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Borknagar - Epic CD (album) cover

EPIC

Borknagar

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.49 | 31 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

nahnite
5 stars I first got into the heavier aspects of music (meaning metal of all kinds) around about 2004, when this record came out, though I hadn't yet heard of Borknagar. I discovered bands such as Deicide and Cannibal Corpse first, and despite my liking for some of the music, I was seeking something with a touch more melody and atmosphere. I knew it had to be out there.

It was.

I was asked by an old friend to join him for lunch and to come back to his place to listen to some CD's he had just gotten. I was drawn, for a then unknown reason, to his CD shelf. I began to pull each CD case out, one by one, staring at the artwork. Then I came across Borknagar's "Epic". The front cover caught my eye, as I had never seen anything like it prior to that moment. I asked my friend if he could pop it in the player. He smiled at me and said "You're gonna like this."

Damn it all if he wasn't totally right.

To this day, I still enjoy the record. Since I discovered it that year, I have bought and thoroughly ruined about 6 copies. Why? Let me tell you.

First, the production is wonderful; clear and crisp without being slick. I know it's a digital recording, but it doesn't SEEM like it's digital. I hate over-processed, Pro-Tools sounding records, but I have none of that feeling with this release. With that said, they could have gotten their hands a BIT dirty, as sometimes it seems like Mickelson's snare floats in and out of the mix. That complaint is rather trivial, as the rest of the recording is pretty much dead-on.

The band knows how to arrange a tune, don't they? The record comprises twelve songs, and it's a little over 58 minutes, so the average track length is four minutes and change. Unlike most prog-metal bands (I turn my gaze towards you, Opeth, Dream Theater and Metallica, though I do love you three), they seem to know when to let a song end, either by fading it out or stopping it completely. They also don't seem to want to be heavy or brutal simply for the sake of being brutal or heavy, unlike the massive dick-waving contest that is much of today's metal scene (of any stripe). Oystein is a great guitar player, and it appears that he has perfected an excellent mix of acoustic and electric, push/pull, action/reaction, pulse/pathos. This might seem like semantics, but-to these ears, anyway-each riff or melodic theme sets up the next one pretty nicely. To that end, there doesn't seem to be much-if any-repetition. Brun DOES repeat himself, yes, but when he does, it's usually to emphasize a point or structure a melodic theme. His playing-both acoustic and electric-is solid and well done. Melodic and atmospheric, it almost seems that he speaks through his guitar. I like that.

Now, let's talk about the rest of the instruments, with vocals first. Vintersorg has an eccentric (mildly put) tone, somewhere between Dani Filth's "terrier's nuts in a trap door" squeal and Shagrath's stentorian bark. His clean vocals, however, are pretty majestic, and he does have a range. Check out the vocal backing on "Sealed Chambers Of Electricity". His vocal is absolutely spine-tingling, and only adds to the lush atmosphere. The keyboards, played by Lars A. Nedland, are another ace up this band's sleeve. Lars knows nothing but melody, and he plays some resolutely majestic parts here, whether it be on piano, organ or synth. The guy is simply impressive, and a is a capable backing vocalist as well, which the trained ear will hear on various parts of the disc. The drums and bass (both played by Mickelson), are a technical triumph, but they don't get techy for the sake of being techy. In fact, the disc really doesn't get "heavy" at all. But that might be the band's trump card; instead of balls-out savagery, they appear to prefer mood, feeling and atmosphere (there's that word again), which I quite like.

Moving on to the songs themselves: This is a compact little firecracker indeed, with an average track time of four minutes and change. The tunes, despite some speed-ups and random breakdowns, are deceptively accessible things, laden with hooks soaring guitars and an almost psychedelic feeling. Now, I wasn't born in the sixties, but if this is what the psychedelic boom sounded like, I'll book a trip to Woodstock faster than you can say "I saw Hendrix burn his Strat.". Despite being lumped in with the "black metal" scene (which they still have ties to, mind), they're not the average, run of the mill BM band. The lyrics deal with philosophical issues; Oystein manages to namedrop Copernicus in a song, which is a rare thing for anyone to do (irrespective of genre). So no; no typicality here at all.

In closing, I wish they had continued down this path. Both "Origin" and "Universal" are strong showings, but neither really gave me the mix of sensuous melody and spine-tingling atmosphere that "Epic" did, which is why I will always turn to this disc when I need a fix of the 'Bork. So my rating is 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

nahnite | 5/5 |

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