Ever since the release of “Epic” back in 2004 I consider Borknagar to be one of my favourite bands. Their signature mixture of black metal, folk music and progressive rock is second to none in my (humble) opinion. Let’s see how these Norwegians (and one Swede) fare on their latest album, entitled “Urd”.
“Urd” is a traditional Borknagar album, yet it contains enough surprising twists and turns to keep things fresh and fruity. One of the biggest surprises is the return of ICS Vortex (Arcturus/Dimmu Borgir). His trademark vocals evokes the days of “The Archaic Course”/”Quintessence” on tracks, like “Epochalypse”, “Roots” and “Frostrite”. Despite this, “Urd” isn’t some nostalgic a return-to-the-good-ol’-days effort. Granted, the black metal roots are a little prominent this time, but otherwise this album is very much a continuation of the course set on “Epic” (2004) and “Universal” (2010). The progressive and epic character of “The Earthling”, The Plains Of Memory” and “The Winter Eclipse” is a clear reflection of that.
What really gives “Urd” its distinctive flavour is the fact that ICS Vortex, Vintersorg and Lars Nedland all share lead vocal duties. The results are simply mind-blowing. It gives the aforementioned “Epochalypse”, “Roots”, “The Earthling” and “The Winter Eclipse” a sense of majestic grandeur few can muster. Other highlights are the tasteful wah-wah guitar solos by Jens F. Ryland and the Hammond magic by Lars Nedland. Their contributions give “Urd” a distinct vintage feeling. Drummer David Kinkade delivered the perfect foundation for the other members to thrive on. Sadly he left the band, keeping a more questionable Borknagar tradition going.
This album is blessed with a modern and heavy sound, thanks to the capable hands of Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia, Paradise Lost) and Borknagar’s own Øystein G. Brun.
“Urd” is the perfect fusion between old and new Borknagar and it doesn’t suffer from any weak moments. This is arguably the most complete and accomplished effort by this outfit to date. “Urd” is a serious contender for album of the year as far as I’m concerned…