Borknagar - _Borknagar_
(Malicious Records, 1996)
by: Henry Akeley (7 out of 10)
This band includes some real black metal big shots: there's Ivar Bjornson of Enslaved; Infernus of Gorgoroth; Garm of Ulver and Arcturus, Oystein Brun of Molested, and someone named "Grim", whom I probably should be able to place, but can't. (Sorry, Grim) With the exception of two instrumental tracks by Bjornson, all of the music is written by Brun. It's a very impassioned, identifiably northern style featuring all the frenzy of Norse black metal, but none of the shallow fixation upon being "unholy." (These guys are into "the glorious past.") The guitar is high-pitched and expansive, very much like Bjornson's sound on _Frost_. Garm handles the vocals, generally sticking to his harshest tones, but occasionally singing clearly, and often employing his trademark "Ahhh, AHHHHHH, Ahhh" one-man choir technique. (Some people get all misty-eyed when he does this, I know - but it's turned into something of a cliche, I think, and it's over-used on this release. Ahhh, AHHHHHH, AAHHHHHHHHHH!!) There's some very speedy, precise drumming, too. The blazing rhythms, shrill guitars, and abrasive vocals often congeal into quite a powerful sound - propulsive and angry, yet dense and organic. The song structures are pretty standard, but there are some nice breaks and shifts in mood and rhythm to punctuate all the aggression. (Check out "Svartskogs Gilde" in particular.) Still, out of ten tracks on the CD, only five of them are proper songs. The remaining five are all instrumentals (not counting the occasional "AHHHHH, Ahhh, AHHHHHHHH"), some of which are enjoyable, some of which don't accomplish much. So: there's some quite solid material here, but not an entire album's worth, and definitely nothing that measures up to the quality of the various members' full-time bands. Not bad, though, for sure.

(article published 16/3/1997)

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