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Borknagar - The Archaic Course

1998 Century Media Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-01

Majestic, that would be the only way to describe Borknagar's third release. Built upon the experience of their first two albums, The Archaic Course is a whirlwind tour through the minds of some very talented individuals. Plagued by interminable line-up changes, founder ?ystein Brun has assembled yet another stellar cast of Scandinavia's finest to perform their particular brand of symphonic metal. "New" vocalist Simen comes over from Arcturus, which was also home to previous Borknagar throat Garm, who's now back in his main unit, Ulver. Yeah, it's a bit of a soap opera (I guess these guys are from the nomadic tribes...) but even if it's only for this release, the B'nagar crew reign supreme. Just rife with classical and orchestral overtones, The Archiac Course is a joy to hear. A relatively short album (really about 32 minutes of song), it's over pretty quick, but not before you're just floored by what's encoded on the disc. Built around a "standard" black metal riff base and steady double-bass, TAC is fleshed out by swirling keyboard layers (I hear a lot of old Yes in there) and Simen's incredible clean vocals. Able to express a wide range of feeling though his voicings, he really adds an emotional facet to the music, and to me is now an integral part of the band's sound. The requisite growls are still here, but are used only when appropriate. For an album such as this, that's definitely not every track. More accessible than a lot that's out there, bolstered by another excellent Woodhouse production job. The psychadelic influences are best heard on Winter Millennium, where the keyboards are so familiar, yet the overall sound is something original to me. Closes with an ambient "rain in the woods" track. The perfect background for a lazy Sunday? You be the judge. A success on all fronts, this is becoming a highly recognized album, and for good reason.

Borknagar - Quintessence

2000 Century Media Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-01

When a band names their latest album "Quintessence", you can be sure that they're pretty confident in their abilities, and after 1998's stunning Archaic Course, Borknagar no longer have anything to prove. To us, anyway, as the band has gone through yet another roster change, with a new keysmith and drummer in the ranks, with the latter maybe having some big shoes to fill after the stopgap entry of Nick Barker on tour. And this is where I digress on the percussive aspects of the record, noticing some intricacies upon the first few spins, but only really hearing them after discovering the out of control Spiral Architect CD. This guy is an amazing drummer, not in terms of fills per second, but in the simple fact that he plays exactly what is needed here. After hearing his previous work, I know what this guy is capable of, and the restraint used here saves the day for me, because this is just the foundation for that soon to be classic Borknagar sound. Brun has said that he sees these compositions in terms of colors, and while I may obstain from the magic mushrooms, I can see the idea behind this. Equating the colors with layers of sound, you can either mix everything in small doses to create something from the impressionist era, or pollute everything into a nice muddy brown design. Again, restraint appears to be a factor, for there is tons going on here, but all so appropriate, it's obvious that the goal was known and agreed upon before the first riffs were penned. Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed upon the first few listens, for there's so much to grasp, and some of the more grandious elements from The Archaic Course are absent. As time progressed though, this is rapidly becoming THE Borknagar release for me, the exchange of Woodhouse's pristine yet somewhat light production for that mammoth Abyssal sound increasinging the heaviness factor in the relevent places. Excellent performances from some of the more known names in the Scandanavian scene, this may indeed be the quintessential document for all parties concerned, and a very logical step onwards from the band's outstanding previous collected works.