CD REVIEW Borknagar

Band: Borknagar
Title: Urd
Label: Century Media
Distribution: EMI – Century Media Records
Release date: March 26th 2012
Review: CD

One and a half, up to two decades ago: the Norwegian scene, the profilation of highly influential and internationally inspirational ‘Nordic Viking / Pagan Black’ Metal. Think Enslaved, Kampfar, Satyricon, Arcturus, Hades (Almighty), Allfader, Einherjer, Ulver, Storm, Windir… Sort of ‘legendary’, sort of ‘cult’. Partly with gratitude to Grieghallen and Akkerhaugen Lydstudio (amongst some others).
Then, throughout the past decade… Except for just a rather limited handful of ‘original’ bands, (almost) all of them did change their initial approach (or they did split up in mean time), mainly, and especially, into a more progressive or modern or technical concept, unfortunately more than once somewhere in between poppiness and catchiness, or flirting with avant-garde experimentation, or turning into quasi-megalomaniac grandeur.

This evolution goes for Borknagar as well. I was crazy about them during the nineties. The nameless 1996-debut, for example, must be one of the strongest epic recordings ever when it comes to un-soft Music. Believe me… Then: evolution into a progressive direction, still focusing on the glorious past, yet translating archaic power into experimental creativity. Personally I think it was enormously successful, Borknagar’s approach, and with exception of 2010’s Universal, each single release stands miles above average, above normality, above standard. And my personal opinion: in comparison to many (most) colleagues that ‘evolved’ into less Nordic-inspired yet still Folk-oriented modernism, Borknagar are one of the few ones that did (does) it without disappointing me. Except for the band’s last one, as said before.

New album then: Urd, recorded at the Swedish studio Fascination Street with engineers Børge Finstad (who did work with the likes of Winds, Solefald, Arcturus, Ulver, Vintersorg a.m.o.) and Otyg / Vintersorg’s Mattias Marklund; recording result finally mixed + mastered by Jens Bogren (Gwyllion, Amon Amarth, Turisaz, Ihsahn, Oceans Of Sadness etc.). Members still from Norway and Sweden; line-up on Urd: Øystein G. Brun (also Cronian, ex-Molested), Andreas ‘Vintersorg’ Hedlund (Fission, Havayoth, Otyg, Cronian, Vintersorg, etc.), Simen ‘ICS Vortex’ Hestnaes (ex-Arcturus / Dimmu Borgir / Goatlord / Lamented Souls, think also the young ICS Vortex solo-project; album Storm Seeker released through Century Media in August last year; posted October 30th), Jens F. Rydland (ICS Vortex), Lars ‘Lazare’ Nedland (Solefald, Age Of Silence, also e.g. session member in Vintersorg, Winds, Carpathian Forest, Asmegin, Sturmgeist) and David Kinkade (e.g. Malevolent Creation, Divine Empire, DOTAC or Soulfly). Experienced names indeed…
Urd, as a matter of fact, continues the path Universal took. The Viking-roots, and for sure their blackish identity, have almost gone completely, yet still a folkish approach is of main importance. The evolution into a modern, somewhat ‘Post’-oriented direction, including a well-balanced progressive atmosphere, is more present than ever before, and the varying songs certainly are interesting in many aspects. I do certainly miss the origins, and I might not be a big fan of this kind of Metal, but when it comes to Borknagar, their efforts are way beyond superficiality. It’s not because it’s this band performing this album; I do prefer the glorious past of this horde. But honestly, I guess the cohesion and inventive craftsmanship of the experienced members might define their outstanding qualities when formalizing an album like Urd.
Not (necessarily) recommended to fans of ‘old’ Borknagar, yet highly recommendable to those who can appreciate ingeniously written and professionally performed Prog Metal with sharp edges and both pride and joy in performance.

FYI: there’s a limited edition which includes two bonus tracks, amongst which a terrible cover on Metallica’s My Friend Of Misery.

xxx/100

Ivan Tibos.