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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.