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



Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
3 stars Borknagar goes English.

The most obvious difference between this album and the debut is the lyrics, which are now in English. But there are many other differences as well. The band has matured and the songwriting has progressed greatly, as is evident by the wonderful track Om Hundrede Aar Er Alting Glemt, a tense and subtle piece that is a real highlight of the album, even if it is unlike the other tracks.

Garm, of Ulver, lends his help in the vocal department providing an array of quality vocals that help to make this record stand out from later releases by the band, as he is far superior in quality to later vocalists of the band. Of note is the variety he provides on the 2nd track The Winterway.

This record is more in the vein of Black Metal than later albums. But to dismiss it would be foolish, as it stands out as quite a diverse and interesting album that has more to it than tremolo riffs and scathing vocals. Underneath is a band with enormous talent and ability, one no one should discard because of a mere label.

Report this review (#118332)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my favourite Borknagar album so far. Therefore I give it 4 stars, because I think, every prog connoisseur should a listen at it. But I have to point out that this is prog metal, i.e. it derived from black metal, so it may sound to harsh for the fans of more gentle prog. As a progressing out of black metal, the band kept stylistic trademarks as the lyrical themes of nature, winter and pagan belief - since their from Norway like many black metal bands in that time.

Instrumentally they use tempo shifts from time to time, accelerating the pace to what can be called blast beat as a musical term used in metal. They use atmospheric keyboards and in the same way guitar riffs which makes their sound very dense at times, and additionally they use of course fast metal riffs and bm-style tremolo picking. The vocals range from harsh bm-style growling to clean vocals. Most of all I would consider this album as prog, because the songs have a developing structure, which is what I closely connect to prog music. The album contains two calm instrumentals: Om Hundrede aar er Alting Glemt and Ascension of Our Fathers, the other songs have vocals. Best songs in my opinion are The Winterway and the two titles To Mount and Rove and Grimland Domain which are merged together as really one song.

Report this review (#177275)
Posted Saturday, July 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The Olden Domain is the second album from Norwegian melodic black metal band Borknager. Besides band leader and main composer Øystein G. Brun on guitars the band also have other very prolific Norwegian black metal musicians in the lineup. Garm from Ulver takes care of the vocals which includes his beautiful clean ones and his black metal rasp while Ivar Bjørnson from Enslaved plays synth.

The music on The Olden Domain is melodic black metal. Even though synth is a part of Borknagar´s sound I wouldn´t characterize their music as symphonic. At least not in the same way as bands like Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth. The music is rather primitive but not primitive like Mayhem or Darkthrone. Borknagar sits firmly between the raw primitive type black metal and the more symphonic approach to the genre on The Olden Domain.

The musicianship seems a bit sloppy in my ears and I especially have a distaste for the drumming from Grim ( I just love that name. It translates into the word ugly in my native Danish language. As the Danish and Norwegian languages are related it´s probably the same in Norwegian. Talk about having a stupid artist name) which I find annoying and flawed. But the rest of the performances are not that convincing either except for Garm who delivers his usual professional performance. Too bad the vocal lines are really awkward and not very memorable.

The production is a mix of lo-fi and studio production. Lets just say that I don´t like it. It annoys me.

This is one of those albums I had a really hard time getting through and in this case I listened to the album several times to make this review. Thankfully Borknagar has aged like good wine because the early efforts from the band are not worth my time. I like my black metal every other way than this hybrid style that doesn´t know if it wants to be primitive or symphonic. It´s not a complete waste of time but The Olden Domain is not worth more than 2 stars in my book. This one is clearly only for the hardcore fans of the band. Don´t give up on Borknagar because you read this though as they have made good music later in their career. Let me recommend that you start with their album from 2004 called Epic instead. A high quality album IMO.

Report this review (#180438)
Posted Thursday, August 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Borknagar's The Olden Domain sees them crafting an unusual variety of progressive black metal. The primary experiment here seems to be to inject more conventional metal sounds (both in terms of playing and singing) into a black metal format and context, but the real trick is in managing to do that in a way which results in something which seems to be distinct from both metal traditions, rather than simply sounding like watered-down and weak black metal. With Garm's vocals in the picture the album sounds a lot like a foundational document along the way to Arcturus' glorious The Sham Mirrors. On the whole, a fascinating little album.
Report this review (#753446)
Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars With their sophomore effort,we have clean vocals, too and they sound really good. Black metal shrieking and drumming blasts are still employed amptly. In comparison to their first album, you can say that the lads grew in terms of compositions and more developed sound supressing a certain naiveness with their debut album.

"The winterway" is a nod to winter, a great epic track with instrumental sections, cold wild spirit and interesting mellow acoustic-guitar/piano contributed arrangements.

"Om hundrede of pagan tongue" is a soft piece with great keyboards proving how gifted and unconventional from black metal the songwriters were. It is a slow reflective piece of music and ends up quicker than I would like.

When listening to "A tale of the pagan tongue", you have a more Viking feeling and I can also depict a melting ice in the northern nature. Listening to great drumming with tasty changes by Grim.

"To mount and rove" features arguably the most furious moments on the album, blast after a blast and even death- metal patterns. "Grimland domain" has the most extensive keyboard in the foreground, there is no solo but rather keyboard layers in the foreground. Also, until now a rare harmony vocals by the main singer and I suppose the keyboard player can be heard.

"Ascensions to our fathers" is an instrumental piece closer to Pink Floyd than black metal. Love the guitar subtle melody. One might also mislead this song to be a non-technical Opeth piece. It would have been a nice album closer.

Report this review (#2309956)
Posted Monday, January 27, 2020 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#2598780)
Posted Sunday, October 3, 2021 | Review Permalink

BORKNAGAR The Olden Domain ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of BORKNAGAR The Olden Domain

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


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

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

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

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