Rating:
8.0
Borknagar - Universal
22 February 2010


Disc I
01. Havoc
02. Reason
03. The Stir Of Seasons
04. For A Thousand Years To Come
05. Abrasion Tide
06. Fleshflower
07. Worldwide
08. My Domain [feat. I.C.S Vortex]
09. Coalition Of The Elements [limited edition bonus]
10. Loci [limited edition bonus]

Disc II [limited edition DVD]
01. Making Of Universal [documentary]
+ Desktop images
+ MP3 version of the album
+ Digital Booklet


Borknagar is a peculiar band. Their music is too symphonic, multi-layered and ambitious to be black metal enough for the horde of tr00 kvlt kiddies. At the same time, they're too aggressive, occasionally fast-paced and noisy to be recognized by people educated enough to appreciate Borknagar's ambitious music. As a result, the band hovers somewhere in between those two groups of listeners, enjoying some popularity, but much less of it than they actually deserve, being a damn great band indeed.

Universal is another solid release in the string of albums this band leaves behind it, minus the all-acoustic Origin which, whereas not bad in itself, automatically stands apart from other releases due to its unusual provenance and will be quietly circumvented in my humble analysis.

So what do we have here? On one hand, it's another generous helping of omnipresent keyboards (especially good in "Worldwide" and "Fleshflower"), pseudo choirs ("Havoc"), acoustic passages (very effective in "The Stir of Seasons"), clean vocals (basically in every track) - the progressive elements in Borknagar's music are lush, textured, inventive, and, on top of it all, magnificently implemented. On the other hand, there's plenty of aggression and good old black metal anger in quite a few songs - "For A Thousand Years To Come", or "Worldwide" to name just a couple. The harsh, black-ish passages are seamlessly alloyed into the rich and progressive body of the album, forming a very convincing whole. The songs sting hard when they're supposed to, but they also lull and caress you with seductive keyboard work and acoustic interludes.

Unfortunately, there is something that prevents me from giving Universal a higher mark. As controversial as it may sound to many Borknagar fans, I think that Vintersorg should stick to harsh vocals exclusively. His clean singing is, occasionally, adequate at best, but downright annoying most of the time. His voice is poor and flat, and he doesn't have too many ideas about how to use this limited resource effectively. I'm not suggesting that I.C.S. Vortex is infinitely better, but "My Domain", the only track on Universal where he sings, is vocally the best composition on the album. Change the singer, and the sky will be the limit guys. Before that happens, have an 8 from me.

Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 8


Band profile: Borknagar
Album: Universal


 


written by Daniell | 25.08.2010



Comments

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Marcus - 25.08.2010 at 09:28  
Totally agree that Vintersorg's voice gets annoying, although I find at suiting on his solo albums since he's usually singing about science.
!J.O.O.E.! - 25.08.2010 at 12:26  
The problem isn't his voice, it's simply that the songs just aren't all that interesting. Compared with the earlier works Universal definitely falls flat on its face, compared with current releases it fairs reasonably well. Either way it's probably a 6.5/7 from me.
Troy Killjoy - 25.08.2010 at 15:25  
This one put me to sleep to be honest, although a lot of their releases post-The Olden Domain don't exactly rev my engine.
Daniell - 25.08.2010 at 15:59  
I actually think this is their best since The Olden domain.
corrupt - 25.08.2010 at 16:03  
You just throw big numbers around, don't you? An 8.4 for Reptilian, a 10 (!) for The Obsidian Conspiracy and now this. Universal is quite mediocre, even in Borknagar's discography. Somewhere between 6 and 7 at max.
Imo, the best track is Fleshflower, as it sounds much like Age Of Silence. I still suspect Lazare sining that and not Vintersorg. But I couldn't verify that anywhere yet.
The rest of the album is by far no match for Empiricism. Neither musically nor lyrically. And Empiricism is rated 8.2 right now.
Daniell - 25.08.2010 at 16:47  
Written by corrupt on 25.08.2010 at 16:03

You just throw big numbers around, don't you? An 8.4 for Reptilian, a 10 (!) for The Obsidian Conspiracy and now this.


You just see whatever suits you and ignore other things, don't you? 6,2 for Soilwork, 7,2 for Iron Maiden, 7 for Ozzy - you missed those because they didn't fit?
Besides, even if I give all those albums 10's claiming that they're the most groundbreaking albums in the history of human race, it's my opinion and my opinion only. You're of course free to disagree, but telling me off for my marks is weird, to say the least...
Ag Fox - 25.08.2010 at 16:55  
I am intrigued. thanks for reviewing
Aeox - 25.08.2010 at 18:49  
Written by Troy Killjoy on 25.08.2010 at 15:25

This one put me to sleep to be honest, although a lot of their releases post-The Olden Domain don't exactly rev my engine.


Completely agree, really expected more...
Aeox - 25.08.2010 at 18:55  
Written by corrupt on 25.08.2010 at 16:03

Imo, the best track is Fleshflower, as it sounds much like Age Of Silence. I still suspect Lazare sining that and not Vintersorg. But I couldn't verify that anywhere yet.


That is Lazare singing on Fleshflower, and also the only track that I 'kind of' like from the album.
silenius - 25.08.2010 at 21:02  
My least favourite album from borknagar tbh, but still fucking great, good review! id give it an 8 aswell
corrupt - 26.08.2010 at 01:06  
Written by Daniell on 25.08.2010 at 16:47

Written by corrupt on 25.08.2010 at 16:03

You just throw big numbers around, don't you? An 8.4 for Reptilian, a 10 (!) for The Obsidian Conspiracy and now this.


You just see whatever suits you and ignore other things, don't you? 6,2 for Soilwork, 7,2 for Iron Maiden, 7 for Ozzy - you missed those because they didn't fit?
Besides, even if I give all those albums 10's claiming that they're the most groundbreaking albums in the history of human race, it's my opinion and my opinion only. You're of course free to disagree, but telling me off for my marks is weird, to say the least...

Don't get me wrong. I like your style, I like your analysis and your wriiting. But these scores are undeservingly high. Of course I did see the others, but I don't know the albums so I'm in no position to criticize there. It just struck me as plain wrong that a review by an official metalstorm reviewer, that is advertised on the frontpage, gives an album like the latest Nevermore a 10. If it was a guest review I'd probably not care. But one aspect I always loved about metalstorm is it's unique position to the actual music. It's why I joined. Unlike most other pages that jump the hoops for a myspace friendship to a band or their own review being cited on record label's pages, on metalstorm, the music determines the score. And for those three, especially The Obsidian Conspiracy, your score deviates from anything that is right and holy.
Daniell - 26.08.2010 at 09:19  
Since I'm not affiliated with Nevermore's label, and since I do not get paid for any activity on Metalstorm, reviews including, I'm in a wonderful position of being able to state my true opinions, without the necessity of licking anyone's rectum. "The Obsidian Conspiracy" is my favourite Nevermore album, and it deserves the highest mark in my opinion. And that's what it is - MY OWN, personal, individual opinion. You have every right to disagree with it but, but YOUR opinion is as valid as mine, no more no less, so you don't have any right to judge that my mark deviated from anything. Because my mark is what it is - my assessment.
NaittsirK - 28.08.2010 at 19:52  
This is one of the best reviews Ive read in a while.

I agree that Vintersorg should sing less and believe Quintessence is their best work.
spiritofvengence - 29.08.2010 at 03:39  
It's a good album, and I liked Vintersorg's vocals. Idk what's so bad about it
Introspekrieg - 29.08.2010 at 09:37  
Damn all the hate on Vintersorg... I like his vocals. Enjoyable album for me...
Ag Fox - 31.08.2010 at 13:06  
I really like this album. Thanks for reviewing it so that it came to my attention. Vortex's vocals are indeed better, but Vintersorg's is not so bad at all imo. I really like the synths and keys, though I completely agree that it would turn most Black metal fans off because I myself certainly do not treat it as one
Raiden - 21.12.2010 at 16:03  
I agree with daniell about his review. Everyone has the right to their own opinion.

My opinion is that this album is great! I hadn't noticed anything that bad with even the clean vocals on display here. Universal is definitely one of my favourite Black Metal albums of 2010.
Luneth - 18.01.2011 at 01:52  
Or they could get a clean vocalist to do those passages and keep Vintersorg exclusively on the aggressive vocals. I think I prefer this album to Quintessence or Empiricism more to be honest, this album is incredibly symphonic, tracks like Havoc; Fleshflower; My Domain and Coalition of the Elements simply blow me away.

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