2012-06-30

Review: Vintersorg - Orkan


Band: Vintersorg
Album: "Orkan"
Style: Folk/progressive metal
Release date: 2012-06-27
Origin: Sweden

Tracklist:
1. Istid
2. Ur Stjärnstoft Är Vi Komna
3. Polarnatten
4. Myren
5. Orkan
6. Havets Nåd
7. Norrskenssyner
8. Urvädersfången


For those who know me, it is no big secret that I am a huge fan of mr. Andreas "Vintersorg" Hedlund and most of his bands. Apart from his main band Vintersorg, the only band that has ever given me such emotional feelings is Otyg - and what do you know - he's the man in charge there as well. In the late 90's and early 00's - Vintersorg released a trio of albums that hasn't been challenged since. Last years "Jordpuls" was a major improvement over those albums that came closely behind that one - even though they weren't bad at all. But with "Jordpuls", it felt that Andreas and his guitar-partner in crime, Mattias Marklund had once again fallen in love with those elements that started the V-universe all those years ago. And what do you know, with the announcement that new album "Orkan" (Hurricane) is the second album in a quartet of the four elements and the even bigger announcement that Otyg was brought back from the dead, it seems as though my suspicions were correct.

The album opens with the incredible "Istid" which immediately starts with an unmistakable Vintersorg-verse, albeit with a little bit more keyboards than we've been used to lately. And one cannot help but smile when one hears how smoothly the song bounces from a grim black metal outburst into a pop-chorus. Extremely effective! We're also given a great interlude with what sounds like orchestrated flutes in combination with soothing keyboards. This is one hell of an opener of an album and equally as good as last years opener "Världsalltets Fanfar" was.

After this somewhat classic-sounding Vintersorg track, we're greeted with a more experimental and prog-like midtempo song called "Ur Stjärnstoft Är Vi Komna". This is the kind of style that the band first explored on "Visions From The Spiral Generator" (2002) and later on "The Focusing Blur" (2004). I have no problem whatsoever with this sort of music, but when I think of Vintersorg - I am primarily thinking of the first MCD and three full-lengths. Also, if I were to compare this to the more proggish track from last year - "Stjärndyrkan" - this one is vastly superior. As I stated, not bad at all, but I know there will be stronger songs further into the album...

And what do you know!? The third track "Polarnatten" became an instant favorite due to it's amazing keyboards, fantastic verses - which includes both grim and clean vocals - intense guitars and then that son-of-a-bitch-chorus which gets stuck to your head like glue. It's easy to compare this song to last years' "Klippor och Skär" due to some similarities in both the chorus and the keyboards, but in comparison, the band managed to make the entire track on monster of a song.

The fourth song "Myren" begins with a wonderful soundscape that really sets a dark and sinister mood right away. You instantly know that this will be great and once the guitars start I felt a shiver all across my body the first time I heard it. The chorus is groovy as fuck and really gets my feet going. While this also is comparable to some elements from "Jordpuls" - there are also lots of vibes from "Ödemarkens Son" (1999), especially the little speech Mr Vintersorg gives halfway into the song. First time I heard it, I just smiled and thought of the last lines from "Månskensmän" from said album.

Mattias & Mr. V
Next up is the titletrack which gives an instant nod to the band's classic hit-song "Till Fjälls" from the album with the same name (1998) with a great piano intro. Catchiness is all over the place on this one and even though the chorus almost goes ABBA on us - it's unmistakably Vintersorg in all it's glory.

The sixth track "Havets Nåd" is a little bit too much prog for my taste, but the symphonic elements in combination with a few black metal outbursts still give me lots of pleasure. Some of the guitar work between the verses and the chorus brings back memories from the bands back catalouge, but I can't really put my finger on exactly what and where. But that alone pleases me a lot and this song really grows on me after a while.

I remember how happy I was some while back when I heard that the band once more had invited Cia Hedmark (Otyg) to do some guest vocals for the first time since "Ödemarkens Son", because I've really missed her beautiful voice in Vintersorg. The song "Norrskenssyner" is an obvious nod to the classic "Norrskensdrömmar" from the bands first offering - the MCD "Hedniskhjärtad" (1998).
The song is built up quite like it's predecessor, without any real chorus - just soothing verses which are abruptly interrupted by small black metal-outbursts. Effective as hell! The dueling-song between Andreas and Cia is a joy for the ears and it almost feels a bit spooky in a way.

The last song is called "Urvädersfången" and due to it's soothing atmosphere and acoustic guitars, I was sure that this was another Vintersorg-ballad, just like the band has done on every album since "Cosmic Genesis" (2000). But it's actually not a ballad at all, the drumming and keyboards adds more aggression to the song and then there's suddenly electric guitars and grim vocals all over the place, until that abruptly stops and it's all quiet and slow again. Impressive change of dynamics in the song. My only complaint is that the song is a tad too long for it's own good, but that is just a minor complaint.

All in all, it seems like Mr. Vintersorg took the best parts from it's predecessor "Jordpuls" and some works from the past - including some nods to the incredible "Ödemarkens son" - mixed it with some new symphonic elements and churned out the best goddamned songs he had up his sleeve. An interesting thing that I've noticed is that this is the first Vintersorg-album ever (and correct me if I'm wrong) that has grim vocals on each and every song on the album. This makes the entire album have a quite sinister and cold atmosphere which fits the overall "concept" like a glove.
"Orkan" is of course a strong contestant for the best record of the year and I'll be damn surprised if that's not the case. I haven't heard the band sound this fresh and vital in a long time and even though I've always loved every single one of their albums - this is actually the first time that I feel a new album is up par with the first two classic albums.

RATING:
9.0/10


2012-06-27

Review: Moonspell - Alpha Noir/Omega White


Band: Moonspell
Album: "Alpha Noir/Omega White"
Style: Gothic Metal
Release date: 2012-04-27
Origin: Portugal


Tracklist "Alpha Noir":
1. Axis Mundi
2. Lickanthrope
3. Versus
4. Alpha Noir
5. Em Nome Do Medo
6. Opera Carne
7. Love is Blasphemy
8. Grandstand
9. Sine Missione

Tracklist "Omega White":
1. Whiteomega
2. White Skies
3. Fireseason
4. New Tears Eve
5. Herodisiac
6. Incantatrix
7. Sacrificial
8. A Greater Darkness

Ah, Moonspell. I cannot recall how many times I've listened to your incredible debutalbum "Wolfheart" or how dissapointed I was when you released "The Butterfly Effect" in 1999. Still, I've bought all your records (I actually have two copies of both "Wolfheart" and it's follow-up "Irreligious"), singles and DVD's and I still class you as one of the best gothic metal bands in all time. But as I said, they have betrayed me before - and not just one time either - but I've always been able to forgive them and find at least some redeeming quality on all of their records. From the initial disappointment that "The Butterfly Effect" was - I found soothing in "Can't Bee", "Soulitary Vice" and "Disappear Here". The follow-ups "Darkness and Hope" and "The Antidote" were even more tedious, but they were saved by songs such as "Nocturna", "Devilred", "In and Above Men" and "From Lowering Skies". Then in 2006 came "Memorial" as a nod to the past and a way more aggressive approach. This I really enjoyed. Their last record - 2008's "Night Eternal" - felt more shaky and not so thought-through all the time.

Which brings us to 2012 and the double effort of "Alpha Noir" (more aggressive and harsh vocals) and "Omega White" (more keyboards, softer songs and clean vocals). To begin with, I think that this is a really weird move, since Moonspell always have been about the dynamics between the soft and the aggressive and between black metal screams and deep, dark clean vocals. It makes no sense to divide all this onto two records and knowing that before I immersed myself in these two records, I was very, very scared - to say the least - that this would be something of a suck-fest.

With "Axis Mundi", it all starts very traditional when it comes to Moonspell. It's midtempo, semi-aggressive and a very small amount of clean vocals. But the song does not stick out in any way and this was exactly what I was afraid of. Next up is the song they made a ridiculous video to - "Lickanthrope". The inital wolf howls sent a chill down my spine as I remembered classics such as "Wolves From the Fog" and "Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)". But soon it all keeps crumbling down into a boring pseudo-aggressive goth metal song with no clear aim or direction.
Come on you darn Portuguese! We've heard this so many times before!

"Alpha Noir" continues on this path. Boring mid-tempo with very little dynamics and keyboards. "Versus" and the title track are both downright embarrassing attempts of a pop song with harsh vocals. The Portuguese "Em Nome Do Medo" is a nod in the right direction and reminds a bit about some of their later (honest) works. The incredibly embarrassingly titled "Love is Blasphemy" is also a faint light in an otherwise pitch-black cavern of mediocre goth metal songs.
Remember when the band managed to write such great, atmospheric and dynamic songs such as "Love Crimes", "Vampiria", "An Erotic Alchemy", "Ruin and Misery", "Mephisto", "Vulture Culture" and "Let the Children Cum to me..."? Why wont they do that anymore?

Ricardo, Miguel, Fernando, Aires & Pedro
On to the second disc "Omega White" then. I was hoping that the band would have taken the path along some of the softer songs from "Sin/Pecado" such as "handmadeGod", "Mute" and "Eurotica". I get this to some point, but not as much as I would have wanted. For instance, the opening song "Whiteomega" sounds exactly like "Scorpion Flower" from "Night Eternal" - only with another layer of vocalist Fernando's voice instead of Anneke Van Giersbergen's (of The Gathering-fame). Oh, how I hate this particular style of singing that Fernando has adopted during the last years. Stick to what you were doing in 1998 please!

"White Skies" has a bit faster tempo to it and it's actually a relief after the disappointing first track. The female vocals that pops up here and there adds an extra touch of atmosphere and is easily the best track so far (counting both records).

Third song "Fireseason" gives us more of Fernando's "new" vocal style and although the music itself sometimes is quite mediocre - the vocals fits the song quite good. And although it is another dissappointment the first time your hear it - it actually grows quite a lot over time. Next up is a dedication to the deceased Peter Steele from Type O Negative and it sounds exactly like them. Since I've never been a big fan of said band, I don't care particular much for "New Tears Eve" (enough corny song titles already!).

On the record goes with semi-boring goth metal songs which are slow in tempo and not an ounce of aggression. But then comes the last song "A Greater Darkness" with it's incredibly beautiful violins, subtle piano and Fernando's classic broken English pronunciation. It also has a catchy chorus which only makes me sad that the rest of the record didn't sound like this.

All in all, I stand by the fact that it was extremely idiotic to make two records which sound so different when it comes to aggression, keyboards and vocals. And as I mentioned earlier, they lost so much dynamics and atmosphere with this move. If they had deleted half of these 17 songs and focused more on dynamics on the ones that remained - they would have ended up with a much more satisfying result. I can understand that the band wanted to try a new move after 8 full-length records and 19 years into their career and some of their earlier experiments have been interesting. And although "Em Nome Do Medo", "Love is Blasphemy", "White Skies", "Fireseason" and "A Greater Darkness" are above mediocre, it still feels like a huge let-down when you are greeted with 17 songs and only a handful of them are approved. The thing that makes me angry is that I know that these guys can do so much better, since they aren't stuck in any old wheels of confusion.

RATING:
5.0/10

Review: Naglfar - Téras


Band: Naglfar
Album: "Téras"
Style: Melodic black metal
Release date: 2012-03-26
Origin: Sweden


Tracklist:
1. Téras
2. Pale Horse
3. III: Death Dimension Phantasma
4. The Monolith
5. An Extension of His Arm and Will
6. Bring Out Your Dead
7. Come Perdition
8. Invoc(H)ate
9. The Dying Flame of Existence

I cannot remember for how long people have been claiming that Naglfar have been in that same category of melodic black metal as Dissection and such bands. Yes, they are melodic but do they sound anything like Dissection? No, perhaps on their debut album "Vittra" (still their best album to this day) they hade some certain melodies and other stuff that reminded of said Gothenburg-boys. In my opinion they have always been more reminiscent of Dark Funeral and similar bands.

Anyway, on to their latest offering with the title "Téras" (which stand for Tellus/Earth) which opens with the titletrack. It is more of a short and effective intro rather than a real song and I like it for what it is - an apocalyptic and quite doomy and melodic introduction to the rest of the album. So far so good.

Then - as we are more or less used to with this band nowadays - things goes into a frenzy quite immediately. And I stand by what I said earlier - this sounds exactly like a Dark Funeral song. Not that there's anything particular bad about that because those guys have had their share of good songs from time to time. As have Naglfar. But this is one of my main complaints about the second song "Pale Horse" - we've heard this so many times before that it almost has become ludicrous at this point. The drumming is ace (courtesy of Dirk Verbeuren), the good guitar melodies are there from time to time and the vocals are so-so. But my major complaint is that it has nothing that sticks out - no personality or feeling whatsoever. The same can be said about the second song "III: Death Dimension Phantasma", although it actually has a bit more atmosphere and edge than the previous.

Kristoffer Olivius, Vargher & Andreas Nilsson
"The Monolith" is a midtempo song which feels so god damn boring and again lacking any atmosphere and feeling. During it's six and a half minutes, absolutely nothing at all happens. I know that the next sentenced has been overused till death, but it really fits here - "It is like watching paint dry".

The next song is a bit faster again, this time with a certain groove that actually feels alright. Still, it does not really do anything that makes my spine shiver or the hair on my arms stand. But I think that another huge problem I have with Naglfar is that Kristoffer Olivius is a very unexciting and dull vocalist in the black metal world. He barely varies his voice at all during the entire record and due to the fact that he has no identity whatsoever, he just becomes another vocalist in the ever-growing ocean of mediocre black metal-vocalists.

The record goes on like this as they desperately try to vary the songs, but they are lost in mediocreness and the end result is an uninspired record with some mid-tempo and some faster, more aggressive songs that goes nowhere. I am so tired of their dull black metal, that by the time I get to track 6, I can't do anything but laugh - have these guys never seen "Monty Pythons Quest for the Holy Grail"? That seems impossible to me - also, the chorus of "Bring Out your Dead" is so goddamn dull and tedious I just feeling like shooting myself. Although there are some redeeming qualities on "Téras" here and there, I really can't give a higher score than 4. Cool album cover though.

RATING:
4.0/10

Metal Monument: The Crown - Deathrace King

Band: The Crown
Album: "Deathrace King"
Style: Death/thrash metal
Release date: 2000-04-25
Origin: Sweden


Tracklist:
1. Deathexplosion
2. Executioner - Slayer of the Light
3. Back from the Grave
4. Devil Gate Ride
5. Vengeance
6. Rebel Angel
7. I Won't Follow
8. Blitzkrieg Witchcraft
9. Dead Man's Song
10. Total Satan
11. Killing Star (Susperia Luxuria XXX)

Record cover:
This might not be the most aesthetic record cover I've ever seen, but it does it's job more or less. You have to remember that this was conceived during the big millennium-hype and Photoshop wasn't what it is today back then. It's basically just skulls with stripes to give you that feeling that things are going to be fast as hell. It suites the album and it's songs perfectly. I am a bit skeptic to the two-dimensional choices in colors and I wouldn't mind some red or brown here and there. Other than that, the logo and choice of font is alright, but nothing too special.




1. Deathexplosion (03.57)
You don't get many seconds to breathe once the record starts and never before has a song been so aptly titled. This is the record where the razor-spitting voice of Johan Lindstrand comes to perfection. There is intensity and speed all over the place (as it is with most of the songs on this record) and a special mention also has to go to the lyrics - especially the fantastic phrase "I'll come back for more, when Satan needs soilders out for war". This is certainly an explosion of death metal with some fine thrash elements and guitar solos that for once does not feel out of place. A yummy start for a very underrated record.




2. Executioner - Slayer of the Light (03.45)
One second into the song and we're already on the first verse. Intensity is once again the keyword here and the lyrics are as cool as ever - even though they (somewhat) tell the story of the murder that Jon Nödtveit of Dissection-fame was convicted for in 1997. Insanely cool riffings and breaks make the most part of this song and the somewhat short playing-time (which is also the case with most songs here) actually benefits the song - whereas it would probably feel more dull, had it been longer.
"Executioner... executioner, life destroyer! Executioner, shadow in the night
Desecrator... violator, Satan's soldier! Devastator, cruelty and death!"


3. Back from the Grave (03.06)
The song begins with a cool riff over some pounding drums and are slowly faded up. Then, an ever cooler riff begins with Mr. Lindstrand screaming along. The chorus has a bit more "epic" guitar-feel to it (without being overly epic at all) and while this is refreshing compared to the two previous songs, it lacks the intensity those two had. Also, the soloing feels a bit too much guitar-wankery for my taste. But it is still a god damned good song.



4. Devil Gate Ride (04.10)
"Devil Gate Ride" begins with an epic bass-line from Magnus Olsfelt, who shines even more on this record with his incredible lyrics about war, Satan, death, drugs and going fast as hell. It's rock n' roll meets Satan basically, but it is done with such a splendor that I keep being amazed by them after all these years. Just look at this: "The world is on fire!! Burning up my tires!! Every skull is smiling!! I'm a devil gate rider!!". Epic poetry indeed. On this song, we also get a guest appearance by Tomas "Tompa" Lindberg -  known from a zillion bands, most notably At the Gates - and while his presence is cool and all, it doesn't add that much to the song, since Johan has such a good voice himself and they doesn't differ that much from each other to be honest. This song is fast as hell, but not as interesting as the previous - that's pretty much it.




5. Vengeance (04.45)
Immediately, you realize that this is one of the more slower songs apparent on "Deathrace King" - but that's mostly because the majority of the rest blazes on with an incredible speed. There is a different feel to this one and it's more doomy and apocalyptic vibe fits perfectly after the speed-fest that "Devil Gate Ride" is. There is also a moment on this song where they go utterly At the Gates on us, and that always brings a smile on my face. Otherwise, this song is not as memorable as many of the others here.


6. Rebel Angel (04.22)
While the starting riff (which soon becomes the main riff for this song) might feel a bit too much rock n' roll and not so much death metal, it doesn't destroy the song at all. On the contrary, this the perfect party metal-song of this album. The soloing, the riffing and the atmosphere on this one is perfect as one of the centerpieces of the album.


The Crown, 2000
7. I Won't Follow (04.28)
Here we go with the speed again. An amazing riff opens this song and then it's back to more rock n' roll-soloing before the verse and chorus starts. Yes, it's speedy most of the time, but The Crown do this which such variation in both riffing and vocals that the album never gets boring and "I Won't Follow" is a stellar example of this. Plus, they know perfectly well when the song needs to slow down just a little bit and when they have to work to keep it fresh.



8. Blitzkrieg Witchcraft (03.38)
Beyond what an amazingly cool title "Blitzkrieg Witchcraft" is - the song itself ain't horseshit either. The entire band builds the verse up really nice until they explode into the chorus with lyrics that always makes me smile: "Blitzkrieg witchcraft - massmurder megaslaughter! Madness, terror - the occult power of destruction! Nuclear warfare - burning storms of radiation! H-bomb! Sieg Satan - Exploding bodies uber alles!". The solos are also pure ace and this is the best song on the record so far.




9. Dead Man's Song (04.08)
As with "Vengeance", this is one of the more slow songs on the album and one of the weakest points on the album. Sure, the riffing is cool as always - but it actually gets a bit tedious quite quickly and I wouldn't be weeping if they had skipped this song entirely. Not that it is a disaster or anything like that, but it pales so much when it's placed between the previous and "Total Satan".



10. Total Satan (04.07)
Here we go! Amazingly fast, aggressive and filled with so much attitude, one almost misses when the verse goes into the chorus and Johan keeps screaming "Total Satan!". Yes, the song doesn't change very much during the first 1½ minutes, but the attitude and rawness still prevails once they slow things down and much of this has to be credited to the amazing lyrics and Johan's ever-impressing vocals that never stops: "There are no laws...nothing is sacred...total Satan anarchy!". Easily the crown jewel on "Deathrace King". If this song doesn't make you want to headbang and just run furiously into a crowd of people - there's something seriously wrong with you.



11. Killing Star (Superbia Luxuria XXX) (08.38)
How will The Crown manage to keep things interesting after the amazing previous song one might ask. The answer is - it does not go that well. Also, it never helped that "Killing Star" is over eight minutes long - and this is on an album where most of the songs are around 4 minutes and speed has always been the keyword. So naturally, this song has both midtempo and some slower places but in the end, it just is way too long for it's own good. Also, if you've read along with the lyrics so far during the record - they almost seem a bit too juvenile and weak for their own good here. At this point, you're pretty much fed up and it's my honest opinion that the album should have ended with "Total Satan".



End rating
As I just mentioned, had the album been only 10 songs long - it would be vastly better and walk away with a higher average score. But since there are amazing tracks here, such as "Deathexplosion", "Executioner - Slayer of the Light", "Blitzkrieg Witchcraft" and "Total Satan" just to name a few - I still couldn't go very low with the score. But this is not only The Crown's best song material on a record, the band itself is flawless and special mentions must go to the insanely fast drummer Janne Saarenpää, the über-cool lyricist Magnus Olsfelt and the very underrated vocalist Johan Lindstrand.
So as I said, I would award "Deathrace King" with 10 points if they had skipped "Killing Star" entirely and maybe exchanged "Dead Man's Song" with something faster. But who am I to complain over this, 12 years later?
TOTAL (SATAN) SCORE:


"Jehovah dictator! We're not your slaves!
This is for all those you've sent down to Hell!
Say what? I'm damned? I don't care 'cause I don't wanna get to heaven!"

2012-06-25

Metal Monument: Vintersorg - Cosmic Genesis


Band: Vintersorg
Album: "Cosmic Genesis"
Style: Epic progressive black metal
Release date: 2000-11-03
Origin: Sweden


Tracklist:
1. Astral And Arcane
2. Algol
3. A Dialouge With The Stars
4. Cosmic Genesis
5. Om Regnbågen Materialiserades
6. Ars Memorativa
7. Rainbow Demon (Uriah Heep cover)
8. Naturens Galleri
9. The Enigmatic Spirit


Record cover:
I simply adore the dark green that meets the more snot-green. The logo is right on spot and fits the entire Vintersorg-universe like a syringe fits a heroin addict. What I am less thrilled about is the symbol that mr. Andreas "Vintersorg" Hedlund have designed and drawn himself. It is definitly alright, but it fit older, more heathen works such as "Till Fjälls" and "Ödemarkens Son" better. But as I said, it's alright anyway. Unlike the font that the title is written in. It is ugly as hell and does not fit the rest of the cover at all.




1. Astral And Arcane (06.56)
Suggestive carpets of keyboard fights with angry drum-compositions and beautiful guitarmelodies. The clean vocals of Andreas has improved quite a lot since the predecessor "Ödemarkens Son" and it is sheer joy to, for the first time ever, hear him take tone in a somewhat broken school-english. Lyrically, it's about as advanced as the Swedish has been in previous works. In other words; this is about as far as you can get from simple rock n' roll-lyrics and chanting satanverses.
Musically the opening track is actually somewhat epic. Not only is it the second longest track on "Cosmic Genesis", from now and then - the chorus especially - everything moves in a quite slow tempo. It's great as fuck anyway and the combination proglike/epic/rock meets agressive metal is a delight for my ears.




2. Algol (06.08)
The second track "Algol" is by far more aggressive and faster in tempo. The lyrics are written by an old poet by the name of Karl-Erik Forsslund and is freely translated from Swedish into English by Andreas. This has made the song somewhat difficult to sing, and in my opinion this is clearly heard in the music.
From time to time it sounds as if the lyrics has dictated how the composition of the song has been done. This is not overly negative though, because as usual with Mr. V, the song is yet another good example of a masterful craftsmanship.



3. A Dialouge With The Stars (05.47)
Perhaps the most instantly recognizable song from this record is the insanely catchy rocker "A Dialouge With The Stars". The subtle keyboards goes along so goddamn well with the guitars that it's almost unexplainable in words. The aggressive verses also goes hand in hand with the catchy chorus that, on a sidenote, is impossible not to sing along with.
Simply put - this is a V-classic and definitly worthy of a full score!




4. Cosmic Genesis (07.06)
The title track is a wonderfully crafted piece that largely lives on keyboards and it's atmosphere, rather than on it's "goddamn-heavy-metal". It is a more laid back effort that the previous two tracks, but it does wonders in building a real atmosphere.
The only real problem is that it's seven minutes and six seconds are at least one and a half minutes too long. Not that there are any real filler-parts in the song, but it does get a bit tedious around the 5.30-mark.



Mattias Marklund & Andreas Hedlund
5. Om Regnbågen Materialiserades (05.01)
This is easily one of my all-time favourite songs with Vintersorg. Not that it is saying much, since about 96% of all their songs are pure gold in my opinion. The part when the drums accelerate just when the verse begins always gets my heart pumping and the hair rise on my arms. The semi-verses on this song is so goddamn majestic and perfect that it always gets me. No, really - I was trying to type this while listening to the said part, but I just couldn't concentrate on anything else but the song. It is in other words impossible for this one to ever become background music. The soft chorus fits the song perfectly and the only thing that's preventing "Om Regnbågen Materialiserades" from getting a full score is that it's a bit too lengthy near the end, when nothing special happens.




6. Ars Memorativa (05.09)
As in the case with "Algol" - the vocal lines just sounds too forced on "Ars Memorativa". It's as if the lyrics were more important than the actual flow of the song itself. There's really not much more to say, since it is in no way a bad song - it just sounds forced at some points.
But one thing to always remember here is when Andreas pronounces the word "vortex" as "war-tex" which either sounds cool as hell or ridicioulsly dumb depending on what mood you're in.




7. Rainbow Demon (Uriah Heep cover) (04.01)
This is where the record gets insanely tedious in my opinion. No, I don't particulary care for "Rainbow Demon" - which is weird since the original is very good and this cover ain't no horseshit either. The thing is that after the first chorus, you just want to hear the next song on the record - but then it's over two minutes left of the song. It just is way too slow for it's own good and it really drags the entire "Cosmic Genesis" down in both tempo and atmosphere. You just know that something is wrong when the shortest song on an album feels like the longest.




8. Naturens Galleri (05.22)
The mere beginning twelve seconds of "Naturens Galleri" feels like a sigh of relief after hearing "Rainbow Demon". The fast tempo is incredibly welcomed and it is a joy to hear how Andreas delivers the vocals with such passion in both verses and choruses. To put it short; this is a very enjoyable fast-paced metal song with lots of passion.
The one thing that I really don't care for is that the pre-chorus (or whatever it is) - you know the part where the lyrics goes"Var helst min blick begrunnar..." - lacks screaming vocals. That would have been so much better.



9. The Enigmatic Spirit (04.43)
The album closes with the moody, slow and beautiful semi-ballad "The Enigmatic Spirit". I just love how the band slowly builds up to the incredibly majestic chorus (which also is impossible not to sing along to) and this song is perfect in both length and execution. In other words, it is the perfect way to end this (almost) perfect album.
After this record, Vintersorg have had one semi-ballad like this on every new album. But neither "A Star-Guarded Coronation","A Microscopical Macrocosm" nor "Strålar" even comes close in recapturing the essence of "The Enigmatic Spirit".



End rating
All in all - there are 2 things that makes "Cosmic Genesis" miss the jackpot in getting ten out of ten points.
1. The Uriah Heep-cover. I am sorry, but it does drag the enitre album down.
2. The lack of screaming vocals
Yes, these are only prominent on the first four songs and there are some places later on the album (see "Naturens Galleri") that really could have beneficed from this.
Otherwise, this is as good as Vintersorg gets, and in my opinion - this is the only V-record where he truly does shine vocal-wise.
TOTAL SCORE:






"Rise! Solar spirits in the caravan of supernovas
Give me the palmist visual sensation
I'm a newborn in this omnipotent laboratory
Fulfilled with balance and harmony in a timeless nexus"


2012-06-15

Review: Borknagar - Urd

Band: Borknagar
Album: "Urd"
Style: Epic progressive (black) metal
Release date: 2012-03-26
Origin: Norway/Sweden

Tracklist:
1. Epochalypse
2. Roots
3. The Beauty of Dead Cities
4. The Earthling
5. The Plains of Memories
6. Mount Regency
7. Frostrite
8. The Winter Eclipse
9. In a Deeper World
10. Age of Creation
11. My Friend of Misery (Metallica cover)

I wont deny that I have been a fan of Borknagar since 2001, when the mastermind behind one of my absolute favorite bands Vintersorg joined the Norwegians on vocals after Simen "Vortex" Hestnæs stepped down to join the morons in Dimmu Borgir permanently. I enjoyed that years outcome "Empiricism" a lot and slowly began to trace my way backwards through their discography and fell utterly in love with "The Archaic Course" (1998) and also later - "Quintessence" (2001).
But that was aeons ago, and the band has since released three albums - the somewhat satisfying "Epic" (2004), the experimental with a-not-so-great-outcome album "Origin" (2006) and the quite messy and ultimately dissapointing "Universal" (2010). Since that last album, former vocalist Vortex has once more joined the band - this time on bass and vocals - still leaving Vintersorg as the main vocalist though. The last song on "Universal" was a leftover from the "The Archaic Course"-days and featured Vortex solely on vocals. That song - "My Domain" - left a nostalgic aura in myself and made me long for the days when Borknagar was more focused on semi-black metal epics and less progressive weirdness.

Those days has come anew...


The album opens with "Epochalypse", which in typical Borknagar-fashion is a fast and aggressive piece. Vintersorg's clean vocals sounds better than they have done for many, many years and his screams are nailed to perfection. The layers of choirs (present on most of the songs here) are perfectly laid in the background and doesn't destroy the sonic landscape (there's a lesson for the guys in Dimmu Borgir) as it could have done. After a while, the song shifts tempo and Vortex takes over with his incredibly epic vocals. We are also treated to a brief appearance in vocals from the keyboardist Lars A. Nedland (known from the weirdos in Solefald) who does his job with equal perfection. To have these three vocalists - Vintersorg, Vortex and Lars - in the same band is a blessing that all other bands should envy forever.

The second song, "Roots" gives us a bit more midtempo, even though the song shifts tempo a lot. Overall, it is a good song even though it does not come up to the same class as many of the other tracks apparent on "Urd". Let me get this right - the dynamics between Vintersorg and Vortex are fucking ace! And I think that is a strong factor as what it is that make this song better than anything we heard on "Epic" and "Universal" but still just an in between-track on "Urd". The songwriting has improved a lot since the last record but the mere presence of Vortex adds a whole other depth to the album. Not to take anything from Vintersorg though, because he really does an outstanding job here - but to have Vortex there with him is a dream come true.

Next up is "The Beauty of Dead Cities" which is a song written by Lars A. Nedland. He usually has one song on each album that has his type of writing all over it. Those songs usually reeks of a more progressive and calmer feeling and this one is no exception. This is far from black metal at all and the chorus just begs you to sing along. Still, it does not feel out of place at all and it is a cool addition to the album altogether. I just wished they placed one or two songs later on the album, but that is a minor complaint.

The fourth song is an oddity if anything. It begins very slowly and at first I questioned Vintersorg's approach to this song as well. But it slowly picks up the pace and becomes something of it's own. And the first time I heard the chorus "Nature, the venomous path of man. The existential gravity, the blinder of light.  Mankind, bestride the glimpse of the Sun. Instinctively oppose, the harvester of light" - I knew I was in love. It feels like a nod to the past but then again, not at all. Quite hard to describe actually, but "The Earthling" is for me one of the highlights of the album.

The - at least when it comes to Borknagar - mandatory instrumental piece "The Plains of Memories" is alright. I still question whether it is necessary at all to have one on every single record. But even so, this is their most enthralling instrumental since 2001 and I think that as well gives you an idea of just how much stronger the songwriting is this time around.


Borknagar 2012: Jens, Lars, Vortex, Vintersorg, Øystein & Baard
Up next is a great track called "Mount Regency" that feels more black metalesque and old-school. That is of course until the keyboards come in and gives off a 70's-vibe. Closer to the end, we get a great collaboration between Vintersorg and Vortex. That last part is beyond amazing and it gives me shivers each time I hear it.

The seventh track is where Vortex really shines the most. Having written both music and lyrics to it, he must have been truly satisfied once he heard the final result. His vocals are soaring on "Frostrite". And I mean that in the most positive way I could say it. It is epic beyond recognition and has that "Nocturnal Vision"/"Nocturnal Vision Revisited"-vibe that all you old-school Borknagar and Arcturus-fans knows. And even though the lyrics actually feel a bit TOO much like the past (read the lyrics to ye olde classics "Universal" and "The Witching Hour" and you'll know what I mean), the song can really stand on it's own and feels like a breath of fresh air.

...and the strange thing is - once "The Winter Eclipse" starts - it also feels like a breath of fresh air since we now hear more straight forward black metal and incredibly good grim vocals from Vintersorg. It has a good "The Genuine Pulse"-feeling to it and when it slows down - Vintersorg shows that he also can shine when it comes to the clean vocals. This eight track features classic Øystein G. Brun-riffing as well as good contributions from Lars A. Nedland, both vocal- and keyboard-wise. I should also mention that drummer David Kinkade has his work cut out for him here and he does a good overall job on his last record with the band.

The ninth and last (unless you own the digipak-edition) track "In a Deeper World" slows things down a bit and is a tad more average compared to the last three tracks - but definitely not bad in any way. It is mostly Vortex on vocals and it is somewhat comparable to "My Domain" from the previous album.

As I said, if you have the digipak-edition, you'll also get two bonus tracks in the form of "Age of Creation" and a cover of Metallica's "My Friend of Misery". The band's own song feels more like a leftover from the previous album. Not bad, but nowhere near the rest of the actual album. The guys made a good decision when leaving this out of the regular edition. What about the cover then? We'll, I think that the original is one of the more boring songs from the black album and musically, the Borkendales can't do very much about that. Also, it feels quite weird to hear Vintersorg's vocals to this song. It's just a bonus, but skip it if you can.

Production-wise, "Urd" isn't perfect. But it's damn near though. The band have been plagued by bad productions in the past - for instance, Vintersorg's vocals were barely audible on "Empiricism" - but that has all changed now. It sounds clear and modern, without sounding too modern at the same time. There are some rough edges here and there which only gives the album a better feel as a combination of the band's past and present.
Musically, it feels so refreshing that the band has drawn back most of the progressiveness and have placed more focus on black metal (without sounding that much black metal). Much of that credit must be given to the main man in charge - Øystein G. Brun. The artwork works, though lacking the grandeur that the last three records had. But this is a very minor complaint, since I find the entire album so refreshing and so god damn good! If, at the end of the year, "Urd" doesn't make it to one of the three best albums this year - I will personally bite my left ringfinger off.

RATING:
8.0/10