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This was a time when Borknagar was still good. A time before it was molested by the rock vocals of Vintersorg, pushing Borknagar in a rock direction (with mediocre harsh vocals). This was a time when Borknagar was one of the best progressive Viking black metal bands out there. This album is clearly the best effort from this band (IMO).
“The Olden Domain” has a lot to offer. It is a huge step forward from the debut album, which was typical raw black metal chaos. This album has song structure, amazing vocals, and an excellent drum performance by one of black metal’s best, Grim (R.I.P.).
Grim has brought forth amazing black metal performances before this album. Immortal’s “Pure Holocaust” was outstanding, as well as Gorgoroth’s “Under the Sign of Hell.” Here, his drums are distorted and not as powerful as he is in the above mentioned albums. Not to say they are bad, he still kicks ass with really fast blast beats and such, but they are kind of noisy and strung together, without the force that he usually had with Immortal and Gorgoroth. Overall, a well done drumming performance, but just a little off for what one might expect from the mighty Grim.
Garm is perfect on this album. Especially his clean vocals. His clean vocal delivery on this release is absolutely gorgeous. He does not use that calm, eerie, and weak voice that he is famous for today. Instead he uses a mega-powerful, rich folk baritone voice. This is his second best vocal effort all time in my opinion (Best performance being Arcturus’ “La Masquerade Infernale”). Garm’s harsh vocals are high-pitched and scratchy at times. He sounds a little strained while doing them. His strength is clearly in that deep singing voice of his. However, he uses the harsh vocals a lot more than clean on this release, which sucks.
The best songs on this album are “To Mount and Rove,” “A Tale of Pagan Tongue” and “The Eye of Oden.” All of these songs have beautiful Garm singing passages within them. The other songs are no slouch however. “Grimland Domain” has a cool epic, Moonsorrow sounding riff in it.
The atmosphere and lyrics are all Viking and folk sounding. The album is very effective for what the band was trying to do with it, unlike newer Borknagar albums.
So, if you’re looking for a great Viking black metal album, with an epic sound, and amazing clean vocals, then pick up Borknagar’s peak album, “The Olden Domain.”