Borknagar
Borknagar


4.0
excellent

Review

by Kyle Ward STAFF
June 26th, 2008 | 69 replies | 12,425 views


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Borknagar's self-titled debut is a work of folk-tinged black metal art.

Kristoffer Rygg, or Garm, or “Trickster G” as he is referred to now, is without a doubt one of the, if not the, single biggest names when you talk about the rise of folk black metal. Basically, he created it. Most who are akin to the likes of black metal know and appreciate the name Ulver, and rightly so. What Garm did for the genre could not be put into words, because it simply showed that beauty can indeed lie within the confines of a genre so dark and ugly that most who are not used to it find it repulsive. Garm produced three literally groundbreaking albums with Ulver; the stunning debut Bergtatt, their acoustic masterpiece Kveldssanger, and their deeply intense Nattens Madrigal. Around the time of the latter, Nattens Magdrigal, Garm was busy releasing an album from a side project which held the folk aspects of Ulver’s music in a higher regard, a project called Borknagar. With Rygg now on to (perhaps) bigger and better things, now going by the absurd alias of Trickster G, one has to wonder what exactly went through his mind as he left the genre which he created behind, off to the world of dark ambient and electronica, probably never to return. In short, the Garm which every metal fan knows and loves is virtually dead.

However, Garm left in his wake some marvels of what a band can do with folk inspired melodies and black metal. The similarities between Borknagar and Ulver are astounding, especially with their self-titled first release Borknagar. The album was released in 1996, the same year in which Ulver’s final black metal piece Nattens Madrigal was being unleashed. Their music sounds nearly identical, with drastically under-produced, treble-laden guitars grinding away through a vast array of melodies coupled with Garm’s biting, but amazing, screams. However, Garm is the only member of Ulver present in Borknagar’s lineup, but was obviously a huge influence in the sound the band portrayed. Along with Garm, we have the likes of Infernus on bass (from Gorgoroth), Erik Brodreskift (a.k.a. Grim) on drums (from Immortal), Ivar Bjornson behind the keyboard (from Enslaved), and the lesser known founding member of Borknagar, Oystein G. Brun, on guitar. So, in a sense, Borknagar is a black metal supergroup, featuring names of musicians from other highly regarded black metal bands of the time.

However, unlike most supergroups, the music which Borknagar puts up here on their debut album is absolutely awesome. It’s a very melodic take on folk black metal, with really intense moments of black metal broken by melodic riffs, acoustic guitar breaks, or fabulous instrumentals. Some who are not akin to the works of Ulver may not catch a vast majority of these melodic riffs, since the production engulfs them most of the time, but those who have the ear for it will most likely be thoroughly impressed by the amount of variation to the melodies here, whether it be the straightforward, well produced ones in the downright epic song “Dauden”, or the sleeker, more hidden ones of the ferocious opener “Vintervredets Sjelesagn”. Some of the time the music goes abruptly from a wall of (surprisingly complex) drum fills and guitar crunching to a sweeping acoustic guitar melody behind Garm’s unique chanting vocals. It’s something which you won’t get used to even after repeated listens to the album, because it is so well placed that each time you listen to a certain song you’ll never guess where exactly, say, the melody is hidden or when the vocals change styles.

The layout itself is long as hell, or at least seems like when all is said and done. The total running time is just under 45 minutes, but seems like it is upwards of an hour. The songs are very long, with the typical non-instrumental track clocking in at around six minutes. It’s a seriously tiring affair, but a rewarding one. These long tracks are broken by impressive and sometimes downright ingenious songwriting. The instrumentals are calm, very refreshing and merciful, and always melodic. Take, for example, the track “Ved Steingard”, which manages to pack into its 2:14 one of the single best riffs I’ve heard out of a black metal album. It’s a duo of electric and acoustic guitars which works in ways I’ve never seen before. I guess that’s the kind of quality you get when you bring together some of black metal’s best minds. You know the instrumentals are good when they rival some of the best folk black metal songs I’ve ever heard.

Sometimes, you don’t have to understand the story in order to follow along and enjoy it. So, as the members of Borknagar play their hearts out before you, on their debut album, mind you, there is simply nothing you can do but lean back, smile and shake your head in approval and disbelief that a record so impressive as this gets so little recognition and appreciation. Easily one of the best work’s by any member of the band (including their respective bands such as Ulver, Immortal, Enslaved, and Gorgoroth), and easily one of the biggest surprises I have had in a while. A black metal album which can take my breath away with it’s originality; that is something which is hard to get in my book. Borknagar is an awesome, perhaps brilliant folk black metal recording which is vastly underrated and criminally overlooked. Check this one out ASAP.



Recent reviews by this author
Panopticon Roads to the NorthEmpyrium The Turn of the Tides
Wolves in the Throne Room CelestiteAgalloch The Serpent and the Sphere
Insomnium Shadows of the Dying SunAinulindale Nevrast
user ratings (113)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Angel STAFF (5)
Empowering and impassioned while sophisticated and subtle, Borknagar’s self-titled debut is truly ...

related reviews

Urd

Universal

Origin

Epic

Comments:Add a Comment 
BallsToTheWall
June 26th 2008



44164 Comments


I wasn't aware of any Enslaved members in here, kickass. I have the other Bornagar album with Garm. It's good but not great. Solid review though, i'll get this some time.

Hawks
June 26th 2008



35433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review Crysis, this album needed one.

Digging: Sun Worship - Elder Giants

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
June 26th 2008



16301 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I know, this is a review I've put off for a few months now but I needed to get it out there and let people know how good this album is. A borderline 4.5.

Digging: Ulver - Bergtatt

Hawks
June 26th 2008



35433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah I'm probably going to raise my rating up to a 4. I havent listened to this in a while, but after reading your review I started listening to it. Borknagar always impresses me.

HeadCharge123
June 26th 2008



475 Comments


I really can't get into most black metal. As for folk metal, I haven't really had much experience past Finntroll, Ensiferum, Korpiklaani and Turisas.This Message Edited On 06.26.08

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
June 26th 2008



16301 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"The Olden Domain" is pretty damn good also.

Hawks
June 26th 2008



35433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah thats my favorite Borknagar album.

jrowa001
June 26th 2008



8750 Comments


great review. this looks up my alley

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
June 26th 2008



16301 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Jrowa, I'm pretty sure this is something you would love.

jrowa001
June 26th 2008



8750 Comments


yeah im sure it is, i have quite a few folk black metal albums

Hawks
June 26th 2008



35433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Borknagar are the masters of folk black metal.

Wizard
June 26th 2008



19306 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The Epicness (is that even a word?) of your reviews hurts my head Crysis. Well done. I've been meaning to check these guys out for quite some time now but I really have been neglecting alot of music on my must-listen-to list. Is this a good place to start with these guys? Remember, I can get into most black metal quite easily.

Review was stellar as always! This Message Edited On 06.26.08

Digging: Downer - Downer

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
June 26th 2008



16301 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks Wizard!

This was the first album I heard from this band and I love it, hopefully that answers your question.

Wizard
June 26th 2008



19306 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ordering it right now! I'm going into this album blind (or deaf).

Willie
Moderator
June 27th 2008



15900 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Another excellent review. I like the albums with Garm in them, but I think their current vocalist fits the band the best.

Hawks
June 27th 2008



35433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think Garm and Vintersorg are both amazing, but I didnt like Vortex in this band that much.

beans
July 10th 2008



2332 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yet another great review
i love reading your stuff by the way, love your writing style
i've only heard a handful of songs by this band and none of them were on this album, from the sound of it, i should listen to more of these guys

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
July 10th 2008



16301 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You should, it's an underrated album. The guy who gave this a 1 is pretty dumb too.

beans
July 10th 2008



2332 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

so i downloaded Empiricism i cant find this one for the life of me
is that album good?

Willie
Moderator
July 11th 2008



15900 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

so i downloaded Empiricism i cant find this one for the life of me
is that album good?
That one is personally my favorite. The music is more developed (i.e. more outside influences), and the vocalist fits the music better (IMO).



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy