Borknagar is an important band to the general landscape of Norwegian black metal. Out of the initial 2nd wave crop they, along with Enslaved, have progressed and evolved their sound the most. If you are familiar with the band, you can imagine, this has all been by design. Borknagar has always been the brainchild of mastermind/guitarist/main composer Øystein G. Brun, and this album is no different. Many have referred to their sounds as avant-garde, progressive, or forward-thinking Viking/Folk/Black metal. Whatever label you want to slap on the package, the contents are well-crafted and sincere. I think a lot of us understand that, we can hear when the music means something more to the composers, there’s an extra layer in the sound – it’s inimitable.
I had been looking forward to this album as a long-time follower of the band. This is the first album without Jens F. Ryland on guitar, and Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund on lead vocals. The band has a new drummer as well in Bjorn Ronnow after Baard Kolstad, of prog rock wizards Leprous, made his mark on the “Winter Thrice” album and left. Without Vintersorg on lead vocals, the job fell into the capable lungs and vocal chords of Simen “ICS Vortex” Hestnæs, of Dimmu Borgir (and old Borknagar fame). This fucking band is in a constant state of musical chairs, with Øystein always conducting the mad orchestra.
One of the interesting components this band has applied before hundreds of other bands followed suit, is the dichotomy between harsh black metal screams and cleanly sung vocals. This has continued throughout their career. I was curious to hear how the juxtaposition between Vortex and keyboardist Lars Nedland, of Solefald, would work out without Vintersorg, and it is a strong point of the album. They each bring something powerful and memorable to the table.
“True North”, as most of their albums, is a homage to the beauty, power, and strength of nature. This is exemplified in the peaks, valleys, and jagged edges of their music. At times docile and melodic, as a creek in later summer, and sometimes as violent as the waters of melting snowcaps rushing down and crushing tree and rock alike. This album sees the band reinvigorated and fully taking advantage of the capable talents of every member.
Nature rewards and punishes, it is awe inspiring, and doesn’t give a shit about us. Unlike the music here, which is too melodic and memorable to not want to connect with the listener and vice versa. Øystein makes music with nature in mind, and just like our dependent, antibiotic relationship with nature, we insignificant humans are the ones benefiting from it. (International Acrobat)