1. Epochalypse  
2. Roots  
3. The Beauty of Dead Cities  
4. The Earthling  
5. The Plains of Memories (instrumental)
6. Mount Regency  
7. Frostrite  
8. The Winter Eclipse  
9. In A Deeper World  
10. Age of Creation (bonus on limited ed. digipack)
11. My Friend of Misery (Metallica cover, bonus on lim. ed. digipack)

Vintersorg (harsh/clean vocals & choirs)
Øystein G. Brun (Electric and acoustic guitars)
Jens Ryland (Lead guitar)
ICS Vortex (Bass, clean vocals & choirs)
Lars A. Nedland (Keyboards, clean vocals & choirs)
David Kinkade (Drums & percussion)

Borknagar (1996)
The Olden Domain (1997)
The Archaic Course (1998)
Quintessence (2000)
Empiricism (2001)
Epic (2004)
Origin (2006)
Universal (2010)


Recorded in Fascination Street Studios, Sweden

Released 26/3-2012
Reviewed 21/3-2012

century media

I can't really claim myself as one if those celebrating Borknagar for their originality and excellent music in the past, if there is anyone who did. Borknagar rose from the Norwegian black metal scene, you know where the music is suppose to be as simple and primitive as possibe (and perhaps even as bad as possible?), and much like their countrymen in Dimmu Borgir, the band has progressed with time to get a grander and better sound as they've matured and developed as musicians. Nowadays they're commonly called "progressive black metal" which could imply that they actually would or could be acknowledged for their originality and music, which some people probably already have with their latest albums. I'm not, however, one of those. So what's the story with 'Urd', will this one have my approval?

'Urd' is the ninth studio album by Øystein Brun and his men and it's a very long album despite only having nine songs, taking 53 minutes of your life to play from beginning to end. Besides 'Epic' from 2004, this is the longest Borknagar album with the average length of almost 6 minutes per song and the longest song even being close to nine minutes (the shortest being a quite lengthy 4.15). It's gone 17 years since Brun left Molested and wanted to explore the melodic field of extreme metal and with eight albums he's now done so more and more, taking the music of Borknagar to a sound where folk- and viking metal is embedded into melodic black metal. The sound of 'Urd' is grand and powerful with plenty of keys mixed in to the sound and guitars that are galloping like wild horses strapped to a caravan, taking that caravan of melodies forward over new musical landscapes all the time. It's even possible to hear some orchestral elements finding its way in to the music at some points.

The line-ups have changed quite a lot during the years of Borknagar and for this album we once again find ICS Vortex playing the bass and doing vocals beside long time vocalist Vintersorg, ICS whom I acknowledged last year for his debut solo album 'Storm Seeker' and it's been more than ten years since he left the band (though he also made a guest appearance on 'Universal' in 2010). Except from ICS replacing Tyr, the line-up is exactly the same on 'Urd' as 'Universal' and mostly I think this album sounds quite a lot better than 'Universal' did as well. But there is one thing that keeps bothering me as I listen to this album and it's the drums, which I think sound misplaced and inappropriate for the music on 'Urd'. The album isn't very hard when all is considered and except for some growling and grunting and the odd shout here and there, nothing actually indicates that this is an album that comes from the extreme part of metal. Except for the drums, which clearly have their belonging in black metal and that's why I think they're pretty inept.

Ironically, David Kinkade left the band soon after 'Urd' had been recorded and has now left the drums to Baard Kolstad, and the future will show wether that helps the drums for the next album or makes it even worse but if you like to hear more of Kinkade he now handle the drums in Brasilian Soulfly where he also recorded the album 'Enslaved' that was released this year as well (and approved with a 5/7 in Hallowed).

Overall, I absolutely find 'Urd' as interesting with lots of exciting elements to offer, like strings, orchestral arrangements and choirs (and almost completely without relation to the satanic and blastbeated kind of black metal). I also think it's mostly well made and sounds good, but I can't help having a few issues with the album as well. First of all, I think the album is too long and it's also an album that sounds worse the louder you play it - which is something quite different for me. The album absolutely doesn't work too well all days of the week and at all times of the day, which is a result of more than the drums being a bit off. However, overall I think it have plenty of quality and when it sounds the best this album is peaking way up at the top of the scale. When all is considered though, this album clearly have its place somewhere in the middle.

I think it's an interesting album, though not too exciting and Borknagar just have to wait for the acclaims to come from me. However, I do think this is the best album so far!



Label: Century Media
Three similar bands: Dimmu Borgir/ICS Vortex/Old Man's Child
Rating: HHHHHHH (4/7)
Recensent: Caj Källmalm

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