Borknagar Album Review – ‘Winter Thrice’

Borknagar’s ‘Winter Thrice’ is another highly anticipated album to start the year. Over the 20 years of their existence (yes, another anniversary for 2016) the band has not only gathered a massive following worldwide but also changed their sound significantly over the years. From their early beginnings with the low-fi, self-titled debut album and the classic ‘The Olden Domain’, which is regarded as their best album by many old fans, the band began to change their music more and more into a progressive sound. Ever since their 2001 album ‘Empiricism’ Borknagar’s music is not easy to classify, which is exactly what the bands aim for. Ever evolving, their new record ‘Winter Thrice’ is no exemption.

‘Winter Thrice’ kicks off with the rather catchy yet heavy ‘The Rhymes Of The Mountains’ and the epic title song. Both songs are probably the most straight forward tracks on the album, which doesn’t mean that they lack the variety we have grown accustomed to. The tracks play carefully between sweet melodies and blackish riffing and between harsh and clean vocals. If you have been living under a rock and have never listened to a Borknagar album, those tracks are best described as being somewhere in the middle between Amorphis and Enslaved. However, having said that Borknagar further cultivate their own sound. One of the main features of the progressive variety is the fact that the band features four vocalists this time around. The return of old band mate Kristoffer ‘Garm’ Rygg adds even more variety and freshness to the overall sound. His appearance on ‘Winter Thrice’ and ‘Terminus’ is one of the winners of this album.

With the third song Borknagar venture more and more into progressive territory. Whereas the first two songs are probably closest to Borknagar’s old sound, the remaining six tracks have their foundations in the later part of their back catalogue. The highlights of the album are the two longest tracks ‘When Chaos Calls’ and ‘Terminus’. Maybe they are the highlights because they are the longest tracks, giving the band the time they require to fully develop their vision of modern progressive extreme metal. ‘When Chaos Calls’ kicks off with a short piano intro before breaking into a razor-sharp riff and clean and crisp vocals. Throughout the song the structure meanders between melodic, clean parts topped off with a catchy refrain and harsher passages with grim vocals and some blast beats here and there. ‘Terminus’ starts as one of the heaviest songs of the album. Straight away harsh vocals and blast beats dominate the track. Of course, this changes as the song progresses. Three breaks into piano- and acoustic-guitar passages intertwined with many riffs and melodies and the play between the prevalent harsh vocals and clean vocals make this song a progressive extravaganza of epic proportions. Alone this song takes you quite a while to discover in his complete depth.

As with most Borknagar albums of their later phase ‘Winter Thrice’ will take some time to digest and time will tell where it will be ranked in the band’s back catalogue. ‘Winter Thrice’ certainly doesn’t disappoint. Quite the contrary; it is one of the best if not the best album of the last 15 years Fans of all band phases will finds something to like on the album. And if you like their last two albums you will also like ‘Winter Thrice’.