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Borknagar - Origin CD (album) cover

ORIGIN

Borknagar

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.49 | 33 ratings

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Trickster F.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Borknagar's most unique work to date.

Origin is the Norwegian Prog-Metal collective's seventh album and easily the most unexpected turn the group has taken so far. Following the quite unoriginal and ordinary, yet highly acclaimed Epic, the latest Borknagar's work is an ambitious acoustic album that is done outside of the borders the group had previously created for themselves. Needless to say, the new creation is likely to attract the listener that would have never got into their music if they hadn't made a change as drastic as this.

When it was first announced that Borknagar would release an acoustic album, many fans expected something similar to Ulver's Kveldssanger and did not anticipate an album that would sound the way it has actually turned out. In fact, the similarities between the two records are few. Kveldssanger is more minimalistic, implements a different instrumentation and explored different musical areas and moods. The only real resemblance is that there is an extensive abundance of flutes, strings and acoustic guitars instead of the electrics; as well as a completely absence of anything extreme and heavy both groups are known for (Borknagar especially).

In addition to the deficiency of the messy metal parts, the music is not exactly pure traditonal Norwegian folk, which has been a vital inspiration for the musicians ever since they began in their original line-up. Origin comes with an influence from classical and early progressive music, quite possibly even what we call Prog Folk / Ethnic Prog on this website. Once again, if we go back to the unreasonable Ulver comparison, the music here features an obvious ProgRock twist with Lazare's rich vintage keyboards sound, and a surprisingly dynamic rhythm section with drums and bass making an excellent contribution to the sound. In the end, Origin finds itself in a field closer to the likes of Jethro Tull and Comus rather than the artists known as "metal groups that went folk". Nevertheless, Borknagar's music here is as original as the group has even managed to produce, and is written under an incredible inspiration as it seems.

The extraordinary instrumentations, utilising flutes, violin and cello proves to be more lush than the usual way the group tends to express themselves, and that can be felt in the gorgeous music. Vintersorg's vocals are as excellent as they've always been - he has come up with challenging vocal patterns that both showcase his outstanding range and manage not to sound out of place. He performs in harmony with himself and the group, sometimes often achieving a choir-like effect and does it all creatively.

The album is relatively short, clocking at just over thirty five minutes, and its length is very well appropriate when taken in its context(from my point of view, Borknagar's listenability suffered on this album's predecessor, one of the reasons for that being the record's length). There are nine songs in total, ranging from just longer than a minute to more than six minutes long. Reiteration is highly distinctive in the case of the songs, as certain themes are played more than once throughout one track - never coming across as catchy or mainstream, but emphasizing their memorability. Nevertheless, I assure you that the album will not seem tedious, as there is not only excellent music to be found here, but in addition, excellent emotion (insincerity has always been a trait I found in Borknagar's earlier music... However, I find none of that here)and impressive intensity.

The composition gets quite intense in certain tracks and even, dare I say it, "rocking", as much as you can expect acoustic music to rock out. A perfect example for that is the energetic Human Nature with Vintersorg's top-notch vocal performance and the strings and flutes used in an unusual way. There is even a remake of the song Oceans Rise, originally released on The Archaic Course. The track, formerly an excellent Extreme Prog Metal creation, has been totally re-constructed, so much that only the fans of the group will recognise the song - it has been organised in a way that both keeps the initial mood and also flows with the other Origin neigbouring tracks. The original version was completely ruined for me by a friend, who I borrowed the CD from and who informed me about "Garm being replaced by Kermit The Frog"(would that make Garm The Cookie Monster?). I wouldn't have had the idea myself, but every time the previous singer Simen switched to the clean vocals I imagined the little Muppet Show character and could not take the music seriously, but let's not ruin this serious review!

The group's take on Progressive Folk has proved successfully, not only reaching as far as a Progressive Metal group is able to without losing coherence, yet still remaining faithful to the feeling and sound Borknagar is associated with. In that way, you can draw comparisons to Opeth's Damnation, Ulver's Kveldssanger, Empyrium's Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays and the recent Green Carnation's output Acoustic Verses - the comparison being the concept of a collective changing their sound dramatically and in the same time remaining true and honest to themselves, rather than a specific sound. What I still failed to mention is that the Progressive Metal, while being absent in any shape throughout the album, can be "felt" as the musicians' past experiences tend to show themselves maybe not in a straight-forward, but after a few thorough, careful listens surely. In that perspective, the album contains something worthy of interest even towards the Progressive Metal fans(a label which this output simply has nothing to do with musically). Fortunately, dilettanteism" is not a word you can even use for the album, as Borknagar know how to write music under the aforementioned influences in order to create unique, sophisticated Prog Folk with real classical harmonies rather than just a vintage keyboard sound.

Who do I recommend this release to, aside from Borknagar fans, obviously? Anyone into the classic early 70's Progressive Rock legends, Prog Folk and basically anyone still being in time with all the latest releases. Origin is undoubtedly one of the most unique and original releases you can find this year.

Highly recommended!

Trickster F. | 4/5 |

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