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UNIVERSAL review/s

Discussion in 'Borknagar' started by Øystein G. Brun, Jan 5, 2010.

  1. Erik Tiwaz

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  2. Vintersorg

    Vintersorg (sym)phony (com)poser

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  3. Magic Child

    Magic Child Member

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    Ok, I translated my review very fast in a kind of rough way, so forgive me any mistakes. But you will get what I wanted to say:

    (roughly translated from musikreviews.de)

    The eighth album from BORKNAGAR could not have a better title. On the one hand, "Universal" is a hint at the piece of the same title from "The Archaic Course" (1998), and by this a hint at the use of more warm, emotional and melodic sounds, which in some places are allowed to have a folk touch. On the other hand, it's not just a return to the old days, but the most varied album of the band's history. "Universal" spans everything that BORKNAGAR is about, so to speak it is the "universal" album. You will find black metal fury and screaming (but not so frequently anymore), a lot of clean singing and beautiful harmonies, epic and dramatic parts (without getting cheesy at all), calm and folky passages with fitting instrumentation, Hammond-organs and a lot of influences from progressive rock. If you would have to categorize the band these days, only a construction like "Epic Progressive Folk Black Metal" would be suitable. But even that would not describe it in the right way, because it doesn't sound like a lot of styles put together, but like their very own, coherent mixture. For example, the casual outbreaks of black metal don't get out of line, and even listeners with less extreme preferences can enjoy it. At the same time, fans of the black styles should have no problems with the playful progressive rock parts, because even there you can feel the dark heritage of the band. The production is doing its part so that this mixture is working, it sounds warm and gives every instrument its space. You won't hear a fat, too compressed extreme metal sound with unnaturally triggered drums, but you won't hear a powerless prog-rock sound either. Everything is balanced, every element gets its right, without heading too much in one direction or the other.

    Because of the first two tracks you could think that black metal might win on "Universal", with fast drums, buzzing guitars and aggressive vocals. But even in these tracks you can find unusual, but catchy vocal melodies or organ sounds, which remind of the seventies. With increasing playtime, the extreme portion of the music becomes less, even if it never disappears completely. In spite of that, clean vocals are dominating, there are a lot of calm and playful progressive passages, sometimes even slightly swinging rhythms and melodies (for example in "Fleshflower" or "Worldwide").

    Andreas Hedlund tries to meet the requirements of the music and goes for a lot of variation, sometimes you could even think there were different voices on the album (in fact, in "Fleshflower" you can hear Keyboarder Lars Nedland). The clean vocals are often well done, but sometimes the singer from VINTERSORG seems to try to fly too high. On a few occasions, he even sounds a bit strange or croaking (for example in "The Stir Of Seasons").

    BORKNAGAR always sound the best, when they manage to bring all elements of their music together in one track, like in "For A Thousand Years To Come". Although, like most of the time, they don't use traditional verse-chorus-structures, the song is very catchy, because the main theme is repeated in different arrangements. The song builds up for several minutes, until this theme is resolved in a sort of chorus at the end.

    But the true highlight comes at the end of the album, with another reference to the past: Ex-singer Simen Hestnæs (also known as I.C.S. Vortex) sings "My Domain", which was originally planned for "The Archaic Course". The more moderate, very melodic song sounds melancholic and dramatic, which fits perfectly with the uncomparable voice and unusual vocal lines of Simen. Because of this, for me personally, "My Domain" becomes one of the most beautiful BORKNAGAR-tracks ever.

    CONCLUSION: "Universal" sounds at the same time catchy and emotional, but also playful, progressive and experimental. Although the black metal roots are not denied, but made audible again and again, you cannot put the band in that genre anymore. And also other categories are too small. With this output, BORKNAGAR could even reach any open-minded listener with a sense for unusual melodies and ambitious compositions, besides the conventional ways. So for me there is only one downer on a overall good album: The great track "My Domain" shows that BORKNAGAR and Simen Hestnæs should never have parted, because with his singing, BORKNAGAR are truly something very special.

    11 / 15 (which means: "really good album, not much to criticize")

    Original (in German): http://musikreviews.de/reviews/2010/Borknagar/Universal/
     
  4. Nick_Perrin

    Nick_Perrin Member

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    Which editions of the album contain the two bonus tracks? Is it just the box set, or also the Digipak-only edition?

    Thanks in advance, I know I've already asked this question elsewhere but received no answer and want to pre-order ASAP :D
     
  5. Erik Tiwaz

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    The box set and the vinyl are the only versions containing the bonus songs at this point.
     
  6. Allfader

    Allfader Kvelding

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    That means that there'll be just like 2000 copies of Universal (boxset+vinyl) with the whole tracklist...damn. Better hurry everyone.
     
  7. Nick_Perrin

    Nick_Perrin Member

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    Unfortunate.
    Really unfortunate. I read some people here think those two tracks are just as good as the others on the album.

    BOX SET IT IS. :p
     
  8. Elvina

    Elvina Tree-Hugging Space Elf

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    after much listening effort, i did my best to write a constructive and quite lengthy review of Universal. If anybody's interested, you can read the uncensored version HERE. I would appreciate not to post hate reactions here, but rather in the comments on the page. (since i haven't gotten any so far, i gathered my courage to post the link here, just for the sake of the opinions variation)
     
  9. Erik Tiwaz

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    No need to worry Elvina, your views are more than welcome here. :) It's all in the manner of how things are done. :)
     
  10. Elvina

    Elvina Tree-Hugging Space Elf

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    thanks Erik! :)
     
  11. Vintersorg

    Vintersorg (sym)phony (com)poser

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  12. tobz

    tobz is where its at

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    I thought the 'normal' digi was the exact same as the digi in the box set?
     
  13. Erik Tiwaz

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    Sorry, it's not the same, but that might change, I'm thinking maybe the bonus songs will be made available on a later edition.
     
  14. Defiance

    Defiance I vårens ljusa kvällar

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    Are there any differences besides the songs? I.e. with the artwork for example .

    Thanks for the link Mr V, it's a nice review.
     
  15. tobz

    tobz is where its at

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    Hey, not a problem for me as I got both box and LP :D I just wondered as I only had a brief look at the digi in the store, and my immediate thought was that they were the same...
    On the other note, I can understand people wanting the "complete" tracklist, even if they get the album on a later date, but my personal feeling is that if it is made as a special and/or limited first edition, it should be kept this way. A nice salute of sorts to the most hardcore fans. Also makes the prize of the hunt taste that more sweet, he he...
     
  16. Defiance

    Defiance I vårens ljusa kvällar

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    Agreed!
     
  17. Djöfull

    Djöfull Member

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  18. Nick_Perrin

    Nick_Perrin Member

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    "There are also minor chords everywhere,"

    WTF? Does this reviewer know anything about music? Of course there are minor chords everywhere, that has nothing to do with the music being dark
     
  19. Defiance

    Defiance I vårens ljusa kvällar

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    Yes, it's a very subjective review, one that I totally disagree with. I used to be a reviewer, and I don't think one can really make reviews because:

    (A) You can never be 100% objective, and
    (B) I may love what the reviewer dislikes, and vice-versa.

    Concerning the latter, 'Worldwide' is now my favourite song, and I keep loving more and more the vocals (which are very 'grim' at times, actually).

    And he gave the same score to this one and the new Dark Tranquillity, and the year in which I was born. o_O . My two favourite bands. The score is the year of my birth… epic coincidence? Or a signal…?

    ;)
     

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