By having both guitarist Jens Ryland and bassist Tyr rejoin the group, BORKNAGAR mastermind Øystein Brun was refreshed and inspired enough to write the newest progressive work of art, entitled Universal. After releasing some weaker albums in Epic and Origin, this refreshed lineup has written an excellent album that rivals some of AMORPHIS’s recent releases.
“Havoc” opens softly and slowly, but BORKNAGAR is primed to butter the listener up, until the “real” music kicks in with lush keyboards layered over the double bass and a harmonious mix of Vintersorg’s clean and raspy vocals. Each song, especially “Reason”, displays hints of technical and progressive passages, very similar to Ihsahn’s solo project. The bass lines and acoustic guitar on “The Stir of Seasons” sound eerily like something from Ihsahn’s The Adversary, and it’s not surprising as Tyr used to play with Ihsahn in EMPEROR.
“For A Thousand Years To Come” continues the classic BORKNAGAR sound, with Vintersorg phrasing the vocal patterns like the older releases with I.C.S. Vortex. “Fleshflower” leads a small piano piece into a folksy riff, not unlike the works of the folk metal band, FINNTROLL. With simple melodies and perfectly placed synths, “My Domain” is an outstanding track to close out the album as former vocalist I.C.S. Vortex makes a guest appearance with his silky smooth clean vocals.
Universal is a great “comeback” album and gives way to a lot of potential for the next release. While there are only eight tracks, each track is layered with plenty of music to go around, and is best enjoyed and appreciated with multiple listens. (The End Records)