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Like an old world dream - 91%

Wilytank, March 11th, 2012

(Originally posted by me to the Metal Music Archives:

As much as I would rather shop at CD stores besides FYE, I must give FYE a chance to surprise me with its used CD selection. Why? Because FYE HAS surprised me in the past with some of the used CDs I've found there. I've found some great albums at cheap prices such as Storm of the Light's Bane by Dissection, Unification by Iron Savior, three Primordial albums, Therion's Lemuria and Sirius B on 2 CD, and three of Borknagar's best albums. Of these, Borknagar is probably the most rewarding luck I've had with my browsing there. Since it's been forever since my initial immersion into Borknagar, I thought it would be nice to write a review or two or three to celebrate my reintroduction into the band now having three of their albums on CD. The first of these is the self titled debut by the band, one of the three I picked up at FYE.

Borknagar is the brainchild of Øystein G. Brun. With him on Borknagar's self titled is a lineup of well known Norwegian black metal musicians: Garm from Ulver, Infernus from Gorgoroth, Ivar Bjørnson from Enslaved, and Grim who played on Gorgoroth's Under the Sign of Hell (though that would be released later). Everyone on the roster plays their respective instruments exceptionally well, but Brun does more so than anyone else. He's an exceptional music writer and guitarist. He states on the album's insert that Borknagar contains Brun's feelings of nostalgia for a better, ancient past put to modern metal music; and I can actually take his word for it since the general tone here can easily reflect those primordial times. Borknagar is raw, but not too raw; has keys, but does not overuse them.

The actual brand of black metal played here consists of fast-paced tremolo/blast beat along with a good amount of variation with more mid-tempoed sections gaining an atmospheric tinge brought about by Øystein's lead guitar and/or the keys. These atmospheric sections possess an epic quality that ties back into Øystein's original intended message with the album; and I just can't get my favorite of these sections, the parts at the 1:59 and 3:28 areas of "Vintervredets Sjelesagn", out of my head.

Garm sings mostly harsh vocals on this album save for a few clean "aws" and actual lyrical passages of "Dauden". His clean parts also tie in well with Brun's message; but if you know Garm, this should not be a surprise. All the parts together create an experience similar to Enslaved's Vikingligr Veldi (released two years prior) mixed with Satyricon's Dark Medieval Times (three years prior) with some bits of Bergatt by Ulver (one year prior) also present.

Even though I can definitely call the listening experience amazing, I can't call it perfect. If you don't pay enough attention to the music, most of it will go in one ear and out the other. Having all Norwegian song titles and lyrics doesn't help either. Borknagar unfortunately also suffers from having too many interludes, 5 out of 10 songs, but I do like a few of their attributes that tie in with Brun's message such as acoustic guitar and Garm's clean "aw"s, so I'm willing to overlook that problem a bit since all the real songs are all very good; though Ivar's "Tanker mot Tind" pieces are the low point of the album. I'm not giving Borknagar a top tier score, but it's still an excellent addition to the black metaller's collection.