"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Borknagar - "Empiricism" (CD)

Borknagar - "Empiricism" CD cover image

"Empiricism" track listing:

1. The Genuine Pulse (4:51)
2. Gods of My World (4:25)
3. The Black Canvas (5:18)
4. Matter & Motion (2:30)
5. Soul Sphere (6:40)
6. Inherit the Earth (5:29)
7. The Stellar Dome (5:36)
8. Four Element Synchronicity (5:51)
9. Liberated (4:51)
10. The View of Everlast (4:28)

Reviewed by on April 22, 2008

"'Empiricism' is part of the symphonic school of black metal, which attempts to combine ear shredding growls with fancy keyboard work, background ambience, and occasional clean vocals."

Counting their self titled initial release on Malicious Records, "Empiricism" is the fifth offering from Borknagar, a band that originally started as a super-group of members from black metal giants such as Gorgoroth, Enslaved, Dimmu Borgir, and Ulver. Although many of these members were no longer with Borknagar by the time "Empiricism" was recorded, the album still manages to boast stellar musicianship and composition. Like many groups in this branch of metal, Borknagar has decided that making their name completely unreadable on the insert cover will tip potential buyers off as to the style of music contained within. "Empiricism" is part of the symphonic school of black metal, which attempts to combine ear-shredding growls with fancy keyboard work, background ambience, and occasional clean vocals. Borknagar pulls it off better than a lot of bands littering the sonic landscape, but doesn't manage to reach the level of perfection found by the select few truly great black metal bands out there, mostly due to a few production issues.

The album's opening track, "The Genuine Pulse," starts out with a short keyboard intro before belting out the obligatory piercing growl to let the listener know they didn't accidentally buy a Beethoven CD. The mix on this track seems to be of lower quality than on the rest of the album, as the growling vocals are muffled and the percussion parts sound very distant. The production on "Empiricism" is never completely perfect or nearly as polished as has become the newer trend with extreme metal bands, but it does improve drastically after the opening track. The second song, "Gods of my World," is where this disc really starts to shine, as the musicians all get a chance to properly showcase their ability to play heavier music alongside crooning softer parts. The most intriguing track on the album is easily "Matter and Motion," a completely instrumental piece that contains creepy sound effects in the background, reminiscent of an egg hatching, or possibly a mind ripping, that fit the tone of the album very well.

"Empiricism" marks the third vocalist for Borkngar, having started with Garm from Ulver and then moving on to Vortex of Dimmu Borgir before passing the torch to Swedish musician Vintersorg. Borknagar has passed over the overtly satanic or anti-religious lyrics and gone for a more poetic vision with heavy pagan themes, which are all delivered expertly by the vocalist. Vintersorg's ability to produce a deep, rage-filled growl alongside melodic and pleasing clean vocals is no surprise considering his strong background in folk music, including a self-titled band consisting entirely of a softer style lacking in any heavy guitars.

While never reaching true perfection, "Empiricism" is still an excellent blend of symphonic serenity and black metal mayhem that should more than satisfy fans of the genre.

Highs: Melodic and pleasing clean vocals mixed with ear-shredding growls and fancy keyboard work

Lows: The production is a little rough around the edges

Bottom line: An excellent blend of symphonic serenity and black metal mayhem that should more than satisfy fans of the genre

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)