Borknagar Quintessence

No longer can Norway's Borknagar be lumped in with melodic black metal bands. By incorporating Nordic folk, progressive metal and even space rock leanings to their brand of epic metal, the band may have created something akin to a modern day version of Manowar. Vocalist I.C.S Vortex is one of the most daring and original vocalists in extreme metal today. One listen to tracks such as "Colossus" and "The Presence is Ominous" reveals unique melodic vocal passages and layering unheard of in this type of metal. And by adding quite eerie keyboard work along with the inventive drumming of Asgeir Mickelson (also of Spiral Architect), the group manages to create an epic, mournful disc that will leave you wondering what the hell you just heard. Unquestionably one of the best metal CDs released so far this year. (Century Media)