Borknagar | ‘Urd’
It is so, so easy to take some bands for granted.
Borknagar – veterans, nay true survivors of the former Norse black metal scene – are one such band. They get overlooked constantly and criminally.
Their new album, like almost all of them before, is a signal reminder as to why they should be exalted alongside Enslaved as how to exit BM properly, with dignity, and with incredible new music to show for it.
Think of what you have here. Two of the most stunning vocalists who’ve ever worked in the genre – ICS Vortex, AKA Simen Hastnaes (Arcturus) and Anders Hedlund (Vintersorg) – not competing but actually complementing each other within the same band.
Add to that the talents of ex Solefald brainiac Lars Nedland and long time songwriter Oystein Brun, and you’ve got the equivalent of a supergroup. Yet it’s a group who are restrained, mature and intent on just making the music that suits them.
It’s a slow burning album of great depth and great diversity.
Opener ‘Epochalypse’ is the perfect start, with its various sections and hooks powering forth, full of harmony and motion. It’s a starry track that sets the pace for the remainder. Epic, towering and a real piece of musical craftsmanship.
‘Roots’, following up, has a sinewy guitar lead line that recalls the band’s earliest history – a history, remember, that interwove with the most vintage Ulver black metal – with probably the fastest tempo on the album. Its solo reminds of Amorphis, Opeth, and all the best metal of that great era.
Standout track on here however is ‘Earthling’, which over its seven minutes opens out into the most amazing, accessible and epic chorus the band have penned in their long history. The song’s scope reminds of the best Therion – but topped out with Vintersorg and Vortex’ vocals, it’s just unstoppable.
And that’s what sums up this fascinating, moreish and incredilby satisfying album. The interplay between the vocalists and musicians is a constant evolution, flowing seamlessly through these tracks.
If you’re feeling bored or out of touch with the underground at the moment, do yourself a favour and pick this beauty up. You’ll come back to it again and again, and indeed again. When, ask yourself, was the last time an album literally invited you to listen once more to hear what it had yet to reveal?
This is one of them. An astounding piece altogether, filled to the brim with the experience and invention only a band utterly sure of themselves and what they have to say can offer.
Epic, colourful, magical in its own way and totally immersive. Pick it up as soon as you can, and support these fantastic individuals in having left BM, but making the kind of awesome metal music that it’s still possible to make.
4.7 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 22/05/12