Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Borknagar - The Olden Domain CD (album) cover

THE OLDEN DOMAIN

Borknagar

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.38 | 41 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

lukretio
4 stars Back in the mid-90s, Borknagar were pretty much one of the first black metal supergroups around. The band was formed and led by ex-Molested guitarist Øystein G. Brun, who grouped together an exceptional cast of fellow musicians, including Kristoffer Rygg (vocals; Ulver, Arcturus), Erik "Grim" Brødreskift (drums; Gorgoroth, Immortal), Roger "Infernus" Tiegs (bass; Gorgoroth) and Ivar Bjørnson (keyboards; Enslaved). After releasing a self-titled full-length in 1996, they replaced bass player Infernus with the relatively unknown Kai K. Lie, and headed to the then state-of-the-art Woodhouse Studios to record and self-produce their sophomore album The Olden Domain, which was then released on Century Media in 1997.

While the debut album was pretty much rooted in black metal aesthetics, The Olden Domain offers a more eclectic blend of styles that stunned the extreme metal scene at the time. Black metal, Viking metal, classic HM and progressive rock are all audible influences across the eight songs of the album, giving the record a very definite and special sound. Øystein G. Brun blends in equal parts aggressive guitar riffs typical of the black metal scene with more folk-oriented leads and acoustic passages. His guitar tone is fat and noisy, and his playing is articulate but at the same time raw and spontaneous, which gives the music a distinct lo-fi feel (in fact the whole album was recorded in only two weeks and mixed in three days, which probably reinforces its underground feel). Grim's drumming can be fast and furious when needed, but it often breaks down in more expressive and articulate playing, with lots of drum fills and builds that bring to mind the style of heavy progressive rock bands like King Crimson. Ivar Bjørnson's keyboard textures are another hark back to the 1970s progressive rock aesthetics, which are particularly marked on symphonic tracks like "Grimland Domain" and "The Dawn of the End". Meanwhile, Kristoffer Rygg offers a varied and excellent performance, alternating between raspy growls and theatrical cleans with his unmistakable baritone voice and unique phrasing.

The forward-thinking and progressive nature of the material is also apparent from the song structures, which is loose and fluid, exploring different tempos and moods in the space of a single composition without giving too many reference points to the listener. For this reason, The Olden Domain can be a fairly challenging album to listen to, but it definitely grows with repeated listens as one needs time to make sense of its stretched structures and complex arrangements. Yet, the record also possesses a raw immediacy that makes it easily accessible to those who are not inclined to invest too much time into it. This is especially true for tracks like the epic duo at the front of the disc ("The Eye of Oden", "The Winterways"), and what is probably the best track of the album, "A Tale of Pagan Tongue". These are all tracks dominated by strong guitar melodies that are very memorable and instantly likeable. Rygg's vocals often double the guitar melody, accentuating even further its impact on the listener.

But all songs offer interesting moments, be it an atmospheric acoustic interlude, a glacial guitar riff, or an epic folk melody. There is also sufficient variety across tracks to keep things fresh. The two instrumental pieces, "Om hundrede aar er alting glemt" and "Ascension of Our Fathers" are helpful in this respect. The first one is a short atmospheric song that revolves around a melancholic keyboard motif that is doubled up by an icy distorted guitar. It breaks up nicely the flow of the record, giving the listener a moment of respite from the black/viking metal assault of the previous two tracks, before the album plunges again into more extreme sounds. The other instrumental track is more of a band effort, with guitar, drums and bass playing around a folksy theme with a strong melancholic feeling. Meanwhile, "To Mount and Rove" shows a more marked classic heavy metal influence, especially in the opening guitar riff. However, this track is probably the weakest song of the lot, with a songwriting that is still partly immature and cannot make the various subsections of the composition flow nicely into one another.

This is probably the biggest limit of this record. While there are some excellent ideas that are genuinely interesting and exciting, Borknagar succeed in channeling them into smooth compositions only in a handful of tracks (the aforementioned "The Eye of Oden", "The Winterways" and "A Tale of Pagan Tongue", plus the symphonic "Grimland Domain"). Elsewhere, the song flow stutters somewhat, bordering on the chaotic. But for most part The Olden Domain is a thoroughly enjoyable album, showing a band of enormous potential and unafraid to carve an original and relatively untrodden path in the universe of extreme metal. For this reason, The Olden Domain is highly recommended to fans of bands like Enslaved, Ulver and Arcturus, and anyone interested in music that explores the boundaries between progressive rock, folk and black metal.

lukretio | 4/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this BORKNAGAR review

Social review comments () BETA







Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.