In February of this year, the legendary Vintersorg announced his departure from Borknagar, sending shock-waves (and doubt) into the hearts of fans. What would become of those distinctive blackened shrieks? Would he be replaced? That wasn't the only lineup change in the band, with Jostein Thomassen (Fracture/Profane Burial) replacing Jens Ryland on guitar and Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow (Profane Burial) replacing Baard Kolstad on drums in 2018. With the mighty Øystein G. Brun, ICS Vortex and Lars "Lazare" Nedland still in the fold, does it even matter? Confident fans know better...and "True North" is yet another upgrade in the stellar discography from one of Norway's most dynamic bands.
Following the path of most Norwegian black metal bands who have completely altered the sounds of earlier works, Borknagar is nearly indistinguishable from the days of "Borknagar" and "The Olden Domain." This couldn't be more pleasing to your author, because once melody is added to anything it instantly becomes better. With 2016's "Winter Thrice" a hard album to top (my personal favorite of that year), "True North" offers a bit heavier and just bit less atmospheric release.
When "Up North" was released as a single...minds were literally blown (including your author). How is it possible that "Winter Thrice" could be topped? The hammond organ blares and ICS Vortex's majestic clean vox give this an especially rockin' almost Rainbow-esque tone to it - 70's wrapped up in a tinge of black metal haze. Borknagar keeps pushing those boundaries, proving the band really has none.
With ICS Vortex taking on both the clean and harsh vocals, Vintersorg may be missed, but his departure did little to deter the band from consistently topping itself. "The Fire That Burns," "Lights" and "Mount Rapture" have just enough blackened elements to keep the band rooted in its now distant past. However, the real power of the band comes from the airy atmosphere, gorgeous tones and melodies and those oddly matched melodies that give Borknagar it's distinctive sound ("Mount Rapture" "Wild Father's Heart" and "Into the White" the perfect manifestation). The album closer "Voices" is one of the most sweeping majestic tunes ever to be penned by the band, an anthem for schizophrenics!
The man responsible for the stellar sound of the band since 2012's "Urd" is back in the form of the great Jens Bogren. "True North" continues that trend of sound and mix perfection - combining huge atmosphere for the melody and harmonies to wrap around the raging fire of darkness and despair. It is true perfection.
With winter on its way, the perfect remedy is to snuggle up to a warm fire with a steaming hot mug of alcohol fused coffe and immerse yourself in "True North." Borknagar once again provides the journey with a subgenre defining frigid soundscape of progressive black metal with a langskip full of melody. Was "Winter Thrice" topped? You betcha..."True North" is "Winter Fourfold"!
Label: Century Media Records (order album here)
Release Date: September 27, 2019
2. Up North
3. The Fire That Burns
5. Wild Father's Heart
6. Mount Rapture
7. Into the White
Check out "Up North" here:
Check out "The Fire That Burns" here: