Borknagar – True North
Label: Century Media
Well, it was a long, long time ago I last paied attention to a Borknagar album. It was their 2000 release “Quintessence”, which was a very good release. This is a band that, without a doubt, broke the barriers of the genre they were included when first started. From their self titled release, in 1996, to this new one, in 2019, a lot has changed in their sound, and in the band herself.
Members leaving, members entering… Normal within any band that has been doing this for over 20 years. Øystein Garnes Brun is the only original member in the band, at the moment, and I.C.S. Vortex is, probably, the biggest name, and a man with The Voice – just my opinion, obviously. But the music, as stated before, has changed throughout the years.
The amazing record that is the first – “Borknagar” – and their last last – “True North” – are miles apart, and show what some would call “evolution” or “innovation”, or even “growth”. I, personally, have no idea how to label it – do I have to? – or explain: it changed like Hell! There ya go, mates ahahah I like what they did with their first… A lot! And, as also stated before, I haven’t followed their career since 2000, which is a lot, considering they released 6 more albums in 19 years. Well, there you go… Outdated I am. But, the last one is the one being reviewed, so let us stick to this one…
Some bands, throughout their process of evolution, or simple growing up as a band, may reach levels and stages in their lives, that are far from the point they began their journey. “Wild Father’s Heart”, well, this is strange. Is this, may I consider this a… Ballad?! Not that is good or bad, but these are not the Borknagar I recall from previous sessions of Black Metal. Wait! Are they still considered Black Metal?! Maybe not or, at least to my ears, no. We have to look at it from a different perspective. The band does not play, today, what they played 25 years ago. Period. Once one has that clear idea in his mind, one will more easily be able to appreciate what is given.
Honestly, too much melody, too much… Musical mutation, I dare say. Vortex still has THAT GROWL, which is lovely, and clean vocals, which were always the things that made me enjoy him as a musician… Mostly. Borknagar reminds me, in a way, of bands like Amorphis, that went from one side of the spectrum to the other! It was a decision made by the band and one has to respect, understandably. Musicians should, first and foremost, please their artistic needs. The listener should never, again in my opinion, be the reason why a musician does A or B, as simple as that!
The album… Melody and more melody. There is not a lot to say, really. Great musician, enormous compositions, an amazing production! Do I extract, from it, the same I extracted from their first album? No, of course not. They don’t play the Black Metal I cherish so much. Does that mean they are not good anymore? Of course not! If I were to evaluate this album knowing nothing from their background, my evaluation would be totally different from the one I would give them, knowing what they did in the past… Hope this makes sense to the guy reading this in Annecy. “Thunderous” is an excellent opener! These are the troops from the North, more Epic than Raw, more Subtle than Evil.
Do not jump into this album with the 90s in mind. If you have been following the band in the lasts years, this will not “scare” you. If you enjoy this Nordic melody, these oh so special and so recognisable melodies, you will love it without a doubt; if your aim is a stronger, more violent and harsh approach, this may not please your taste. One thing is certain, epicness is a constant presence in Borknagar’s music, be it more Black Metal, be it more Melodic. Oh well, one will always have the old albums!