From the frozen lands of Norway comes another masterpiece of a band. Borknagar, made famous by the bassist ICS Vortex after his untimely leave from the infamous Dimmu Borgir, is a progressive metal band with elements in black, folk, and death metal. Sounds interesting? Well it definitely it. As we have seen in the fame of Dimmu Borgir, the success has largely been a result of contrast, namely Shagrath competing vocally with ICS Vortex. The melodic, eerie, and often ominous tones of ICS has become a staple to the melodic black metal industry, being replicated all over. Now let’s explore what Urd has to offer.
Genre: Black Metal
Label: Century Media
Release Date: March 26, 2012
Now Borknagar differs quite a bit from Dimmu, it is quite a bit slowed down, but still quite as harsh due to the vocals and musicianship. This is not one of those bands where the brutality is delivered on a gore covered platter-you must sit back, grab a beverage and bask in the glory of this masterpiece. The stand out track at first listen is “Roots” which is a powerful song with dueling vocals throughout between ICS Vortex and frontman Vintersong. Undoubtly the hook is alluring and the musicianship are picture perfect. It paints a perfect picture of duality, the main theme of this album musically, with your emotions being torn between anger, sorrow, and a myriad of unfathomable emotions which focuses on the Roots of all life, the beginning of the world in its most pure form.
From then on, we delve into the other offerings this piece has to offer. There is the slower “The Beauty of Dead Cities” which utilized clean vocals throughout creating an eerie tone. Other then that track, we find ourselves a midst the rest of the album, which is remarkable for its ability to offer quaint rhythm, quick and technical musicianship, and craft a story from a musical and lyrical standpoint. Seldom do you feel song pulling at your emotions then “The Winter Eclipse” which starts out in a decent trot, but blows you away with the harsh vocals, then switches to the clean vocals to transition you, and so on and so forth. This track is one of ICS’s finest works, showing his true vocal range in a context that I have yet to hear in his work as of late.
This album is truly a masterpiece in the greatest sense, it evokes emotion, it captivates you, it pulls you into its grasps leaving you breathless. The main benefit to this album is the musical chiaroscuro, which leaves me to the only negative aspect of the work. The slower songs, such as the instrumental track, The Plains of Memories, don’t quite evoke the sense of power of duality and for that reason it can viewed as a refreshment between the other works, but also lulling to those who come to expect a purely harsh metal experience. Personally I find them a welcome change from the pace and keep the flow of the album trudging forward.
Thematically this album is beautiful, it us about us all. It is about Urd, the past, the existence of the human being as carved out from the shadow of Yggdrasil. One can even make ties with the dueling vocals to our lives daily, the highs and the lows: the anger, the epiphany, the life, love, and death we all experience.
Between the sinister swooning of ICS Vortex, and the inhuman growls of Vintersong, Urd does what is intended of all metal music. It leaves you thinking. It combines comfort with angst, power and transcendence. It fills your mind with powerful thoughts, and leaves you exhausted from the journey. Not since I can remember, have I experienced an album with as much of a story and perfect transitions as they have managed to intertwine within the confines of a five minute average song.