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Borknagar | Epic | review | metal | Lollipop
Epic (Century Media)
by Eric Chon
Borknagar have always been at the forefront of progressive black metal. Their music retains the intensity of straight-up black metal bands like Mayhem and Immortal, but pushes its boundaries, adding strong elements of classical romanticism and folk music. Complement this combination with lyrical content bordering on the metaphysical and you've got a chaotic mish-mash of influences and sounds. Despite these disparate ingredients, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Epic is no exception to this rule, rather it is the epitome of it. Each album has been more tumultuous than the last, and Epic stirs its elements into a whirlwind of melody and cacophony. Vintersorg really seems to fit in perfectly on this album, adding another dimension to their sound and bringing out the clean vocals like there's no tomorrow. Øystein's weaving guitarwork and the masterful rhythms of Tyr and Mickleson ebb and flow like oceanic tides - sometimes peaceful and hypnotic, other times crashing and violent. Lars Nedland's haunting keyboards fill the sound, creating a dense atmosphere that's hard to pick apart.
Epic lives up to its name. It's grander than any album Borknagar has done. But it's dangerous to reach so high no matter who you are. There's no question that Øystein was ambitious when setting out on this record, and there's no doubt that Borknagar have more than enough ability, but Epic falls short of becoming a classic. Their attempt at greater chaos within the music hurts the overall cohesiveness of the album, giving you sudden left turns that jar you a little too hard.
Minor complaints aside, Epic is an excellent piece of post-black metal musicianship. It's never easy to listen to and will often confuse and confound. But stick it out and you'll ultimately be rewarded with one of Borknagar's most unusual and individual releases.