I have just bought my first Borknagar album having downloaded their music off the internet. I can say that, having listened to some tracks off Quintessence and Archaic Course, Borknagar are one of those rare black metal bands who manage to introduce a melodic element into a ferocious genre without having to become commercial and appeal to the mainstream. They havn't compromised their style or tried to dumb down their talent as they gain a wider following, and this is a must-have CD for fans and novices alike.
I was intially apprehensive about this album. After "Quintessence", ICS Vortex had left to join Dimmu Borgir, and I wasn't convinced they would be able to find a suitable replacement. Fortunately, Vintersorg proves more than able to fill his place, and when I heard "The genuine pulse", I was left in no doubt that I'd have to get the album. This is a marked departure in style from earlier Borknagar releases. It's more melodic, and more thoughtful. Yet at the same time, it can be seen as a natural progression from "The Olden Domain", through "Quintessence", to where we are now. There is more use of piano and violin than before, yet the guitars and drums are still there, and if anything are heavier than they've ever been. Borknagar seem to have that rare ability to write heavy music without resorting to either playing flat out as fast as they can or by downtuning. Once again, there is a mixture of clean and harsh vocals, with the clean vocals having more prominence than on the earlier albums. Standout tracks are "The genuine pulse", "The black canvas", "Soul sphere" and "The stellar dome". The odd man out is "Matter and motion", which starts off as a kind of dischordant jazz piano piece. Not my sort of thing at all. However, it builds into something more substantial when the guitars and drums join, and acts as the perfect into into the aforementioned "Soul sphere". With this album, Borknagar can't really even be called black metal any more. While the black metal roots and influences can still be heard, they're so much more than that now. It definitely takes a few listens before you really get this album, but it's well worth the effort. Make no mistake, "Empiricism" is a true masterpiece, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Vintersorg proves more than able to fill the place of ICS Vortex as singer in this album, which althought being a progression from Quintesscence shows out the more melodic side of Borknagar, which i find better than the heavier side shownin Quintesscence and the olden domain. There is more use of piano and violin than previously, yet the guitars and drums are still there. Borknagar seem to have perfected heavy music without making it less melodic, or making the sound harsh. There is a mixture of clean and harsh vocals, with the clean vocals having more prominence than on the earlier albums. The genuine pulse is in my opinion the high point of the album although it is a true masterpiece from borknagar who have strayed from their Black metal roots and created something better and more meaningful through this. The viyl makes it so much more impressive than the boring smallness of the CD, and a nice pic on the sleeve, again bigger than that on the CD makes the album.
After the impressive quintesence it marked the end of an era for vortex as he went full time with fellow norwegians 'dimmu borgir'. so what have they produced without him? An even better album. New singer vintersorg has added a whole new dimension to their sound and that is the melodic side to borknagar. You see, quintesence had some of their heaviest songs by borknagar but this album is totally different to that. In this album you will notice straight away that there is efficient use of background and choir singers than before, and this certainly does give you that melodic feel. Also the songs are longer allowing more time for the keyboards and pianos to be used during each song. 'four element synchronicity' shows this and so does 'gods of my world' that there is more to their sound than just heavy riffs. However the song 'genuine pulse' is one of the heavier tracks they have done. This album takes a few listens to really appreciate, but do not aspect something as heavy as quintesence because this is a more melodic approach.