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Five discs down the road, Borknagar seems less like a Norwegian supergroup side project and more like a cohesive band unit, and not just due to the group's relative longevity and prodigious output, but also because Empiricism is such a strong outing. Unlike the somewhat experimental and disjointed Quintessence disc that preceded it, Empiricism is a lot easier to appreciate from the first listen onward. Possibly the influx of new blood spearheaded Øystein G. Brun, the only original member left, to take this more straightforward direction; wholly one third of Borknagar's lineup is new to the band. Vocalist Vintersorg, of the band of the same name, replaced I.C.S. Vortex so he could concentrate on Dimmu Borgir. Tyr, a session member of Satyricon, and Emperor, who replaced Simen Hestnaes, also make their debut appearances with the group on this disc. Regardless of who is responsible, Empiricism is a monster. The production is much better this time out and memorable moments abound, such as the controlled chaos of "Liberated" and the Mercyful Fate-like intro riff to "Gods of My World." Complexities do pop up, such as the overall influx of piano and lush, acoustic-laced moments (most evident on epic disc-closer "The View of Everlast"). Unlike on past efforts, however, these investigations fit in well with the overall grandeur of well-executed, mid-tempo, classically themed black metal.

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