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Norway Country of Origin: Norway

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Type: Full-Length
Release Date: February 24th, 2024
Genre: Black, Folk, Progressive, Viking
1. Summits
2. Nordic Anthem
3. Afar
4. Moon
5. Stars Ablaze
6. Unraveling
7. The Wild Lingers
8. Northward

Review by Vladimir on February 28, 2024.

Norway always shined with excellent bands in the great black metal trees, however that enormous tree does carry a variety of branches that although related do differentiate from each other. One of the bands that remained as crucial and excellent for a long time is Borknagar from Bergen, known for their progressive songwriting that incorporates plenty of black, viking and folk metal in their music. The quality of such a band could not be described by anything else in this world, but it certainly comes close to perfection. Borknagar recently released their twelfth full-length album Fall on February 23rd, 2024 via Century Media Records, which could practically be considered a follow-up to True North from 2019. Was it worth the wait? Stay tuned to find out… 

Starting off with the first track 'Summit', we see a strong blizzard striking hard in your face with melody, tremolo guitar riffs, double-bass drums, harsh and epic clean singing vocals, welcoming you into a cold but lonely world surrounded with frozen glaciers and teal rivers. What you are about to witness from here on out is a very heavy and dynamic curve filled with beauty, emotion and very sincere expressionism, dictated by very progressive musicality and spirituality, alongside the magnificent vocal performance with the combined strengths of ICS Vortex and keyboardist Lars A. Nedland, creating an incredibly powerful aura that raises everything several bars higher. In case you thought that it can’t get any better than it already is, once you get to the fourth track 'Moon' is where you begin to realize how wrong you were, as the song radiates such majesty and out body experience, which could easily be one of Borknagar’s best songs since the days of The Olden Domain. Another outstanding example which is very close to that level of performance and excellence is the seventh track 'The Wild Lingers' that gradually builds up to the epic finale of the album, the ninth track 'Northward'. This finale truly feels like a very crucial and epic chapter in this gigantic journey, with such a conclusion that in itself is somewhat of a bittersweet ending, which could really make you cry because it’s all over. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. 

Borknagar provided some highly dynamic songwriting with a lot of progression and complexity that just flows like the teal-colored river all the way to the waterfall. What I believe really made all of the songs even greater is the fact that there is a strong accent on clean guitar chords, which adds an extra layer of excellence to the mesmerizing power chord riffs and melodies. The biggest highlight of this album is its unpredictable nature, where you don’t really know what to expect from every song, and once it plays out you are instantly struck like it was a bolt of lightning, experiencing the glory that stands before you. Each of the songs carries this enormous wave of emotions which is expressed through every bit of Borknagar’s performance, and yet shining so bright that the light does not even fade away until the album reaches its conclusion. During my listening, I had a feeling like there was tons of progressive and psychedelic rock influences coming from various bands such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Rush, Emerson Lake & Palmer and various others, all of them cemented into the band’s creativity which resulted in this outstanding musical output that is unlike anything I’ve heard lately. Looking at the album cover of the Israeli artist Eliran Kantor, you can clearly tell that he truly knew how to convey the sound of Borknagar through a visual representation with a strong use of skyred and teal colors, resulting something so mesmerizing to look at that you can actually feel the painting breathe a life of its own. On the final note, the album has a fantastic and superb sound production which wonderfully captures every second of the musicality, giving a big push to the vocals to elevate the instrumental performance. 

Borknagar is one of those bands that has never disappointed me, and now 5 years after the release of their predecessor True North, their return proved to be so triumphant and even better than one would have imagined. Fall is a powerful and truly epic album filled with Nordic anthems that really leave no room for any lackluster or generic ideas, always proving that the band know their craft better than anyone else. I would even say that Fall is better than True North in terms of its musical output, but I still feel like it’s not really a fair decision to compare their albums, because all of them stand out individually as great with their unique moments. Borknagar just keeps on giving after so many years, and I just can’t imagine how a superior and progressive album such as this could ever be outmatched by anything that is yet to be released. 

Rating: 9.5 out of 10


Review by Michael on February 18, 2024.

I remember how floored I was when I first listened to the fantastic debut by Norwegian Borknagar back in 1996. Icy riffs, catchy melodies paired with some harsh black metal vocals, added epic Viking choirs that created a really unique sound that mede you feel like you're standing on a Norwegian glacier, the frosty wind blowing around your face… Well, a lot of things have changed since then. Garm isn't their vocalist anymore and Vintersorg who was his follow-up isn't either, the glaciers are melting and the wind isn't that frosty anymore. So what about the music?

Well, if you know the predecessor to Fall, namely True North, you know what is going to welcome you and not too much has changed since 2019. The vocalist duo ICS Vortex (you might know him for his works in Arcturus, too) and Lars Nedland (also vocalist in Solefald) do a fantastic job again. The harsh black metal parts and the clean vocals complement each other perfectly and make the vocal performance a very round thing. This is very bombastic and goddamn epic stuff and in for example 'Stars Ablaze' all this sounds really majestic and you might get some goose bumps because of the atmosphere this spreads. But not only the vocals and the melodies the Norwegian have written are top notch. Coming back to True North it isn't too surprising that Fall became highly melodic but where True North sometimes had its lengths, Fall is more compact and complex. Even on some longer songs like 'Summits', 'Stars Ablaze' or 'Northward' which all have a running time of 8 minutes (or longer) you won't recognize the time span. The compositions are so diverse that there won't be a single second of boredom. But you might be surprised by some other aspects of the album. 'Unraveling' starts with a Hammond organ and very slow pace but literally explodes after few seconds. This might be the most black metal song on the album but if you listen a little bit closer there is this bridge that might be also in a 80s hard rock song. It is just wrapped into a metal dress and fits like a glove – Europe meets Borknagar so to speak. But this is just a little aspect in this track which is one of the best ones they have ever written. Another amazing track with a highly epic approach is 'Nordic Anthem'. This track is a very atmospheric one with calm and clean vocals only. In contrast to 'Unraveling' it may be the most far away from black metal song on Fall but nevertheless it is a typical Borknagar song. The atmosphere lives from the hypnotic guitar riff and the very repetitive chorus and the “ahahaha”-chants which makes the whole thing very catchy. If you want to find a fly in the ointment you might say that 'The Wild Lingers' is a little bit weaker than the rest of the album. This song is another slow one that isn't as catchy as the rest. It is a more bulky song, atmospheric but also a little bit challenging because of the more complex structures in it.

But this is complaining on a high level and since I am a German I have graduated with an A+. And because I am living in Germany and the winter took a break (together with the yellow spot in the sky) this year I have to get this season via music and for this Fall (although the title doesn't match too good) is the best choice these days to come back to my opening question. Borknagar's 12th full-length is highly recommendable to enjoy and a highlight in 24. And there are many other great things to come ...the best of 24 list will be pretty tricky to write, that's for sure already!

Rating: 9.6 out of 10