The Archaic Course
After two records (s/t and The Olden Domain) Borknagar returns sans Garm with The Archaic Course. This time on vocals they have Arcturus and Dimmu Borgir collaborator ICS Vortex, who gives his distictive vocals to this awesome band. The sound has also changed, instead of the more black metal inspired sounds of their last two this record find Borknagar putting many progressive elements into their sound. This includes a more chaotic feeling where everything is going all over the place at different speeds and in different directions. This is both the charm and weakness of this album. Vortex also has a voice which you will either like or dislike. I have heard him described as "epic" and also like "kermit the frog trying to sing metal". He switches from very good black metal growls to clean vocals at a moment's notice, from time to time layering the two. This was my first Borknagar cd, and though I won't say it's my favorite Borknagar album (which is probably Empiricism, done with Vintersorg on vocals), it is one of my favorite metal records.
It begins with "Ocean's Rise", which I think is a pretty good way to start an album. However it is one of those chaotic songs where the underlying melody and structure will slowly unravel to where you understand it. It goes from different sound to different sound constantly, but is put together in an amazing way. If I were to pick a favorite song off of here it's be this or song three "Witching Hour."
Next we have "Universal" which is a very good song which wastes no time at all. "Mountains higher than mind can fly, Oceans deeper than sorrow, A distance of furious dreams, Random fields of tension, Where the sun comes blinding, when the moon goes hiding..." later "I have seen the chaos in every course, followed the solar dimensions of time, I have seen all the rivers stream, Yes, Back to the end of the circle." I think this is a very pagan/nature oriented song, based around the circle of life. I must say the lyrics are always excellent on here, this is one thing Borknagar has over many "black metal" bands, they really are life songs, not about death or evil.
"The Witching Hour" is sort of a Lovecraftian song, seemingly about a man drawn into the visions of winter and the hour around midnight, which is supposedly the "witching hour". I like this song alot, it's very magical and odd, and musically it's really good as well. Possibly my favorite song on here musically.
Perhaps the most chaotic song on here is "The Black Token" which although a fine song is a little too changey and chaotic, I still haven't gotten it so to say. The lyrics do however shed light on a theme throughout this album and its artwork. That theme is of a "river of time", flowing throughout all life, giving life, or death or madness as it is needed. It is also used as a magical kind of thing, represented by the spirals of movement on the cover and depicted in the booklet. That really is what this album is about, constant flowing movement. Unfortunatly that movement gets a little too strong on this song, while it works perfectly on others.
"Nocturnal Vision" comes next, Vortex wrote this one, and you can hear a hear Robert Plant influence upon his vocals on this. It's a pretty good song with a nice melody. It really moves quite a bit, and I do like it, maybe not as much as other songs, but I think it's pretty good all in all.
"Ad Noctum" comes next, and I like this song. It's really fast and epic. It seems to be about someone trapped in a dream quest for the essence of the land. It sounds very influenced by the Norwegian landscape, which is one thing I really like about it. And that's Vortex himself playing the organ on here. If anything that's kind of the weak spot on this song, I don't think organ with that kind of sound and metal in general get along very well. I like the song though.
"Winter Millenium" is the last full song on here, and is another one of my favorites. There's something really epic and beautiful about the song. I really like the interplay of all the instruments and Vortex's excellent vocals. A great song.
"Fields of Long Gone Presence" ends the record on a very movie soundtrack note, as a instrumental keyboard only song. I like it as well, I think it ends the album very nicely after the great song "Winter Millenium".
So what can I say a wonderful nature/pagan black metal album. Highly suggested to anyone who likes black metal or really metal in general.
1: Oceans Rise
3: Witching Hour
4: The Black Token
5: Nocturnal Vision
6: Ad Noctum
7: Winter Millenium
8: Fields of Long Gone Presence