Black Metal superstars and kings of the underground scene, Borknagar are a creative force to be reckoned with. Even from their humble beginnings, the band had the potential to be on of the biggest Black Metal bands ever. On their first two albums, the band had the luck to have the one and only Garm (Ulver. Arcturus) in their ranks along with other talented and established Black Metal musicians. However since the early days of the group, it has seen many members come and go, but the main creative force remains in the form of guitarist Øystein Brun who has stuck around since the start. By 2004 and the release of Epic
the band had the luck to acquire the unique vocal skills of Andreas Hedlund, the "air-raid siren" of Black Metal. Perfecting their folk metal formula, the band's 6th album lead them to the front of the underground pack, and cemented their rightful place as the forerunners of the Black Metal genre.
The album opener, Future Reminiscence
starts energetically, with frantic blast beats and melodic, fast tremolo picked guitar. The sound is lush and full, with waves of orchestral majesty to fill any void possibly left by any other instrument. As opposed to the normal run of the mill high pitched rasped vocals, Andreas provides more mid to low ranged vocals, a great difference than most other bands. As the song progresses the guitars change from fast palm muted thrash influenced riffage to doom metal slow chugging parts and than back again. The song slows down to an acoustic section and the listener gets their first real taste of Hedlund's clean vocal ability on the record. The man has a amazing soaring voice with great range and tone, which is perfectly exhibited when put up against the folk-influences acoustic guitar playing in the background. Next song Traveller
begins with a flute tune playing over classical black metal guitars, drums and vocals. The song slows down to a melodic, simple and catchy wah-wah lead over mid-tempo drums. The "chorus" of this song is incredibly catchy, featuring a layered vocal effect of Andreas operatic vocals. The ending of the song is also quite catchy, with octave chords being played that perfectly mimic the vocal harmony of the chorus.
starts right away, with Darkthrone-esque guitar riff and fast double bass pedal led drums. This part quickly transitions into the chorus, which is one of the best on the album. With a lead playing in the background it just grabs the listener's attention and refuses to let go. The song is also notable for the dominant use of death growls, which along with everything else, the vocalist does quite well. Sealed Chambers of Electricity
opens with an immediately noticeable Symphonic Black Metal influence, as they synths are much more prevalent then they have been in prior songs. The verse has a very anthemic feel to it, with a prominant, pounding drum beat. The chorus sees Hedlund using more mid-ranged clean vocals instead of the soaring highs seen before. The track ends with a layering of screamed and clean vocals, adding a nice contrast and helping the song finish out strong.
The Weight of the Wind
an instrumental track, has an ominous opening with the keyboard (melody) and the keyboards (harmony) creating a jazzy/old school horror flick type feel to the song. The guitars come in with a mid-tempo palm muted singe note rhythm, with harmonized guitar leads buried in the very background of it. This song definitely shows the more creative side of the band, incorporating jazz, folk and metal techniques into a single song. Renosance
starts with a heavy Viking Metal influence, and goes on to be one of the heaviest songs on the album. While the song does contain a lot of heavy keyboard work, the guitars maintain a fast, tremolo picked pace throughout. The only break is a short (but sweet) clean interlude with layered harmonized guitars playing as well.
surprisingly opens with a more hard rock influenced clean guitar over distorted riff, but that quickly transforms into a 90's oriented Black Metal riff and gang style viking vocals shouting in the background. The verse, while all clean singing, also contains a blues based organ played background, which is something rarely seen within Black Metal. Its small flourishes like that, that really separate Borknagar from the pack and make them truly innovative and original. Cyclus
begins with atmospheric guitars and synths that erupt into a melodic Black Metal maelstrom. Although harsh, fast and unrelenting the guitars never lose their melodic edge, and are always kept in time by the exceptional drumming talents of Mr.Asgeir Mickelson an underrated wonder. The chorus of the this song is probably the most emotional on the album, as the listener practically hears Andreas tearing out his heart and soul with his delivery.
contains a very strong power metal influence. showing up in not only the introduction of the song, but the note choices and the guitar cadences of the chorus. It also features more organ playing, though this time, instead of bearing resmemblence to the blues, it bears a strong resemblance to the organ played in old Draula and Phantom of the Opera movies, once again betraying a strange, yet welcome influence on the music of Borknagar. The Inner Ocean Hypothesis
is a straight up jazz metal track. Piano and jazz drums and bass (one of the only times bass is seen on the album sadly) introduce to the song, which then transitions into heavy black metal guitars and Andreas clean vocals. This is also another one of Andreas best vocal performances on the album, as he lets his clean vocals do the talking, showing great emotion.
By eleventh track, Quintessence
you may feel like this album has given you all it has to offer. Hey, it had ten great, tracks, but what now could surprise me or still be original. It's most like for this reason, that Borknagar put this track at spot number 11. Its by far their most atmospheric track, with beautiful melodies constantly playing. They also have keyboards taking a prominent role as well, little solo spots scattered throughout (showing a slight bit of techno influence, weird enough). Guitar-wise this is the most technical playing on the album, with Brun, showing off some of his skill. The guitar solo (which is actually played by Micklson interesting enough) is very well executed concentrating more on melody than on speed, making it memorable and catchy. The Wonder
is the slowest song on the album and while it's not a bad song, is disappointed compared to the rest of the album (and especially when compared to the previous track). Once again, this track isn't bad; The vocals are well done and all instruments are played very well. But when put up against other songs, it seems to be almost generic and lazily written.
Overall, Borknagar demonstrates very well, why they are regarded as one of the most original and best bands in their genre. It's obvious that the band likes to draw influences from out of the box, and its this, that makes them unique among a sea of faceless groups. Whether it's scathing Black Metal, calming Folk, or even obscure Jazz, Borknagar can do it all. Whats next though" What else can be brought into this already immense sound" Only time will tell, what will happen, but if the past is any hint to the future, Borknagar fans around the world have a lot to look forward too.