Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Borknagar - "Winter Thrice" (Album Review)

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 22/01/2016
Label: Century Media Records


‘Winter Thrice’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1. The Rhymes Of The Mountain
2. Winter Thrice
3. Cold Runs The River
4. Panorama
5. When Chaos Calls
6. Erodent
7. Noctilucent
8. Terminus

Even though ‘Winter Thrice’ is firmly rooted in the present sound, I’d strongly argue that this is the best iteration of their established prog rock-obsessed extreme metal sound to date. The songwriting is the strongest it’s been since ‘Empiricism’, and the album sounds absolutely fantastic from a production standpoint. Vintersorg should also be commended for turning in his best vocal performance to date, which comes from someone who has been a diehard ICS Vortex devotee when it comes to Borknagar’s vocalists. It helps that the music behind him lends itself to his strengths, driven by big, ringing chords and some delicious guitar leads.


Borknagar is:

Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund | Vocals
Øystein Garnes Brun | Guitars
Lars “Lazare” Nedland | Keyboard, Backing vocals
Jens F. Ryland | Guitars
ICS Vortex | Bass & Vocals
Baard Kolstad | Drums


The Review:

It may not be this way for everyone, but in my mind there’s a clear line that divides Borknagar’s early sound from the sound they’ve cultivated and fine-tuned over the last 15 years. Beginning with ‘Empiricism’ in 2001, the band began focusing a lot more on the progressive elements that had started to creep into their style on “The Archaic Course’, a creative choice that first truly took shape with the arrival of vocalist Vintersorg around that same time.

At the time, the move made a ton of sense as Vintersorg’s own project was on a very similar trajectory, having started as a folk-influenced black metal project and had gotten more and more progressive as the nineties wore on. For what the musical goal was, Vintersorg was an ideal fit, and ‘Empiricism’ remains a favorite among the band’s fanbase. Leading up to their new album, ‘Winter Thrice’, the band has largely tried to find new ways to explore a similar formula to that of ‘Empiricism’, with mixed results. In my mind, the more a Borknagar album flirts with their nineties sound, the better it is, which may not be the case for everyone reading this.

‘Winter Thrice’ is probably about as close to that older sound as we’re ever going to get, which is to say it’s still only about a third of the way there. The bulk of the album is still made up of songs that should sound vaguely familiar to anyone who’s heard either ‘Universal’ or ‘Urd’ over the last five years. You might have been lead to believe—thanks to Garm’s vocal appearance on “Winter Thrice” and “Terminus”—that the band would be leaning more heavily on the past, and that might be by design. But, while there certainly are larger strides in that direction, your enjoyment of this album will most likely be predicated on how you’ve felt about their recent output.

Even though ‘Winter Thrice’ is firmly rooted in the present sound, I’d strongly argue that this is the best iteration of their established prog rock-obsessed extreme metal sound to date. The songwriting is the strongest it’s been since ‘Empiricism’, and the album sounds absolutely fantastic from a production standpoint. Vintersorg should also be commended for turning in his best vocal performance to date, which comes from someone who has been a diehard ICS Vortex devotee when it comes to Borknagar’s vocalists. It helps that the music behind him lends itself to his strengths, driven by big, ringing chords and some delicious guitar leads.

So, while old fucks like me might have wanted a real trip back to ‘The Olden Domain’, it’s tough to argue that Borknagar aren’t putting out some really strong material in 2016. ‘Winter Thrice’ sees Borknagar at their best in fifteen years, with enough of a nod to the past to make me want to wax nostalgic about “the good old days”, while managing to prove that their current style can be moulded into something that appeals to the old guard. As critical as I’ve been of the band in recent years, they’ve made me a believer here.

Winter Thrice” is available digitally here and on CD/LP copy here


FFO: Enslaved, Arcturus, Ihsahn, Vintersorg


Band info: Facebook | Official | twitter

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