BORKNAGAR's back, and with another masterpiece into Progressive/Avant-garde Black Metal/Folk/Viking! It's a matter of loving it or loving it!
February 26, 2024

Since the experimental ways in Progressive Metal gave a step ahead during the 90s, more and more things came to a point where the frontiers between Progressive Rock and Metal became hard to define. It’s because the band learned that there was no limits and that they could do anything they wanted. And one must praise Norway’s BORKNAGAR, because they’re pioneers and a driving force on Progressive Viking/Folk/Black Metal, and “Fall”, the quintet’s 12th album comes to surprise many fans.

Once more, Øystein G. Brun (the band’s founder and guitarist) worked as producer and did the recordings of the vocals, guitars and bass, with recordings of Marius Strand (drums, vocals and bass, and who did the sound engineering of the drums as well), Lars A. Nedland (the band’s long time keyboardist/vocalist, who worked on keyboards, synthesizers, FX and vocals), Jostein Thomassen (the band’s led guitarist who did recordings for the guitars) and John Ryan (of CRUACHAN, who worked with on violin and cello, whose parts he played as guest), with mixing of Jens Bogren (the same one of Fascination Street Studios who already did works for OPETH, ORPHANED LAND, KREATOR, AMON AMARTH and others) and mastering signed by Tony Lindgren (of Fascination Street Studios too, who usually works as partner of Jens). The final result is brilliant, clean and defined, but aggressive as well, and with excellent instrumental tunes, and the most important thing: the sonority fits on what the band musically expresses. On the artwork is another masterpiece Eliran Kantor (who signs arts for KREATOR, TESTAMENT and others), whose lines and colors contrasts gives the right idea of the album’s name and of what the songs bear.

Musically, the formula used on “Fall” is the same the fans know since “Borknagar”, but always worked in a different point of view. The album sounds as a rich blend between what the band did on “The Archaic Course” (1998), “Quintessence” (2000), “Universal” (2010), and “True North” (2019), with the same combination of Progressive/Avant-garde Black Metal with Folk/Viking landscaping ambiences, but so full of textures and it’s multi-layered that one hearing is not enough to understand what’s being expressed. On other hand, one single hearing is what’s necessary to become entangled on the weaving charm that “Fall” bears.

As usual, the quintet’s level of exigency is so high that brings to the fans a masterpiece that shines as a diamond, with (as told above) songs with musical thick layers. “Summits” is a fine mix between thunderous and aggressive harsh influences with tender Progressive Rock ambiences (here with excellent contrasts between aggressive shrieks and clean Progressive vocals). On “Nordic Anthem” (one of the Singles for the album), some traditional Pagan/Folk ambiences introduce the song, soon to be followed by excellent instrumental parts, creating an excellent ‘progressively’ introspective and hypnotic moment on the album (with excellent guitars entangling with charming vocals and whispers), with excellent hooking melodies and enriched by effects (a true live hit for the shows).

The song “Afar” brings the band again to explore shifts between more aggressive side of its music (due the presence of harsh voices and some double bass drumming) and Progressive Rock moments, but that is filled with excellent arrangements and rhythmic contrasts (with very good parts from bass guitar and drums). And “Moon” is filled with a more melodic richness, with excellent lead guitars’ parts and fine Progressive Rock vocals (with two voices singing the same parts), with wonderful ambiences. Being a bit longer that the previous one, “Stars Ablaze” is a rich song in terms of contrasts between heavier parts and Progressive moments, always in a coherent and solid sense and that is rich on guitars’ arrangements (but’s it’s so hooking in a way that’s impossible to jump it). On “Unraveling” is on the same Progressive Black Metal usual to the band, again plenty of melodic arrangements on the guitars, but the parts of bass guitar and drums are truly wonderful.

Again with a lovely Folk/Progressive intro focused on keyboards and clean chords (what a lovely guitar lead) “The Wild Lingers” shows the Avant-garde/Progressive Metal side of the quintet in a more introspective and landscaping way (in a way similar to what was heard on “True North”). And the longest song of the album is “Northward”, and here one can feel the presence of traces of older releases of the band, with a set of aggressive parts lying on charming melodic sheath of the keyboards and rich contrasts between harsh and clean voices.

As final words, all that’s left to say is that BORKNAGAR is always brilliant, that the band isn’t living off its past, but works with open eyes for the future and with feet in the present. And “Fall” is one of the finest releases of the year.

10 / 10









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"Fall" Track-listing:
  1. Summits
  2. Nordic Anthem
  3. Afar
  4. Moon
  5. Stars Ablaze
  6. Unraveling
  7. The Wild Lingers
  8. Northward
Borknagar Lineup:

I.C.S. Vortex - Bass, Vocals
Lars A. Nedland - Keyboards, Vocals
Øystein G. Brun - Guitars
Jostein Thomassen - Lead Guitars
Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow - Drums

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