In the early days Borknagar was just like many of your typical Norwegian black metal bands. Over the years they developed their own distinctive brand of progressive and innovative metal, releasing quality albums like The Archaic Course, Empericism and Epic. Now Øystein G. Brun and his partners in musical crime are back for more with their new record, called Universal.
The musical complexity of Epic was a big issue amongst the Borknagar fan base, so the band announced the new album would return to their primitive metal roots of old. Gladly they did not. Yes, Universal is somewhat less complex than its predecessor, however it still has enough musical layers to offer to keep even the most demanding progheads off the streets for quite a while. Compositions like Reason, The Stir Of Seasons, For A Thousand Years To Come and Fleshflower are great examples of that. The new album has quite an aggressive edge though, especially in tracks like Havoc and Worldwide. I really like this new found energy. A lot of credit goes to the manic drumming of David Kinkaid (Arsis, Malevolent Creation).
Other attractions on Universal are the great vocal performance by Andreas Hedlund and the wonderful layers of keyboard parts done by Lars Nedland. They really add a lot of atmosphere and texture to the album. There is one big nod to the Borknagar past though, and that is My Domain with ICS Vortex on guest vocals. Production wise Universal sounds just perfect, thanks to the capable hands of Borge Finstad and the band themselves.
Aggressive, fresh, progressive and still quite complex, Borknagar have arguably delivered their finest effort to date. Universal simply has everything to offer to satisfy even the most critical listener. Recommended!
written by Raymond Westland