Review by Anna on July 25, 2010.
Although I'm not familiar with Borknagar's entire back-catalog I can say this newest album sounds like another Borknagar album. Though not their best one. Their strength lies in daring to explore musically and to push boundaries, their weakness, that it goes too far and they start to lose track of what's going on overall. Towards the middle of the album I found myself totally zoned out, not paying attention to the music at all as it seemed to have "lost" me somewhere along the line. Kinda like eating Pringles or cheap ice-cream, good at first, but blah in the end.
As with all Borknagar there is a lot of good stuff going on. Daring vocal-lines, non-traditional phrases, beautiful bits of keyboard and acoustic guitar, all executed perfectly in a formula that transports you somewhere up to outer space (yet not far enough that you can't easily get back home...). But from what I'm hearing on "Universal" there is also a lot of filler stuff that conveniently yet awkwardly "holds" different segments of the music together. They're so into making these lengthy, epic songs that they're too distracted to realize when they DO stick these parts in. What immediately causes a semi-disgusted reaction on my face is EVERYTIME they blast. Somehow in the context of this music, ALL the blasting sounds immediately and entirely cliché, and dare I say, downright ugly.
This album, like their others, sounds like some sort of epic progressive metal opera. I enjoyed "The Olden Domain" and "Empiricism", but "Universal" really pushes the envelope for me as it's even more busy and "collaged", with too much filler to truly be worth all the treasures it contains. Naturally I would only recommend this to the large number of people into Symphonic/Circus/Progressive shit, such as Arcturus, Winds, and Solefald.
Categorical Rating Breakdown
Rating:8.3 out of 10