Borknagar - _Epic_
(Century Media, 2004)
by: Jackie Smit (
It would come as no surprise to me if Oystein G. Brun wasn't at least slightly miffed at the dismissive reception afforded his band following the departure of Simen Hestnaes in 2000. For however talented a frontman Hestnaes was, one could hardly argue that his successor, Vintersorg, did any less an impressive job on 2001's _Empiricism_, an album which on all counts served up some of the most challenging and atmospheric work in Borknagar's impressive discography -- yet not all that many people seemed to care. Strangely, given the band's penchant for experimentation, _Epic_ picks up exactly where its predecessor left off, despite the impression given off by the cleverly veiled reference to Emperor on album opener "Future Reminiscence". Initially the choice to play it safe does work well, and scattered across the early stages of the record are some truly memorable moments that are easily as strong as anything Borknagar have ever recorded. As the album progresses however, more and more filler starts to creep into songs and gradually proceedings begin advancing headlong into mediocrity. At the heart of this is a problem that is almost emphatic to Borknagar's signature style: much like they did on 1998's _The Archaic Course_, the band, in an attempt to come up with songs that are distinct and original, end up being almost too clever for their own good and as a result the material becomes soulless and dull. But, as we saw with the follow-up to said album, one can never count Borknagar down, and hopefully next time round we'll see a similar return to form.
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