Borknagar – Winter Thrice (2016)

It seems that the new Borknagar album is indeed upon us, and my is it ever glorious. I don’t feel that the band have ever made a bad album and Winter Thrice is no exception. The band have given us an hour of brand new music, which even features previous singer Garm (also of Ulver Arcturus fame, but you shouldn’t need me to tell you that) delivering lines just as well as he did in The Sham Mirrors. They didn’t just have the man sing a few weak lines either, as they gave him two songs in which to show the world that he’s still got it and I’d say, better than ever. But if the vocals aren’t good enough to sell it to you, than perhaps the riffs will do just that, as they come with an oblong sort of progressive sugar that turns these tremolos into that of sheer magnificence. Keep in mind that this is still a black metal album despite how beautiful it sounds, but that’s just another thing about Borknagar records that make them stand out from that of every other band. The latest Vintersorg was enormous, so I knew that I could only expect the very best from Winter Thrice. There wasn’t even a hint of doubt in my mind, as I ultimately knew that we weren’t only getting a great black metal record, but that we were getting a black metal record with structure and substance. Borknagar aren’t trying to go back to the early nineties, as they even throw in a few seventies prog rock and blues influences into what feels like a very avant-garde and expectable release. Yet when I say expectable, we shouldn’t call that a bad thing. It’s clearly not terrible to know more or less what you’re going to get when you hear an album, and when it’s delivered as well as it is here, there’s the heavy chance that you’re not really going to give a damn as to whether or not it’s a “true progression” of the art.

This disc manages to deliver in spades on such masterpieces as “Panorama” (5:51) and it’s title cut (6:13) all of which are given more than enough time to breathe in their icy, yet gleaming textures that I feel will speak far more than tiny words on a screen can ever convey. Winter Thrice is the kind of record that you need to hear right now, and you know that already. I knew that already. The world of heavy metal knew that already. With a disc that delivers as much of the brash black metal influenced atmospheres as we’re used to, yet also gives the already proficient clean vocal lines enough space to get their point across, we’re clearly getting what is a nearly inhuman performance. Folks, it really doesn’t matter if you’re listening to the majestically brutal “When Chaos Calls” (7:02) or the short snack of neo-classical and prog rock that is “Noctilucent” (3:54) you’re getting the textbook definition of Borknagar. Compared to their previous records, I find that Winter Thrice allows for more experimentation than has been done in the past, but it doesn’t compromise the formula and that’s what’s important. These gentlemen clearly realize that they have a songwriting formula, and it’s clear that people truly enjoy it. But the fact that they always manage to top themselves every time is well worth noting and I feel that other bands can learn from this example. Though that doesn’t mean copying off these fellows, as much as it means finding a true musical voice and letting it carry you through the ages. What people don’t seem to understand is that the music made on every Borknagar album reflects the lives of these musicians, and as they mature, so does the music itself evolve. When you consider something timeless, you only need to look at their back catalog to see just how many gems these gentlemen have left us to experience over the passing of time. Winter Thrice marks their tenth album and instead of sounding like a band that’s running out of steam, they prove just to be as vehement and stellar as they’ve ever been. You may not realize this, but such a thing is incredibly uncommon in the world of human music and once again, it makes for not only a record, but for a band that is absolutely and positively timeless. If Winter Thrice hasn’t spoken to you, then I would truly advise you to go see a doctor, as you very well may be deaf. The Grim Tower highly recommends Winter Thrice, but you don’t need this review to assure you of it’s greatness.

(7 Tracks, 56:00)


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