Borknagar - _Urd_
(Century Media, 2012)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (8 out of 10)
Two strokes on a china cymbal. That's it. That's all Borknagar used to introduce their ninth full-length _Urd_. The sharp tone of the cymbal will hit you with a deceitful tempo that has no relation to that of the torrent of melodic riffs and blasts that follows next. The opening six minute long "Epochalypse" has most of the elements you'll be feasting upon for the entire fifty two minute duration of _Urd_. The melodic guitar trills and the supporting keyboards come together to elevate the clean vocals to soaring heights, and then seconds later, senseless blasting and shrieks turn the ambience over its head. _Urd_ is filled with these moments of versatility and fluid transitions.

"Roots" has some very sinusoidal and harmonious trilling which builds a pedestal for the guitar solo to shine on. The Nordic theme of "Frostrite" is augmented with some cool sounding pads, while the dramatic "The Beauty of Dead Cities" comes in with double tracked vocals, powerful keyboards and an intriguing concept. The intelligently placed "The Plains of Memories" is a mellow instrumental that dials things down just a little bit, only for "Mount Regency" to pick them up again. The flowing nature of this album puts it very firmly in the progressive sphere of metal, but the aforementioned viciousness doesn't end with the first two tracks at all. There are still some very black metal elements on _Urd_, like the vocals on "The Earthling" that captured the pure essence of evil for a few moments, or the amazing melodic trills on "The Winter Eclipse".

Borknagar's musical versatility and confidence will definitely have you enjoying _Urd_ just a little bit more with each listen. You'll get to know the tracks and get accustomed to the transitions without ever feeling that the album is growing stale. After the obvious vocal capabilities, the strength of the rhythm section and the grandiose production, more subtle nuances rise to the surface, like the multiple keyboard overlays employed throughout the album or the variety of cymbals used. It's quite a challenge to balance all these sounds from a production standpoint without bloating the album -- but not a challenge that Borknagar, with all these years of experience, aren't up to.

You probably know that we like our Borknagar here at CoC, and this kind of praise may not surprise you. But I'll have you know that _Urd_ was my first form of contact with Borknagar and it's one that leaves me a happy metallion with yet another awesome album to recommend to my friends (who will nod politely and wait for me to stop talking). This is a group of open-minded musicians that has successfully won over a new fan thanks to their skill and synchronicity, and not as a result of hype or trendiness. I urge you to give this record a try if you haven't done so yet, and you don't have to be primed with an affinity for raw black metal of the frosty Norwegian kind because there's none of that on _Urd_ -- not that there's anything wrong with it.


(article published 13/8/2012)

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