Borknagar – True North

Coming up on three years ago, Borknagar released an album that was considered to be the pinnacle of their career. “Winter Thrice” graced us with vocals from every person to ever contribute vocals in this amazing band. Garm, Vintersorg, Lazare, and I.C.S.Vortex all contributing vocals on the same song and it is nothing short of brilliant. How can they top that? Can they top that? As Oystein G. Brun and Lazare began teasing us on social media with snippets of the songs they were recording, you could hear that majestic, epic feel to the songs but I could feel something about this album was going to be very different. Long time lead guitarist Jens F. Ryland has left the band on good terms in 2018 so I was curious to see how he would replace him; if he would replace him. The drum slot was also vacant since Baard Kolstad bowed out as well in 2018. Oystein began hinting at a mystery guitarist on social media. Then the announcements came and I knew it was coming but it still took my breath away…..

…..the line up changes did include a replacement for Ryland in Fracture and Profane Burial lead guitarist Jostein Thomassen as well as Kolstad’s replacement Profane Burial drummer Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow. Then the announcement that the legendary Andreas (Vintersorg, Mr. V) Hedlund had decided to step away from Borknagar. I kinda knew it was coming. Mr. V had not toured with Borknagar for a very long time and his untimely accident in November of 2014 is still haunting him physically. What would I expect from this album? How bad would I miss Vintersorg’s unmistakable vocals? But as the low rumble of thunder emerges from the speakers, “Thunderous” explodes into your ears with blasts, melodies and Vortex’s instantly recognizable vocals. I was floored of the sheer brilliance of Mr. Brun and company reinventing themselves with a modern approach to a return to form! Sounds crazy, right? This could have fit right in as the follow up to The Archaic Course and it’s the perfect follow up to Winter Thrice. Coming right out of the gate with this epic masterpiece, the song truly lived up to it’s name and there was more to come.

“Up North” sounded is a cool upbeat melodic number that sounds like it could have been on I.C.S. Vortex’s solo album Storm Seeker. Vortex’s vocals on this song are some of the best he’s ever done. The lyrics are literally about up North as and as Vortex describes what it’s like “Up North” you can picture yourself there. “The Fire That Burns” is pure Borknagar from the start. The melodic tremolo riffs with Vortex’s harsh vocals just set the epic atmosphere. Lazare’s backing vocals are amazing as always but Vortex, is once again just amazing on this song. “On the other hand there is “Mount Rapture,” that did not grab me at first. But with each listen of the album the song began to stand out more and more until I realized this is one of those songs that once it grows on you, you won’t be able to get out of your head. “Tidal” is another epic masterpiece that takes you on a 9 minute journey of brutality and beauty, as is meant to describe the the tides and the sea.

Yes Vintersorg is gone and no there were no special guests on this album. But that takes nothing away from this album. I said when I reviewed Winter Thrice that this band is not finished surprising us and True North is proof of that. Sometimes, when you don’t see it coming and not expecting it is when real magic is revealed.