Borknagar - True North review

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Band: Borknagar
Album: True North
Release date: September 2019

01. Thunderous
02. Up North
03. The Fire That Burns
04. Lights
05. Wild Father's Heart
06. Mount Rapture
07. Into The White
08. Tidal
09. Voices
10. Wild Father's Heart [instrumental demo] [Digipak bonus]
11. Up North [demo] [Digipak bonus]

No black metal band ever made the frozen north sound so fun without feeling like a parody.

Fun may indeed not be the best word, but I can't help it. I listen to True North and it makes me smile. Which isn't exactly what I thought I wanted to feel when listening to music about icy landscapes where I'd freeze my Balkan ass off, but goddamn does it make me want to have a hot coffee in a cabin in some snow covered pine forest. And copious amounts of alcohol, though less mandatory.

I've been a massive Borknagar fan ever since a friend of mine recommended them and later I saw them live right after Winter Thrice was released. That was easily one of my most listened to albums of that year, along with one of my favorite live performances, mostly due to ICS Vortex's amazing fucking voice. Winter Thrice was an anniversary of the band, who at that time were celebrating twenty years since their debut. It also was the only album who had contributions from all its four vocalists, including none other than Ulver's Garm, which was a massive surprise and such a great moment in general. Where does one even go from there? Especially after three long-time members left the band. Well, two long-time members and a drummer. But you can probably imagine how hard it was to follow-up such a moment. See what Øystein had to say here.

By now if you heard Borknagar's recent albums, you know what to expect. Their blend of black, folk and progressive metal still feels very unique even after so many years and it still doesn't feel like the band exhausted what they can do with the sound without rehashing anything. True North isn't a massive departure from the previous albums, but even at this stage the band still feels like they are constantly exploring new territories passionately. The ballad "Wild Father's Heart" and the folky "Voices" really don't feel like anything Borknagar have done before, and they are incorporated really well into their sound, standing out but not sticking out. Those are definitely the songs that I will remember most fondly from this album years down the line, but this isn't to say that the rest of the album doesn't live up to it, just that it isn't as wildly adventurous outside of what they have already done before.

Indeed the entire album does flow quite amazingly, with the band moving from grandiose moments to harsher ones to serene ones so elegantly so that no moments feel like they're there just to fill quotas. And even if most of the album isn't adventurous in concept, it still feels very adventurous in feeling, in how upbeat and emotional it is. "Emotional" often gets associated with feeling like nostalgia, melancholy and sadness, but True North reaches for a slightly different palette without feeling cheesy. A lot of it is obviously owed to ICS Vortex' amazing vocal performance, and although he is far from being the only star of the record, his voice is just so soothing and captivating that as meticulous and masterful the instrumentals are, you can't help but pay attention to his vocals first and foremost; and with Vintersorg leaving the band, this did leave more room for ICS to fill. When leaving the grasp of the vocals, the instrumental still does a really good job of conveying the emotions underneath, with a lot of great progressive keyboard and guitar moments that make for a much more interesting album than it would've been had it been too straight-forward. But straight-forward it still is a lot of the time, and yet it never sounds dull. Perhaps I would've liked for the production to feel less congested. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but I constantly feel like I am supposed to get more out of the way it sounds, but it never sounds as good as it should, so sorry if the only real criticism I can give this record is really vague and quite uninformed.

But other than the less than perfect production, True North not only proves that Borknagar are still vital more than twenty years into their career, that they can still reach for new territories and can overcome lineup changes; but it also stands tall among most other albums of this year.


Written on 26.09.2019 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments: 7   Visited by: 179 users
26.09.2019 - 23:28
Bad English
Nice reviev, looking forvard to this... Your Balkan ass, man there is minus 5 at night time here
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
28.09.2019 - 01:03
Oai da ce zici tu acolo?
28.09.2019 - 10:31
Old Nick
Yeah, this is a very good album. I think they should just ditch the harsh vocals altogether really.
28.09.2019 - 19:13
Written by nikarg on 28.09.2019 at 10:31

Yeah, this is a very good album. I think they should just ditch the harsh vocals altogether really.

I don't mind them when they do come around, but they''re blown out of the water by Vortex's cleans.

Really is there a better singer in metal than Vortex?
Take off those stupid glasses and kiss me
28.09.2019 - 19:19
Old Nick
Written by RaduP on 28.09.2019 at 19:13

Really is there a better singer in metal than Vortex?

Garm, but he's not doing metal any more
30.09.2019 - 05:02
Lars does an excellent job on this album as well, and I can't for the life of me figure out why so many reviewers at other sites can't seem to tell the difference between him and ICS. Pretty damn distinctive if you ask me.
Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy
13.10.2019 - 20:24
Ag Fox
Angel No More
Voices is a beautiful song
loves 小巫

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