Imposing and Inviting
Norway’s Borknagar have spent the last few albums separating themselves from their black-metal brethren, as well as from this supergroup’s roots. Composed of original members of Molested, Dimmu Borgir, and Enslaved, Borknagar’s longevity has exceeded any novelty, and as a result the band stand on their own. Urd, the band’s ninth release, combines speed, melody, and majesty in a way that is worth taking note.
Lead track “Epochalypse” begins with a typical blast-beat attack, but then the singing comes in, and the drums almost sound more incidental than substantial. If they were louder they would be a distraction, but as they are the pounding snare is a backdrop, comforting fans who were worried that Borknagar might try to slip in another Origin (the band’s 2006’s acoustic light-rock release). When the melodies kick in, they are reminiscent of Alice in Chains, giving Urd an accessible feel while retaining the black metal backdrop.
Not all the songs combine all of these elements. The compelling “The Beauty of Dead Cities” is almost radio-friendly, focused on the well-constructed hook in the chorus. Other tracks such as “Earthling” seem to drone on before they get to their point. And fear not, fans of screaming metal: there is plenty of competent demon-shrieking. Songs like “Mount Regency” and “The Winter Eclipse” combine the melody with the grunting and growling. There is decidedly more singing throughout, though, and depending on your preference that will affect your opinion of Urd. The whole album is painted with a nice coat of Gothic guitars and keyboards, though, and that pulls everything together nicely.