expert musicianship on show here, so can it really be death metal? Interestingly, several critics – including Sea Of Tranquility – are calling this "Avant Garde Metal". So put away any prejudices about growled vocals and don't ever say "cookie monster" again. Avant garde metal is serious music, and can be brutally beautiful.
This new genre has arrived.