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Borknagar's sixth album is asking for trouble by proclaiming itself 'Epic,' especially in the black metal community where such terms aren't treated lightly. While the band's sound has always had a certain grand quality, its basis in a heavy, fast and somewhat accessible style prevents it from attaining the truly epic heights of something like Bathory's Viking metal, Summoning's triumphant marches or Windir's dying-on-a-mountain majesty, but 'Epic' at least displays a slight step beyond its predecessor 'Empiricism' in the presence of Øystein Brun's heavy, memorable guitar riffs to supplement Lars Nedland's more diverse keyboards. The return of folk elements not really heard since the band's debut add to the atmosphere and are perfectly suited to Vintersorg's distinctive vocal style, making for the finest Borknagar release since 'The Olden Domain' and a promising portent for their future.
As ever, the first song highlights pretty much everything the listener can come to expect through the rest of the album, and true to form it's one of the better offerings. 'Future Reminiscence' adequately moves on from the last album's style by reintroducing heavy riffs and frenzied drums into the metal bulk, along with more convincing "grim" vocals from Vintersorg, and the finale is a pleasant, neofolk-inspired section with flute-like keyboards and light percussion, as ever evolving gracefully and naturally from the harsh previous sounds in a way few bands have the knack for.
Of course, the drawback of putting all of these elements into the same song is the inevitable disappointment that comes when the majority of its successors sound more or less exactly the same, 'Traveller' only really being discernible for Vintersorg's more energetic singing performance as is also the case in 'Circled,' which has a comparably strong guitar riff to the opener. Nedland adds some variety later in the album by changing his keyboard setting to tinkling piano for 'The Inner Ocean Hypothesis' and seventies space synthesiser in 'Quintessence,' while the varied 'Resonance' moves from a quite irritating Hammond-style organ to Danny Elfman style keyboards towards the end.
Many of these techniques seem rather contrived as a means to distinguish between similar songs, the primary reason that the album falls some distance short of brilliance. It's essentially the same old Borknagar with a little more variety and some nice acoustic passages and vocal harmonies in addition to the customarily virtuoso performances all round, but the evident increase in the band's progressive self-consciousness, displayed further in their frequent lyrical and titular references to past and future albums and songs, has also pushed them forwards to at least try to produce an album worthy of its title.
1. Future Reminiscence
4. Sealed Chambers of Electricity
5. The Weight of Wind
7. Relate (Dialogue)
10. The Inner Ocean Hypothesis
12. The Wonder
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Future Reminiscence
4 Sealed Chambers Of Electricity
5 The Weight Of Wind
7 Relate (Dialogue)
10 The Inner Ocean Hypothesis
12 The Wonder
13 Includes Bonus "The Making Of Epic" - Enhancement