I’ve been a fan of Borknagar for a number of years. I first heard them back in 1997 when I picked up their second album, “The Olden Domain”, which featured Garm (Ulver) on vocals. There have been various personnel changes over the years, including the addition, departure and re-addition of ICS Vortex on vocals and bass. Andreas Hedlund, aka Vintersorg, has been providing the vocals since 2000. One thing I’m not real clear on, since both guys are now in the band, I assume they are sharing lead vocals. Whatever the arrangement, Borknagar are back and in excellent form with their ninth album, “Urd.”
Originally a black metal band, Borknagar has evolved into something which is less black and more progressive; like the last few Enslaved albums, the music has an atmospheric Pink Floyd element. Harsh vocals are still a part of Borknagar, but clean vocals are much more prevalent.
The progressive element is part of what I think makes Borknagar such a great band. They have the freedom to go in whatever direction they want musically. They can be as heavy or mellow, harsh or clean as they want, and it all fits within the scope of their “sound.” I do not know that there are many bands from “back in the day” that have this type of sound. If Emperor was still around, they might play a similar style. Dimmu Borgir is in a decidedly different place. As I mentioned earlier, Enslaved sort of does, but they have more harsh vocals than clean.
The limited edition version of “Urd” has two bonus tracks, one of which is a cover of Metallica’s “My Friend of Misery.” I recall seeing the track name and wondering if it was a cover, but when it came time to give it a listen, I forgot about the track, and was surprised and pleased when they started playing it. I love the original version, but Borknagar does a terrific job with it too.
“Urd” is another impressive addition to the Borknagar legacy. Do yourself a favor and check it out.