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Borknagar: Epic

Each album from Borknagar brings me closer to embracing or at least enjoying black metal. After too many lineup changes to mention, one of extreme-metal's reigning giants has crawled out from under its rock after a three-year absence to release Epic, the Norwegian band's sixth album that is also arguably its best. I use the term "arguably" because some black-metal purists (if those two words can be used in the same phrase) will no doubt balk at Borknagar's expanded use of keyboards, clean vocals and progressive tendencies. The band's avant-garde mix of pagan folklore and metal remains more intact than ever, though. Adding more clean vocals to offset the slithering delivery of Vintersorg often in the same song is bound to encourage some listeners to give Borknagar a second chance, and the creative and effective use of Hammond organ on "Resonance" and piano on "The Weight of the Wind" pushes this band further from comparisons to its dark Norwegian counterparts. Borknagar even attempts to sound like Rhapsody on "Circled," a track that lives up to the album's title. Also worth noting are the philosophical lyrics, which (when audible) question the nature of the universe in songs like "Traveller" and "Origin." If I were to try turning on my uninitiated friends to black metal, I'd start (and perhaps even end) with Dimmu Borgir and Borknagar.

Track Listing
1) Future Reminiscence (5:26)
2) Traveller (5:03)
3) Origin (4:58)
4) Sealed Chambers of Electricity (4:12)
5) The Weight of Wind (3:58)
6) Resonance (4:28)
7) Relate (4:28)
8) Cyclus (5:25)
9) Circled (4:45)
10) The Inner Ocean Hypothesis (5:10)
11) Quintessence (5:31)
12) The Wonder (4:16)
Total Time: 57:55

Added: October 15th 2004
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Borknagar Web Site
Hits: 3025
Language: english

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Borknagar: Epic
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-10-15 14:01:53
My Score:

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.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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