The long partnership between Borknagar and Century Media began in 1997 when the superstar outfit for the first time introduced the elements of progressive/folk metal with traditional black metal on their classical album Olden Domains. Since then Borknagar explored new musical domains by reflecting strength on songwriting and went beyond their boundaries. The band underwent several line-up changes and welcomed many famous musicians like Garm of Ulver, ICS Vortex of Arcturus, Andreas Hedlund of Vintersorg and other talented artists who have crafted a unique sonic standard. Since formation the Scandinavian outfit extracted the fine quintessence of progressive and black metal. And found ways to interlace them with folk melodies and bombastic symphonies.
Borknagar shortly became best known for their musical work and today they stand firm as one of the best Norwegian musical outfits. Within the 24 years of business the superstar outfit released 10 studio albums based on themes of nature and universal topics. Before working on their new studio album Borknagar parted ways with guitarist Jens F. Ryland, drummer Baard Kolstad and vocalist Heldund “Vintersorg”. These unfortunate incidents did not hinder the progress of writing music, instead the band commenced work on a new album showing a sense of ambition.
The robust lineup now contains reputable musicians such as founding member and guitarist Oystein G.Burn, bassist and vocalist ICS Vortex, keyboardist and vocalist Lars “Lazare” Nedland of Solefald, drummer Bjorn Dugstad Ronnow and guitarist Jostein Thomassen. True North is the band’s 11th album that brings the former bassist of Dimmu Borgir “ICS Vortex” as the main vocalist besides “Lazare”. It’s not a coincidence that the avantgarde outfit lay emphasis on raw black metal and folk melodies. The opening track “Thunderous” is glorious and sensational. And proves once again the extensive vocal skills of ICS Vortex and Lazare. The track maneuvers on solid aggression and vibrant melodies where the beautiful synth work is shrewdly aligned with harmonious bass guitar.
“Lazare” Nedland performance on the keyboards reflect a modern flair of symphonies and the harmonious arrangements are brought to dynamic levels. The funky tone of the 70’s resonates on the second track “Up North”. True North is a powerhouse of many creative ideas and the aspect of the elegant symphonies are merged with atmospheric qualities of a progressive black metal. The album is a paramount of importance and full of sentimental moments. At times ICS Vortex reminds me of his magical performance with the band Arcturus.
On many tracks of the album he vaunts his vocal style and sings gently and harshly throughout the album in unison with Lazare‘s clean vocals. On the third track “The Fire Burns” they alternate between clean vocals deriving the growls from the ethos of black metal. Hence the effective balance of the instrumentation provides a rich musical content. Towards contemplative and moody melodies Borknagar have built a strong personality in their music. And by mastering the characteristic qualities the band took advantage of their skills by showing vivacity. The latest album opens new horizons, the natural progression and versatility can be extinguished by a number of pleasing songs such as “Lights” and the “Wild Father’s Heart“.
This track is attributed by wonderful melodies and features the most touching and moving vocals of ICS Vortex. His outstanding and operatic vocals would bring tears to your eyes, incredible track!! True North is a valid expansion and has its own dynamic measures, it’s a defining step by the quintet to reconnect with their past albums. Aesthetically the album is a perfect follow up to its predecessor and less bombastic. The most common aspect is the variety of melodies. The multi-layered tracks are steered by melodic guitar riffs and textural elements.
While the melodies and hooks are carefully executed, the vocal tonality is mostly clean and operatic. The slow and quietude tempos builds for soaring rhythm guitar and solos. True North encapsulate epic portions, other intensifiers that provides the layering of the track are the refined guitar riffs. “Mount Rapture” and “Into the White” are both dramatic and a wonderful testament to the band’s creativity.
The sheer blast beats and black metal growls on “Tidal” and the constant impressive riffs create the effect. The strong and raging riffs reverberate powerfully, yet the most emphasis is on the clean vocals that sound catchy. The final track “Voices” features some of the best vocal performances by Lazare. Borknagar brings this track to epic closure, on this track the heavy riffs ebb and flow. True North is the band’s most emotional album to date, but for some reasons I prefer Winter Thrice over the new album. The expansion towards dramatic tempos and powerful riffs redefines the musical themes of the Norwegian outfit. True North is an inspiring record and this particular modern take on progressive/avant-garde metal is classified as top notch release of the year 2019.
Release Date: September 27th, 2019
Label: Century Media Records
- Up North
- The Fire That Burns
- Wild Father’s Heart
- Mount Rapture
- In The White
- Wild Father’s Heart (Instrumental Demo Version)
- Up North (Demo Version)