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Borknagar - "Winter Thrice" (CD)

Borknagar - "Winter Thrice" CD cover image

"Winter Thrice" track listing:

1. The Rhymes Of The Mountain (see lyric video here)
2. Winter Thrice
3. Cold Runs The River
4. Panorama
5. When Chaos Calls
6. Erodent
7. Noctilucent
8. Terminus
9. Dominant Winds

Reviewed by on January 12, 2016

"'Winter Thrice,' [is] a collection of tracks that combine dynamic atmosphere with the just right amount of extreme chill to unite metalheads from myriad subgenes."

In times of bleak winter days, as fans wait for Jari Mäenpää to conjure up enough saunas to stop the glacial pace that is anathema when years count as moments, there is Borknagar. Once thought as the epigone of any old school church burning Norwegian black metal band of the early 90’s, this immensely talented group of some of Scandinavia’s most cherished acts have since become the uber-Wintersun, a demi-god with the power and symphonic grace of Jari combined with the linear progression of Enslaved. In half the wait time, Borknagar returns with “Winter Thrice,” a collection of tracks that combine dynamic atmosphere with the just right amount of extreme chill to unite metalheads from a myriad of subgenres.

With “Winter Thrice,” the band continues the musical lines of airy atmospheric clean vox and expansive melody over a dulled haze of acuminous utterances protruding from deep blackened blast beats shown on predecessor releases “Urd” and “Universal.” However, it also spreads the expanse a bit wider, much to the delectation of your author. Rather than darken it back to the corpse paint of days of old (thus becoming the butt end of puerile jokes), the band shows the beauty of white snowcapped landscapes and icy lakes and streams through soundscapes and emoting six strings. The trio of vocalists ICS Vortex, Laxare and Vintersong present a perfect mix of harsh and clean, of particular interest to the sybaritic and slightly cheeky post-black metal fan – the ultimate sockdolager to any argument in the metal universe, one I’ve absquatulated from years ago.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Borknagar’s sound is the overwhelming beauty amidst the turpitude of Baard Kolstad’s seething wall of haze, which is perfectly represented in tracks like “When Chaos Falls” and “Erodent” – where light and dark wrestle for control in a deluge of malevolent discordant melody. Øystein Garnes Brun still maintains the connection to the band’s blasphemous past in the decidedly black metal guitar tone. In a style akin to a mashup of Enslaved and Eluveitie, “The Rhymes of the Mountain” is sumptuous in both its hypnotizing bridge/chorus and intense dark undertone. The album’s title cut takes those melody lines to a whole new emotional level while juxtaposed to the album’s most black metal track “Cold Runs the River.”

There is so much for the progressive seeker, so long as linear strong structure is your bag. Borknagar may be wrought with broad-minded songwriting, it is by no means as rumpus as that found in bands like Leprous. One of the drawbacks of “Winter Thrice” is a tendency to draw listeners into a vast grand sonically appealing landscape, only to leave them torpid amid miles and miles of indistinguishable features. Imagine taking a holiday based solely on natural features – you tend to get inattentive after the tenth waterfall. This makes plodding through the latter part of the album a bit of a challenge, with little to do with the overall quality of each track and more to the track lengths and differentiate. Fortunately, the sinister onset of album favorite “Terminus” keeps things very interesting.

In the end, “Winter Thrice” is another compelling journey in the career of one of metal’s best progressive black metal acts in the world. Listening to the album in one full shot might make it a challenge to differentiate from song to song. However with airy atmospheric soundscapes, gargantuan bridge/chorus melodies, the perfect mixture of clean/harsh vocal tones that make up the backbone of this dynamic Norwegian act, the album will most certainly appeal to fans of “Urd” and “Universal.” For your author, having “winter thrice” is not such a bad thing. There is beauty to be found even at the death of things.

Highs: True to form, Borknagar's airy atmospheric soundscapes, gargantuan bridge/chorus melodies and perfect mixture of clean/harsh vocal tones is unmatched.

Lows: The material tends to leave listeners adrift in indistinguishable soundscapes.

Bottom line: Miles of atmopshere with that perfect dose of blackened chill will leave you wanting "Winter Thrice."

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)