Released: 2006, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When I interviewed Borknagar brainchild, Oystein G. Brun, way back in September 2004, the vocalist/guitarist mentioned that he was planning an album of new acoustic songs that would include acoustic versions of some old tracks, as well. Fast forward two years and we have ORIGIN. Brun’s comment ended up being half-true as this nine-song album is all-new, acoustic material (“Oceans Rise” is a reworking of a track from 1999’s THE ARCHAIC COURSE) but what sounded like an exciting venture then has not translated well to now. Borknagar has always had a folk element to its music but this snoozer of an album is 35 minutes of music one might hear in the background at a Bed, Bath and Beyond store. Strings, woodwinds, classical guitar and choral passages lull the listener into a state of catatonia usually reserved for the coffee shop and art gallery/easy listening crowd. Make no mistake, though, this CD is masterfully crafted and for fans of Vintersorg’s clean vocals and upper register, this will resonate as pure nirvana. The atmospherics created by the band are quite beautiful and it is immediately clear that ORIGIN is a labor of love that has been a long time coming. Still, it is difficult to get past the feeling that ORIGIN may better serve its purpose as background music because I cannot remember being so utterly bored listening to a CD in years.
Right off the bat, Vintersorg’s stunning vocals are showcased on “Earth Imagery,” his soothing croon caressing the listener with the assistance of Norwegian flautist Steiner Ofsdal. The reworked “Oceans Rise” features a thick bass line from the returning Tyr, who sat out 2004’s EPIC, and keyboardist Lars A. Nedland provides a nostalgic Moog synthesizer to really reinvent this seven-year old track. The cascading flute that opens “Cynosure” embodies the folk element that Borknagar has brought into their metaphysically-laced black metal for over ten years, only this time without the double bass, electric guitar and guttural growls. The two instrumental tracks—“Signs” and “The Spirit of Nature”—could be lifted straight off the film score of a Merchant Ivory period piece with their classical influences resonating through.
Borknagar have provided its fans with many unexpected twists and turns throughout their ten year, seven album career and ORIGIN is certainly the biggest tangent taken yet. “Progressive” and “experimental” have often been used to describe Borknagar’s music and while ORIGIN is different fare, stripping the music away to its most basic elements is hardly novel, especially since Brun writes all of the band’s music acoustically first anyway. ORIGIN will be a tough sell and the market will be slim with mostly Borknagar/Vintersorg die-hards grabbing this one up but for others looking for some acoustic music played by talented musicians, this may be worth checking out…and there is always the coffee house angle the band could play, too.
KILLER KUTS: “Earth Imagery,” “Oceans Rise,” “Cynosure”