Review 2093 : Borknagar – Fall – English

Borknagar remains close to its roots, even at the age of thirty.

Formed in 1994, the Norwegian band led by Øystein G. Brun (guitar, Cronian) and completed by ICS Vortex (vocals/bass, Arcturus, ex-Dimmu Borgir), Lars A. Nedland (keyboards/vocals, Solefald), Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow (drums, Profane Burial, Trollfest) and Jostein Thomassen (guitar, Source of Tide, ex-Profane Burial) unveil this year Fall, their twelfth album.

The album opens with the majestic Summits, a first composition that reassures us of the band’s ability to produce an as grandiose as aggressive and soaring sound, while integrating furious or softer vocal parts, recreating the heady contrast we love above all else. Black Metal roots are as abrasive as ever, with ICS Vortex‘s unique clear voice adding a touch of tranquility without detracting from the epic aspect, leading us into Nordic Anthem, where Pagan roots appear from the very first seconds of the introductory ritual. Saturation eventually joins these heady sounds with airy melodies, but they remain in the background as the track comes to an end, before returning to haunt Afar and its alternating rage and quietude that build an inhospitable but magnificent landscape that we explore thanks to the inspired leads and various accelerations that punctuate the journey. The band continues with Moon, a resolutely more Old School and virulent track that doesn’t hold back in integrating piercing elements before opting for mysterious but slightly more playful influences before letting the vocalist show us his madness and mastery. Stars Ablaze follows, at first with a very soothing, luminous sound, then darkness comes in to wreak havoc on the rhythm, flaring up without warning, leaving us to contemplate the quietness, but without ever disappearing completely. It resurfaces at full power to dance with the keyboards on the final, accompanying us all the way to the surprising Unraveling, where the elements collide and meet over a motivating rhythmic pattern while letting the vocal parts dictate the atmosphere, before raging one last time to let The Wild Lingers exploit its most haunting touches, while sometimes tinting them with a certain heady complexity. The album reaches its final phase with Northward, the longest but richest track, which doesn’t hesitate to use majestic orchestrations to accentuate the strength of the most enraged parts, before letting the duality take its course, mainly marked by the saturated vocals and their ferocity at first, then it’s with clean vocals that we reach silence.

Borknagar have always been a band apart. Deeply rooted in Black Metal, but also seeking to exploit intense Prog and Pagan roots, which come to the fore on Fall. The band is at the top of its game.


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