Borknagar combine the styles of raw black metal and folk metal into one hence the 'avant-garde' label. Although this style is very widespread, overdone, and flat out cheesy now, it was new and interesting at the time. As Borknagar have advanced through their career, they've shifted the mix from raw black metal with hints of folk metal over to folk metal with hints of raw black metal. Each of their albums introduce something new and usually original to their style. This first album, the self-titled, is raw black metal with little glimmers of folk metal sprinkled all throughout. The folk metal usually shows itself in the form of clean vocals arising from the harsh black metal melodies. The production is good for a 1996 black metal album not so much as some of their later releases, there is still some feedback left over and the mixing isn't annoyingly crystal clear. It's the sort of production I prefer for a black metal album.
The riffing is more melodic, which I think is another aspect of folk metal melded into this album. The riffing is somewhat similar to that of Emperor on their first album but less aggressive. There is some high thrash influence here in the fact that the riffs are played very fast for black metal. The keyboards, when present take a back seat to the other instruments unlike their later albums when the synthesizers are much too high in the mix and take more of a leading role, surpassing even the guitars. Keyboards usually come into play when the music slows down a tad. Essentially this album is a combination of thrash and atmosphere. The perfect mix between these two aspects of music is very hard to find but they've come VERY close with this album. My favorite tracks would have to be the first, third, and sixth songs. I just wish I knew how to pronounce the titles.
It is hard to find something wrong with this album. There are only two things I can bring myself to complain about: Out of all of these songs, half of them are ambient rinky-dink songs saturated in sound effects and only a handful of riffs (not to say they aren't entertaining); The album would have been more enjoyable if more of the songs were more developed. The other thing is related to the previous statement but not precisely the same... It's not long enough! This is an astounding album of blasting yet atmospheric black metal. If you are reading this, get this album!