The Norwegian progressive black metal juggernaut known as Borknagar last graced us with new music in the form of 2012s Urd, another impressive album that further cemented their legacy as one of the most important acts the genre has ever seen. Here at the start of 2016 the band unleashes Winter Thrice, again mixed by Jens Bogren, and with glorious cover artwork courtesy of the veteran metal collaborator Marcelo Vasco. Winter Thrice is also noteworthy as it features guest vocals on a few songs from Garm, original Borknagar singer and also the leader of Ulver. Along with his contributions, the bands already vocal-rich attack is comprised of bassist ICS Vortex, Vintersorg, keyboard player Lars A. Nedland, and the rest of the musical coalition, which includes guitarists Oystein G. Brun & Jens F. Ryland, and drummer Baard Kolstad.
Borknagar has always been fantastic at combining the worlds of brutal Norwegian black metal with symphonic progressive rock & folk, and that formula is once again on full display here throughout Winter Thrice. The soaring clean vocals of ICS Vortex, Nedland, & Vintersorg are absolutely spectacular, as the trio shoot to the heavens on the powerful "Cold Runs the River", with Vintersorg adding in just enough of the harsh black metal rasps/screams to deepen the layers. The title track and "The Rhymes of the Mountain" are grand mini-epics, with sweeping keyboards and massive guitar riffs creating a majestic yet aggressive wall of sound, and you can listen to hear Varg singing up a storm on the title cut as well. "Panorama" is grandiose prog, with the keys of Nedland up front and center supporting passionate vocals, while "When Chaos Calls" sees the horrific battle of clean & harsh vocals being waged over wonderful symphonic black metal arrangements. Be ready to pour yourself a stein of ale and get your Viking Metal jig on for the upbeat "Erodent", as blast beats, layers of tremolo guitar riffs, venomous growls, melodic vocals, and sumptuous keyboards sweep you away into a glorious state. The heaviest, and most adventurous tune here however is the 7-minute "Terminus", a raging, boiling, festering pot of cold, atmospheric, and progressive black metal, complete with thunderous guitar riffs, jackhammer blasts, and Borknagar's awesome mix of clean & harsh vocals, with everyone involved and contributing mightily. The folk influence rears its head on the grand closer, "Dominant Winds", as acoustic guitars & Hammond organ complement the raging electric passages and myriad of vocal styles. Awesome stuff!
Man, just when you think Borknagar have to somehow be running out of ideas after so many strong releases, they put out this instant classic and impress yet again. Along with the equally powerful Enslaved, Borknagar are once again at the forefront of progressive black metal, and Winter Thrice quickly jumps to the top of the heap here in early 2016.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1) The Rhymes of the Mountain
2) Winter Thrice
3) Cold Runs the River
5) When Chaos Calls