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BORKNAGAR

Borknagar

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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matti_sillanm
3 stars ***: Good, but non-essential.

The first, self-titled, Borknagar album is different from the rest of their albums, because it isn't prog yet, it's black metal. It does have synths, but they're not as audible as on the other albums, just on the background really. So anyone who likes black metal, should like this album also, because it has high growls, mushy guitars and ultra-fast drumming. There are also a few shorter and more mellow tracks that feature acoustic guitar and more synths, such as "Ved steingard" and "Tanker mot tind", which give some hint about their later musical offerings. From the heavy tracks, album opener "Vintervredets sjelesagn" and "Svartskogs gilde" are the highlights. I like the vocalists' growls, the surprisingly versatile drumming seems to be in the right place and the guitar riffs are very nice, even some melodies are recognizable, although the production is very garage-like, not as clear as it should be. Also the synths on the background create some atmosphere and bring an extra sound within all the smashing and bashing to make the music more interesting.

A word about the musicians. Borknagar is like a "supergroup" of Norwegian black-metallists. On this album the players include for example drummer Grim (Immortal and Gorgoroth), vocalist Garm (Ulver) and bassist Infernus (Gorgoroth) along with the founder of the band, guitarist Øystein G. Brun (from Molested). That's the main reason why I was so surprised that the band decided to take the path of prog music on their future albums.

Were this a metal site, I would rate this album 4 stars, but since this is a prog site, and there's not much prog on this album, I can not do that. So because the 4 star rating says "Excellent addition to any PROG music collection" , I will rate it 3 stars instead. I like the album very much, but overall I like black/death metal, and I know a lot of progheads don't. But if you do, highly recommended!

Report this review (#41060)
Posted Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars My introduction to Borknagar was through their EPIC album which is a really great mix of death/ black metal and more folky seventies prog rock. A really nice album. This is Borknagar´s debut album and it´s a totally different entity.

The music on the album is melodic black metal which is somewhere between the really symphonic black metal bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth and the more primitive and raw black metal bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone. Borknagar has got a bit from both worlds but it´s very melodic and not really that hard on my ears. Well I guess it depends on the ears that hear. The vocals are very aggressive black metal rasps even though there are a few clean vocals. It´s very few though on this album. The tempo ranges from mid tempo to pretty fast blast beating even though there are no hyper blasts on the album. The emphazis is always on melody.

The musicians are pretty good even though this is not the kind of music where you should expect individual performances from the musicians. This is a team effort.

The sound quality is very good for the genre but at this time in black metal history some bands had found out that you can play black metal without sounding like you recorded your album with a 4-track tape recorder in the bathroom. I know many TRUE black metal fans will disagree but this is not their regular forum, so I´m sure I will not meet much resistance on this view.

This is a very good start for Borknagar even though I find the music a bit too trivial to enjoy all the way through. A couple of songs are more than enough for me and therefore I´ll rate this album 2 stars. Only for fans of the more melodic black metal.

Report this review (#163389)
Posted Friday, March 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars We all have to start somewhere.

Borknagar began as an epic Norwegian black metal band. Borknagar's sound was very epic compared to most bands from that scene. They can be compared to ENSLAVED and WINDIR. But MAYHEM, BURZUM or DARKTHRONE clones, they were not. The sound is pretty good. Take some downtuned guitars and add some sound-effects type of keyboards. That's when you ends up with the likes of BORKNAGAR. Garm, the vocalist of ULVER, does the vocals here. The vocals is the typical black metal screams.

The music is not bad. The most annoying part of this album is these pointless instrumental pieces with keyboards or accoustic guitars which littered the black/death metal scene back in those days. They are like advertising slots in a televised motorrace. Utterly annoying and pointless. Besides of this, the black metal here is not bad. But this album is only for the fans of BORKNAGAR or die-hard black metal fans. A fairly decent debut album, in other words. But it is not prog.

2 stars

Report this review (#218971)
Posted Saturday, May 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Black metal supergroup Borknagar evolved over time into a prog metal force to be reckoned with, but on this debut album they showed a much harsher and more primal form. All the participants were members of significant groups in the Norwegian black metal second wave, and the style of that scene is prominently displayed here, with ample folk influences offering a gentler counterpoint.

Though Øystein G. Brun is the unquestioned leader of the project as its founder and main songwriter, the style here makes the band feel like siblings to early Enslaved, whose Ivar Bjørnson plays keyboards here. The combination of progressive elements to the music, proggier albums to come in the future, and a shared fascination with Norse mythology means that Borknagar's debut is a worthy choice for any Enslaved fan, as well as any fan of folk-influenced black metal.

Report this review (#1728584)
Posted Wednesday, May 31, 2017 | Review Permalink
2 stars This debut album is perhaps the rawest of all by Borknagar. Together with the debut album by Enslaved, In the woods and Ulver,I call them the big four debut albums of progressive back metal. They are also pretty influental for people that are coming from the progressive corner and want to embrace more of extreme metal. The gents were young but showed potential by combining folk and Viking elements apart from normal black metal.

Each track has a melody and motive.

The first track is perhaps the rawest one with starting shrieking and blasting without any previous warning so be warned ;-). The second track is symphonic and a bit pompeous with keyboards and electronic drums.

Having strong chord sequences with slightly bleak mood is another strong weapon here. Although Borknagar do not yet show normal clean vocals other than harmonies, these sound promising.

This is a great album for any black or Viking metal but will not appeal to many proggers due to its brutality and lack of progressivity although it shows potential and ambitions.

Report this review (#2309955)
Posted Monday, January 27, 2020 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars BORKNAGAR started as a project once Norwegian guitarist Øystein Brun grew tired of the 90s world of death metal when he was in the band Molested. Having been surrounded by the explosive world of second wave black metal that was taking Norway by storm in the1990s, Brun desired to create a more progressive form of the style by mixing traditional second wave black metal sounds with the newly created Viking metal from Bathory along with Scandinavian folk music and progressive rock.

Brun's vision was so persuasive that he successfully recruited a cast of underground superstars which included Roger TIegs aka Infernus (bass) of Gorgoroth, Erik Brødreskift (drums) of Immortal and Gorgoroth, Ivar Bjørnson (keyboards) of Enslaved and Kristoffer Rygg aka Garm (vocals) who sang in Ulver, Head Control System and Arcturus. This dream cast was so impressive that the BORKNAGAR project was able to by-pass the demo process by scoring a record contract on Malicious Records solely based on the lineup and the newly formed band quickly recorded and released this self-titled debut in 1996.

Brun's desire to expand the boundaries of the second wave black metal that had launched the scene onto the world's stage came at the right time when the limitations of the traditional ways were presenting themselves however black metal has proven to be a very adaptive beast with early bands like BORKNAGAR showcasing its adaptability and resilience. Having been put off by the relentless brutality of his death metal involvement in Molested, Brun was more interested in integrating melodic expressions in conjunct with the ferociousness of black metal but also added the pagan folk infused aspects of Viking metal along with the more adventures themes of progressive rock.

BORKNAGAR's eponymous debut differs from the band's many albums that came after in a few ways. Firstly this was the only album to be performed exclusively in the Norwegian language and the only album to feature Infernus as the bassist. The album is also the closest to the second wave black metal with caustic second wave black metal alternating with non-metal segments which feature ominous piano rolls, acoustic guitars and dark ambient atmospheres. While the band would develop the folk and progressive aspects much further on the second album "The Olden Domain," on this debut they still make their presence with folk infused musical scales providing the melodic infrastructure as well as progressive time signature deviations and unconventional song structures taking unexpected turns.

While the black metal aspects are very much in the vein of Darkthrone, Immortal, Gorgoroth and other no nonsense black metal bands bent on burning down as many churches as humanly possible, the seasoned playing skills of the musicians allow the tracks to be quite difference in how the instrumental interplay unfolds. Bass lines, guitar riffs, drumming styles and keyboard runs exude a firm sense of creative control while offering a sense of fearless improvisation in variations. The balance between sheer brutality and the sensually melodic is achieved and sounding seemingly effortless. The contrast between the dissonance of the buzzsaw guitars and frenetic raspy screams with the beautiful melodies and pacifying atmospheres is uncanny. Even some clean vocals can be heard.

Overall BORKNAGAR's debut may not be representative of the band's classic sound that followed but showcased the true power of a supergroup and its potential. Some 25 years on after its initial release, nothing on this album may sound revolutionary but during its time it was a true innovator which pioneered the world of progressive black metal that would allow bands like Enslaved to take black metal into the 21st century. Even without such plaudits, BORKNAGAR's debut is a true powerhouse of inventive black metal that exploits brutality and sensuality in tandem to unthinkable resolution.

As far as i'm aware this may have been one of the first albums to demonstrate as well how comfortably frenzied second wave black metal with its angsty raspy screams could coexist with the more chilled clean vocal mood swings of Bathory styled Viking metal. Any way you slice it, this one is a satisfying amalgamation of the entire black metal menu of variations up to this point and one that more than stands the test of time sounding as creative a quarter of a century after its release as when it must have during its own time. As the least progressive of BORKNAGAR's canon, this is also the most easily accessible to newbie ears and the obvious entry point for any curious ears wanting to explore this unique band's eccentricities.

4.5 rounded down

Report this review (#2654128)
Posted Monday, December 20, 2021 | Review Permalink

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