Borknagar - The Archaic Course
Century Media
Folk/Black Metal
8 songs (37:46)
Release year: 1998
Borknagar, Century Media
Reviewed by Khelek
Archive review

Borknagar is a band that hopefully needs no introduction to those familiar with the black and folk metal scenes of the late 90s. For those unfamiliar, this band was instrumental in bringing melody and folk elements to black metal, and in the process creating something extremely listenable and unique. This is the first album I ever heard by the band, and after hearing it I of course had to hear more. Though I enjoy other Borknagar albums, this one will always remain one of my favorites. It is an excellent album that touches on many different sounds and emotions while still remaining heavy. It is also one of the last to feature the talented ICS Vortex on vocals before Andreas Hedlund took over.

Ocean's Rise starts the album off with powerful riffs and the deep growls of Vortex. The guitar lead is quite melodic, though it is overshadowed by thick drumming and layered riffs. From time to time there are some clean guitar interludes that lend the song a sense of melancholy, along with some clean vocals which are quite good; I really enjoy the clean singing alongside the black metal screams and growls. This is followed by Universal, another very listenable track that features more clean singing and interesting guitar layering. Once again I really like the growled vocals backing up Vortex's clean singing; it creates a nice, subtle contrast. The Black Token begins with a more traditional black metal feeling with otherworldly screams and blasting guitars. However, Vortex soon adds his clean vocals to the mix, which personally does not do much for the song in my opinion. I think it would be better it just be straight black metal vocals with the only melodic elements coming from the very well-done guitars. Nocturnal Vision incorporates more of a folk feeling, at least in the vocal melodies and guitars. It's also quite catchy and fun to listen to despite the somewhat melancholy feeling at times. I really enjoy the keyboards in Ad Noctum, they have almost a groovy, 60s feeling at times, but it goes very well with the melodic vocals of Vortex and the quick guitar riffs. This may have something to do with Vortex himself doing the keyboards on this song.

This is a really great piece of folk/black metal that many other bands have attempted to mimic as the folk metal genre took off over the past decade. It's difficult to pull off this level of songwriting in terms of making the album flow together as well as this one does, but Borknagar did it with ease here. Several of the songs create a real atmosphere that just pulls the listener in. Not the least of these is Winter Millenium, an epic song that incorporates everything I love about Borknagar; chilling guitar melodies and Vortex’s clean singing accompanied by atmospheric synths. Needless to say, this is another one of those albums that can take you on a journey if you let it. Every song does not immediately grab me, but the album really sinks in after a few thorough listens, and at less than 40 minutes, it’s not a difficult album to listen to all the way through. This is an excellent pairing of melodic folk metal and black metal elements and an album that I keep coming back to years after I first heard it.

Killing Songs :
Ocean’s Rise, Universal, Winter Millenium
Khelek quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Borknagar that we have reviewed:
Borknagar - Urd reviewed by Khelek and quoted 90 / 100
Borknagar - Universal reviewed by Kyle and quoted 86 / 100
Borknagar - Epic reviewed by Jeff and quoted 95 / 100
Borknagar - Quintessence reviewed by Danny and quoted 78 / 100
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