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Borknagar: Origin

Norway's Borknagar have quite a surprise for their fans on their seventh album titled Origin. This latest platter takes a breather from the symphonic black metal the band is known for, and dives head first into folk, classical, and prog rock. Much like Opeth stripped back the arrangements to mostly acoustic guitars, keyboards, and melodic clean vocals on their Damnation album, Borknagar puts away their electric guitars and black metal vocals for Origin, instead laying down an arsenal that includes acoustic guitars, keyboards, percussion, and guest violin, cello, flute & other woodwinds, and layers of clean vocals. Main songwriter and band leader Oystein G. Brun regularly writes the band's music acoustically, so for this album it was decided to keep the final arrangements that way, and the results are magical.

On this release the band is Brun on acoustic & classical guitars, Vintersong on vocals, choirs, and chants, Lars Nedland on all keyboards, Tyr on bass, and Asgeir Mickelson on drums & percussion. Guest musicians are Steiner Ofsdal on all woodwinds, Sareeta on violin, and Thomas Nilsson on cello. Imagine a cross between early White Willow, Jethro Tull, and Arcturus, and you get a sense for what to expect here. It's lush, it's melodic, and especially folky all the way. Just listen to the gorgeous violin and cello on "Human Nature", a real soaring piece that is also a great vehicle for Vintersong, who really shines throughout this album with this wonderful vocals. Haunting flute bonds with Brun's layers of acoustic guitars on the enchanting "Acclimation", while "Earth Imagery" is an enchanting mix of folk and symphonic prog, complete with virtuoso classical guitar picking from Brun and loads of keyboards courtesy of Nedland. Other highlights include the lovely yet mysterious "Grains", the updated take on "Oceans Rise" (originally on their 1997 album The Archaic Curse), the majestic "White", and the grand guitar/violin interplay of the instrumental "The Spirit of Nature".

Honestly, there's not a bad song here. When it's over (at just about 35 minutes) you'll long for more, and simply hit the replay button over and over again. While Borknagar's brand of progressive and symphonic black metal is perhaps close to the best the genre has to offer, Origin is a wonderful break in the action, a warm respite from their more aggressive sounds. Origin is one of the best progressive folk albums you will hear all year-check it out.


Track Listing
1) Earth Imagery
2) Grains
3) Oceans Rise
4) Signs
5) White
6) Cynosure
7) Human Nature
8) Acclimation
9) The Spirit of Nature

Added: February 2nd 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Borknagar Website
Hits: 4483
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Borknagar: Origin
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-02-02 11:07:29
My Score:

The rising popularity of Folk and Celtic music and its continual expression in a number of the world's Metal bands of today had this release make perfect sense for the members of Borknagar. As many already know, Borknagar are literally the masters of Progressive Black Metal and prove them as such on almost every outing that they undertake. Their main songwriter (Oystein G. Brun) is the type of writer who always composes the bands music in the acoustic sense. This made the decision to release an album that was not only acoustic and classically based, but itself an acoustic album a promising idea. The thinking was that it would allow fans of the band to see just how musical they are and how deep the melody goes. Isn't it interesting to find the level of Progressive Black Metal they do coming from such vibrant acoustic compositions. We saw Opeth go this route on Damnation, and Green Carnation with The Acoustic Verses; yet this album is far more traditional and not as experimental as those others. The comparison is to cite that this can and often does work very well. The only downside is that the album is very short and runs a mere 35 minutes and will leave the listener with a sense of wanting more. At least the replay is but a click of the remote away. The main band performs on the following instruments Oystein G. Brun (acoustic, classic and high string guitars), Lars A. Nedland (piano, keyboards, organs and backing vocals), Vintersorg (vocals, choirs, and chants), Tyr (bass) and Asgeir Mickelson (drums). It was very interesting to hear Vintersorg singing in complete melody for a change for there are no growls to be found anywhere on this release. Several guest musicians that truly bring this to a brighter life accompany Borknagar. Among their number is Steiner Ofsdal (woodwinds), Sareeta (violin) and Thomas Nilsson (cello).

The band delivers eight new songs as well as a remake of their own "Oceans Rise" from their Archaic Course album. As you can expect this is a completely different version. There is not a bad track on the CD and as I mentioned just earlier this is the kind of music that you will find yourself playing repeatedly and not be left with the feeling that you have given up your Metal loyalty. I do feel that you need an open mind to best appreciate this wondrous listen as lush strings, cello, harmony vocals and acoustic guitars will make you feel as though you wander the Nordic forests or gaze upon some wondrous scenery. I can recommend this particular album for those that also enjoy the Renaissance flair of Blackmore's Night. Origin proves that the tapestries woven by many groups are richly detailed and with each completed work, there is beauty that requires several visits to best appreciate. Thanks guys.






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