Borknagar // Urd
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — Borky didn’t bork it this time.
Label: Century Media
Websites: |
Release Dates: EU: 2012.03.26 | US: 03.27.2012

Borknagar - Urd coverI have previously laid out the backbone of a grand theory of musical creation: Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™. According to this Law (SCIENCE!), the production of bands will inevitably decrease with time both in frequency and in quality. We have seen time and time again that this is the case, bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Iron Maiden have all shown epically how inconsistent they can be with time. But this has also happened with some of my favorite bands in the underground—Arcturus, Morbid Angel, Paradise Lost, Opeth—and the list goes on. And because that list does go on there’s no question: The Mighty Atheismo has evolved the universe in such a way that bands will inevitably produce shitty records in the long run. So it is with great joy to report to you that Borknagar have thrown off the shackles of Universal Laws and written their best record in a very long time—if not one of their best ever.

I can hear the gasp emanating from my adoring public already. “EVER!?” Yes. Ever. While the band is not producing the same music they were when Borknagar or The Olden Domain was released, Urd is the tour de force of progressive post-black metal music that we’ve all been waiting for since Quintessence. And in terms of consistency Urd is just as consistently good and fun to listen to as anything the band has ever produced. This is not to say that the records between then and now have been bad—because they haven’t—but there’s always room for  the gripes, complaints, whining and the “Everything was better before” that always follow bands into their old age (see: above Law). But what Borknagar did to offset this was to unite 3 of my favorite vocalists ever onto a single record and put a proverbial vocal cherry on top of some finely written … ice cream. Metal. That fucking analogy fell apart pretty quickly. In any case, the only way this could have been better was if Garm was also involved.

But for me the standout for the album is the mixture of Mr. V, ICS Vortex and Lazare into one of the most unique and finely tuned vocal instruments in the history of metal. Trading off, the vocal lines on tracks like “The Beauty of Dead Cities,” “Frostrite” and “The Winter Eclipse” show off the wide variety territory a band can cover when they have such talented vocalists. And given the fact that Urd features some of the band’s most straight forward tracks in their modern era, there is an energy to the band that I don’t think we’ve heard since Empiricism. And I think that’s an important feature of this record—the songwriting really has been shifted from the recent approach and, in my opinion, improved.

Borknagar 2012Using Universal as a point of comparison, Urd doesn’t suffer from the same kind of meandering writing. By that I mean that the songs seem to be less winding and more refined. The aforementioned “The Winter Eclipse” is the album’s big epic, and yet it never goes astray from its themes: it twists and turns—certainly—but never wanders aimlessly. On only one song—”In a Deeper World”—does it feel like the more aimless Borknagar rears its head, but then Simen’s vocals pull the listener back into the song for the chorus and all is well. Every other track on this album is a monument to what Borknagar has been and will become from the blasting opening and the amazing three part harmonies on “Epochalypse” (oo, punny!) to some of my favorite guitar solos the band has ever produced (specifically “Roots”) to the parts that just remind me of Quintessence or Empiricism and scream classic Borknagar like “Mount Regency” or “The Earthling.”

Frankly, cut off “In a Deeper World” and this would be a perfect album. The production is fantastic, the songwriting streamlined and the vocals turn me from an Angry Metal Guy into a Euphoric Borknagar Fanboy! The way the vocal parts are mixed in and balanced out between the vocalists gives this record an energy that doesn’t cause me to recall the classics, but makes me want to live in the moment. And that’s what an excellent album from a long time favorite should do. It’s nice to be able to write that review for once instead of the Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™ review. I’m getting pretty sick of that law.

  • Tim Larsen

    Great review!  I’ve been listening to Urd the last couple of weeks and loving it!

  • jon

    Another plus for this album is that they still use a real drummer, unlike Vintersorg which has used programmed drums for the last two albums.

    • Though arguably replaced enough that it’s hard to tell. ;)

  • Agree 100%, this is definitely their best since Empiricism, and as you said, maybe their best ever. Frostbite and The Winter Eclipse are definite standout tracks for me, but really the whole album is goddamn amazing. A must listen!

    • Yeah, I love this record a ton and it is the best since Empiricism by far. Everything came together perfectly.

  • Damn, lot of great albums this month. Wonder what the album of the month will be…

  • Colin Stuart

    So many good albums recently, I can’t keep up with all of them :(

  • suntamer81

    Härligt! Tur att jag beställt den för ett tag sedan då, jag vill så gärna att det skall vara en grym skiva. ;)

    • Yes! Särskilt när man tänker på vad det kostar att köpa en cd-skiva i detta land. :P

  • that really nice … epic

  • Whoever you are, if you like metal, any metal, get this album, it is fucking amazing! I don’t know how AMG didn’t give it 5/5!!!

  •  5/5 for me, the digipak comes with an excellent bonus track, ‘Age Of Creation’ as the last track.

  • I share in your adoration for this album as I was thoroughly taken by surprise by its quality. Just a damn fine metal album. This month has been a gem. 

  • Zadion

    Yeah, this is a really good album. The sound isn’t all that different from Universal at its core, though; it’s still got that thicker, more atmospheric sound that Universal brought in. The songwriting is just a lot better and more creative this time around. The diversity in vocals helps quite a bit, as well. Standout tracks for me are ‘The Earthling’ and “Frostrite’ at the moment.

    My one and only complaint with the album is Vintersorg’s vocals. He still has some of that high pitched nasal sound that he had in Universal. He’s among my favorite vocalists, but he’s really not using his voice to his full potential in these last two albums. I know it’s not that his voice is weakening, because he wow’d me with Jordpuls.

  • Gustavo Tenorio

    Take out “Into a Deeper World”? C’mon man that track is fantastic! This album deserves the 5 points rating.