3/30/2012 - Review by: Greg Watson
Sweden's Borknagar is back with Urd and the return of bassist/vocalist ICS Vortex. Urd is hands down my favorite Borknagar album to date and one of my favorite releases of 2012...period!
To classify Borknagar as a progressive black metal band is to totally limit the band's scope. There are black metal elements present in Urd, as well as progressive, folk and traditional metal with some classical thrown in for good measure. The band boasts 3 vocalists, Vintersorg who handles the main vocals and Lars Nedland (keyboards/backing vocals) and the aforementioned Vortex who handles bass as well.
You would think with 3 vocalists that it would be chaotic but Borknagar pulls it off without a hitch. Vintersorg's clean vocals, as well as Vortex's, are simply amazing and full of emotion. Vintersorg can jump from a black metal vocal into clean vocals like a woman of the night moves between clients. Urd also adds a new element, to this reviewer at least, of choral backing vocals. This element adds even more depth and ambience to the album.
Tracks such as "Frostrite", "Age of Creation" and "The Earthling" highlight the band's vocal talents. The musical talents of Oystein G. Brun and company can be heard throughout the album. Sweeping guitar melodies, beautiful acoustic pieces, piano interludes and symphonic backing populate the record and take you away to a fjord's edge in Sweden.
Vortex's return also brings some complexity to the bass lines that I felt were missing in previous releases. Not to say that Tyr did not do an admirable job while filling in because he did. As an added bonus, the digipak version of "Urd" features a cover of "My Friend of Misery" by Metallica. It has been given the full Borknagar treatment and I almost like it better than the original.
Borknagar has put out a very solid record and an album that I feel should be considered for album of the year. But being that they are labeled as progressive black metal, I feel that they might get pushed to the side. Don't let the label scare you away because this band is way more than a label. They are a force of metal to be taken with extreme seriousness. Listening to this album made me want to break something; that has to say something about this band's talent.
So do yourself a favor, go to your local record shop and plunk down your hard earned money for a copy of "Urd". Be prepared to be amazed and transported to a world of howling winds, frozen fields and mythical magic.
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