Monday, February 8, 2016

Borknagar - Winter Thrice

I am a huge Borknagar fan and believe that this band has never released a bad album. Some might disagree due to how far removed their current sound is compared to their first album, which was more of a raw black metal sound but with enough melody to make it stand out. True, they do not resemble their "original" sound but neither does any other album that came after their debut. Every album after has been more focused and thought out. Vocals stand out as much as the music creating a balance of beauty and aggression, just like the forces of nature in this band's homeland of Norway. Nature is also the most common lyrical theme for this band and their newest album, Winter Thrice, is no exception.

I'm going to cut right to the chase here and say that Winter Thrice is their crowning achievement, their magnum opus. The reason I say this is because of what they were able to pull off with absolute brilliance. Anyone who is a fan of this band knows it's history of vocalists with Kristoffer "Garm, Fiery G" Rygg on the debut and sophomore before handing the torch over to Simen "ICS Vortex" Hestnaes. After two albums Vortex is gone and Andreas "Vintersorg, Mr. V." Hedlund steps in adding his own brand of legendary vocals to the band. However, beginning with 2012's Urd, ICS Vortex is once again a full time member and both he and Vintersorg share vocal duties along with keyboard player Lars R. "Lazare" Nedland, who has an incredible voice and has appeared on all of Solefald's releases as well as guesting on such incredible albums like Ásmegin's incredible debut and some of Vintersorg's solo albums. So here, again, we see a band that takes it vocals seriously. So what would be the next step in this pattern that is obviously emerging?

Well, what would have seemed so unlikely a few years ago has now happened and the result is nothing short of brilliant. This album has two songs in which every vocalist that has ever been in Borknagar is singing together. The title track, could quite possibly be the best song they've ever done, even beating out "The Earthling" from Urd. The song is epic as fuck with amazing riffs and a melody that has so much atmosphere. But the best part is where you hear the unmistakable voice of Mr. Rygg and then you know this is something magical. They could have played it safe and just had him come in a sing a few bars so they can say they did it. No, instead every moment of this song is written for the person who sings it, including Garm's moments, which are quite a lot on this song. It's as if he never left and was still a part of this band. That's what makes this song so special. "Terminus" is the other song that Garm sings on and is a monster of a seven minute epic. This song is a bit heavier in spots than the title track and Garm's input here is not as prominent as on the title track but his amazing presence is felt in both of these amazing songs.

The rest of the album is no less amazing. Songs like the opener, "Rhymes of the Mountain," grab you with it's hooks immediately and let you know that this will be another amazing effort by this incredible band. "Cold Run's the River" has some really cool melodies and some nice tempo changes, which also shows newcomer Baard Kolstad on drums as a force to be reckoned with. This kid looks like he's twelve but can play his ass off. He can stand in the ranks of Hellhammer and Asgeir Mickelson at his young age and that's an accomplishment. Vintersorg's vocals also stand out as he seems to be using his "old style" baritone, which I think suits him much better. It's actually a blessing we get to hear Mr. V. at all because of his accident last year, which kept most of us wondering if he could continue to perform. Have no fear. It's safe to say that Vintersorg is not throwing in the towel anytime soon. Epics like "When Chaos Calls" and "Erodent" are some of Vintersorg's best performances in years.

So yes, this could be considered the band's magnum opus but I don't think they are finished surprising us with monumental albums. The creative core of this band is firmly in place and their formula for making huge, epic songs without sacrificing hooks and creativity will continue to grace our ears. This band has done no wrong and I think they never will.


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