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Borknagar – Winter Thrice

Published:

Last Updated on 07:42 PM by Giorgos Tsekas

Genre: Progressive Black Metal
Country: Norway
Label: Century Media
Year: 2016

When a band releases ten albums in twenty years always in high levels of quality, then one can do nothing but give all the credit it deserves for its consistency. Still, this consistency was not sufficient to place the band in the elite of the Norwegian Black Metal bands and one reason behind this is most probably the fact that those releases failed by an inch to be considered as classics. Moreover, their specific blend of pagan/classic black metal elements with progressive structures was implemented with their unique style, away from stylistic trends and commercial tricks. That is why I feel that, regardless if someone enjoys Borknagar’s music or not, it is extremely difficult not to appreciate them for staying on course and not abandoning their principals.

Besides these few, introductive words I felt compelled to write about the band, the return of the inexhaustible Ics Vortex in 2011 as a full-time member needs to be pointed out as a crucial point in the band’s recent history. It gave a thrust, which resulted in releasing its best, in my book, album up to this day “Urd” the year after. The band is celebrating its twenty-year presence in discography, so, as a treat, they decided to assign the vocal duties to four men. Thus, apart from Vintersorg, Ics Vortex and the enhanced vocal participation of keyboardist Lazare, we can also witness the comeback of Garm, singer in the band’s debut album.

My first remark must be the record’s amazing production, for which we must give kudos to Jens Borgen. Balanced and clear as never before. This kind of production is not often found in black metal releases, but, let’s not hide behind our shadow here, this album is not black metal.  It is, above all, a progressive album in which melody, the pluralistic development of the compositions, the display of the band members’ technical skills – those are the essential aspects here. That fact does not suggest that the few parts where the band decided to display its capacity in producing blackish riffs leaves us uninterested. Nothing but that… By the way, those howling vocals kick serious ass.

However, the band has almost utterly abandoned the European epic Viking/pagan sound, even at the melodic parts. The guitar and vocal melodies seem to be focused on progressive metal qualities more than ever. At the same time, the band has integrated hints from the Finnish melodic death metal scene here and there. The four different vocalists will thrill with the depth and variety they bring in the songs, as long as the listener is not a huge fan of one of the vocalists in particular (ok, it’s Ics Vortex I’m talking about…), so this odd arrangement of duties will not satisfy him/her. The keyboards play a huge role in the build-up of the atmosphere, sounding more old-fashioned than ever. The guitars never cease to produce new themes, based on several formulas such as doom, black, melodic death while the leads fit harmonically in the whole. The rhythm section, though it did not impress me, still it is clearly skillfully put together.

Even if I left some sort of complain about some of the band’s choices floating in the air, the time for impartial evaluation has come… And the conclusion is that “Winter Thrice” is a remarkable release by outstanding musicians with amazing sound and solid song-writing. This is not stuff made to be easy to listen to. It takes time and spins to be fully comprehended. In all its aspects the album shouts that an immense amount of work was invested upon it. That, for me, is absolutely important and worth rewarding and I think that the outcome itself justifies the band’s effort.

5/6

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