BORKNAGAR — Urd (review)

BORKNAGAR — Urd album cover Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
adg211288
Urd is the ninth full-length studio album from Norwegian progressive black metal act Borknagar. As with most albums by the band it features a different line-up from their previous one, this time seeing the departure of Jan Erik Tiwaz (aka Tyr) for the second time, and the return of ICS Vortex (Simen Hestnæs) on both vocals and bass, after having a guest vocal slot on prior album Universal’s closing track My Domain, giving Borknagar a line-up that features multiple singers, as Vintersorg, the man who replaced Vortex as the band’s lead vocalist back in 2000, remains with the band. Lars A. Nedland (keyboards) also performs some vocals.

As far as I’m concerned Borknagar was one of those bands that started strong but eventually started to get stale, with each album released being slightly inferior to the previous. Being familiar with their entire back catalogue I think they delivered great albums from the debut up to 2001’s Empiricism but the album’s they’ve released since then, while not bad albums have never really been able to grab me in the same way. To be honest I think the band peaked way back in 1997 with The Olden Domain, where they were still much more of a black metal band than a progressive metal band.

Enter 2012 and the release of Urd. This is where, against all expectations, things change for Borknagar. Unlike the band’s last few albums, which included the acoustic effort Origin, the first listen to Urd doesn’t leave a picture of me sitting there half bored because I’ve heard it all before from Borknagar and done better. Instead the album catches my attention immediately. It’s not as if the return of Vortex has changed their sound (although together he and Vintersorg work wonders as a vocal team) but the direction of the album instantly sounds more likeable than any of their post-Empiricism output. The material is the strongest output in a long time. It goes beyond Empiricism and actually comfortably sits beside The Olden Domain. The two album’s are much different in style, The Olden Domain is very much driven by black metal whereas Urd is almost full-out progressive metal, possibly even Borknagar’s most progressive album yet, but now there is finally a Borknagar album that highlights their prog side at their best. Honestly if you could only have one Borknagar album it would still be The Olden Domain, but if you could have two the other one should be Urd.

Urd is one of the best examples of not only returning to form but also delivering one of the best album’s a band has ever made. Like Brave New World did for Iron Maiden Urd has done for Borknagar, and hopefully this is a start in a strong new chapter in their story.

8.9/10

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))
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