Roundtable Review: Winter Thrice by Borknagar
Posted by RiffRaff
Label: Century Media
Release Date: 22 January 2016
Location: Bergen, Norway
Reggie – I had no idea what to expect from this album. Without any working knowledge of the band at all, I went in with an open mind and came out a fan. Winter Thrice in an excellent mix of the Prog/Black/Folk/Viking mentioned above. The clean vocals are excellent. They remind me of another vocalist from another band that escapes my mind at the moment, but the vocal style brings a majestic feel to the songs. Then, when things get black metal and brutal, it drives the songs to a whole new depth. The cool thing is that they can stitch all these extreme elements together seamlessly. Some of the stand out songs for me are the opener – The Rhymes of the Mountains, Panorama, When Chaos Calls, and Terminus. Overall, this is going to be a contender for a year-end list. And, it’s only January… 4.5 out of 5.
RiffRaff – Anyone can be a cook. Take a class or read a recipe and even someone who believes they can burn water can cook up an appetizing dish. To be a chef however, that takes years of practice, learning, and a bit of natural talent. To know the subtlety of each ingredient and how to blend them in the most complex simple way possible, the effects of applying heat and cold, and having beyond mastery of the hundreds of different cooking methods. A master chef can rend your soul with his expertise of manipulating your most emotional of senses (smell and taste). However, there is the expression, “Too many cooks ruin the broth.” Which is why I feel most supergroups do little to satisfy listeners quite like their main bands do.
Somehow, a group of master chefs were able to get together a couple decades ago and make a restaurant called Borknagar where they took bits and pieces of what made their main joints good, but went on a journey to play to each others strength and craft some of the most delicious metal ever. In and out went different chefs each leaving their mark on the core recipes of Borknagar evolving them throughout the years. Now the menu is cooked and seasoned to perfection.
So, yeah, I’m hungry, and Winter Thrice is delicious cut of Kobe Beef topped with a touch of grated horseradish. A must buy album. Oh, and Kristoffer ‘Garm’ Rygg (of Ulver and Borknagar’s original vocalist) makes a return for a couple songs, and holy fuck, the majestic voice over-load is in full effect. 5.0
Irmelinis – Since Borknagar released the beautiful video for “Winter Thrice” a little over a month ago, I’ve been playing that song every morning when waking up. It made me wake up to snowy aural landscapes reminding me of ancient Nordic times, when the land was filled with large, fully bearded, hairy men…
Anyway… It peaked my expectations greatly, and I’m happy to say they are now fulfilled. None of the other songs beat the grandeur of the lead single, but they all hold a very high standard, both songwriting-wise and production-wise. Not to mention the vocals…! Like a holy gift sent down to us from the Norse Viking Gods, they give us not only three majestic vocalists, but FIVE! The contrast between ICS Vortex’s (one of my favourite singers of all time) powerful howling, to Vintersorg’s raspy black metal roars works extremely well, as we’re familiar with from previous albums. Add to this Lars Nedland of Solefald and Garm from the band Ulver and the black/folk vocal experience is complete.
This is “nature metal” in its most beautiful form, heavily emphasizing atmosphere and feeling, drawing influences from the members long history of experimental and progressive music. I’ve been a fan of the band from the start, and I now consider “Winter Thrice” to be one of their finest albums. 4.5/5
Mammal – Congratulations to Borknagar for achieving such a high ranking in my best albums of 2016. On the basis of all they’ve done before, I was supremely confident they would be up there again with their new album. After just one listening, they unquestionably are. I dare say “Winter Thrice” may be their most adventurous album yet… and it’s succeeded in being that exploratory without leaving behind any of the grand approaches that have made Borknagar so good since they formed 20 years ago.
With their music to stir me I’d be able to climb a thousand-metre glacier wall with ease. They’d simply float me all the way up. Their control and command of every song is so efficient that it reverses entropy and creates energy from nowhere. It stimulates so many dopamines to form in my brain that they ooze out of my navel.
No band I’ve heard in the 20 years since the self-titled Bornagar album in 1996 is better at exploiting the combination of dark and clean vocals, either as solo voices or in chorus. The guitar refrains, played high on the fret board, pour sweetness into the gentle darkness of their songs. Their anthemic verses surge, the introspective passages gather in the places where blackness turns to light.
Eight of Borknagar’s nine original albums before “Winter Thrice” have featured my Best Of lists since 1997. This new one is already a mighty candidate for top award of this year. 5.0
A Metal State of Mind Score – 4.75 out of 5