Friday, March 30, 2012
Borknagar - Urd 
“Urd” being my first encounter with the black/folk act Borknagar, I approached this album with mild trepidation and reluctant curiosity. I’m not one to praise black/folk metal, as I find it some of the cheesiest, least interesting type of metal there is; however, it goes around--usually--receiving good reviews and considerable admiration among metal circles. Perhaps this is because some think that if you can successfully fuse two completely separate genres into one, you’re incredibly talented and musically erudite; or perhaps they’ve simply gotten sick of the overly mimicked black metal sound and enjoy the certain amount of originality that if offers; whatever. Either way, it’s arguably revered quite heavily and Borknagar are sure to fall under that same radar. The band is currently comprised of six members, and this is their ninth studio album to date, having been formed in 1995 and since then been releasing only full-lengths sans one compilation album.
Borknagar do deserve praise in the sense that they know how to write interesting song structures. This is immediately clear after the first song, “Age of Creation,” rolls into view. With six members available to constantly contribute more ideas and suggestions for their songs, this is hardly surprising, but it’s something that Borknagar excel at. They seamlessly ebb and flow smoothly through different segments in their songs and keep the interest level in fairly respectable ground. Catchy pop melodies are quite common, especially in the choruses, and these are seen alongside occasional use of tremolo passages and some faster segments. Once these faster parts come along, the drummer injects fast double bass work that tumbles with the guitars. All of the instruments play a role in the album and a voluminous aesthetic is one of Borknagar’s main concerns, introducing lots of keyboards and other rather superfluous instruments quite often. The guitars are usually kept at a relatively slow pace (that's not to say always), strumming along lazily to predictable note progressions and melodic chords. Occasionally, as heard in the first song, an acoustic guitar will come into the table and soothe the listener into a calm, serene state that screams of what I’ll now call “pop” metal. None of this is any less than you should expect from a folk/black metal album, though, as these aspects are actually quite common in the genre.
A tendency to make more use of clean vocals than their raspy counterpart is unfortunately one of their music’s worst detriments. I’m not one to criticize a band for their vocals, but Borknagar’s long and drawn-out use of these gets honestly quite annoying after about the second song or so. They are, however, good at adding variation into their music and any listener who picks this up will not suffer from any sort of immense repetition and monotony. Unfortunately, there is just something about their music that doesn’t click with me, and I emerged well over the point of being underwhelmed; in fact, I did not like this album at all. I'm close to hating it, and halfway through the listening process, I felt tempted to toss it into the shredder. That being said, it should be mentioned that any fan of black/folk metal will absolutely love this, and I credit the band for not relying on only one style throughout the whole album. Oh, and on a side note, I absolutely hate that they decided to cover a terrible song from a band that I respect not in the slightest; yes, Metallica. I am shaking my head in utter disdain as I write these very words.