Originally written by Jason Jordan.
I have to admit I was disappointed when Borknagar announced plans to record an all-acoustic record, because, if anything, I’m hoping they’ve got another Empiricism up their collective sleeve. Like their past endeavors, Origin ushers in a series of changes while keeping certain elements in place, making for an unpredictable, solid, and different outing.
Those attached to the Norwegians are fully aware of the transformations Borknagar have undergone since their Self-Titled debut dropped in 1996. Origin is a milestone simply because Mr. V (Cronian, Fission, Vintersorg, Waterclime) has turned in his third studio performance (2001’s Empiricism, 2004’s Epic, and 2006’s Origin), whereas previous vocalists Vortex (Arcturus, Dimmu Borgir) and Garm (ex-Arcturus, Head Control System, Ulver) only completed two apiece. So if Mr. V-fronted Borknagar is your favorite era of their history, or if you’re a follower of his in general, this full-length will be of greater significance.
In addition to the usual, instrumental components – consistently excellent, by the way – Origin features flute, cello, and violin. Everything is acoustic, and as a result, the band’s organic nature is at full bloom. Since the metal roots have been shed this time around, though, the predominant style is that of folk, the focal point alternating between the former and the classical, cinematic touches brought about by the inclusion of strings. A composition such as “Earth Imagery” conjures a wilderness setting, while the reworked edition of “Oceans Rise” pays tribute to the original The Archaic Course track by putting a new spin on it.
Perhaps the strongest aspect of present-day Borknagar, and this record, is the stellar vocal lineup. Not only do you have Mr. V’s soaring, captivating voice, but Lazare (Age of Silence, Solefald) offers his quirky chords in “White” – the finest track. Conversely, however, the weakest aspect of Origin is its inadequate length of 36 minutes. Others may be quick to decry the band spending its time on an offshoot when they could be writing a proper follow-up to Epic, which was, in my opinion, a letdown. Nevertheless, they’ve succeeded insofar as they’ve provided the listener with another album worth purchasing that definitely contrasts with all previous material, especially the Viking/black-influenced stuff. Ironically, their least frightening will be unleashed on Halloween, but that certainly doesn’t reflect its quality.