Borknagar- Winter Thrice
FFO- Progressive Black Metal, Folk Metal
Borknagar is one of the most legendary names in Norwegian Metal. As a supergroup powerhouse that is most notable for featuring ICS Vortex and Vintersorg on shared lead vocals (Vortex providing bass guitar as well), the band has become a very collective outlet for the group to share their Norwegian Pagan Ritualistic music. Winter Thrice is the 10th album for the band and hearkens back to more of the Norwegian Folk Metal side of the band that has been missing for the last couple albums (that said, Borknagar has yet to ever release a disappointing album) yet, also make for their proggiest album to date as well.. Winter Thrice just may be the best thing the band has ever released! Let's find out why!
The album starts with the lead single from the album, The Rhymes Of The Mountain. This is collectively the strongest single from the band to date. It features everything that makes the band strong. Soaring clean vocals, evil screams, majestic music that makes you feel like you are in the heart of a Norwegian winter (maybe not so much in the style of Immortal, but you get the idea. Winter Thrice is the next track starting with haunting keyboards before coming in with a double bass driven assault. The song features a great contrast of clean vocals and Progressive and folk elements for the majority of the song and pure Black Metal and screams as the chorus. A great song to name the album after. Cold Runs The River is much more of a mid-tempo song to start then just blasts into Black Metal goodness before a very gorgeous chorus. The song features a choir type background vocals throughout that hit in all the right spots. 3/4ths of the way through features a Led Zepplin style guitar riff and guitar solo mixed with the Black Metal screams that makes for an unexpected, but gracious change. Panorama has the feeling of the last couple albums with Prog style keyboards throughout leading into a nice, off-time, verse riff and shared dual vocals. For those that love the Prog-Driven side of the band, this is definitely a song that will hit home for you. When Chaos Calls starts with a short piano break before leading to a blast beat driven, clean vocal attack (nothing is better than blast beats over clean vocals done right). While there are some screams, the song is more focused on the cleans. The middle of the song leads to a nice, instrumental interlude featuring clean guitar before leading to one of the most majestic moments on the whole album and ending with a nice blend of cleans and screams. Erodent starts with desolate style clean guitar that leads to amazing clean vocals, proggy keyboards, and a killer mid-tempo battle theme. When the song picks up it goes heavy on the blast beats and Black Metal elements and has a gorgeous and evil chorus. Noctilucent is the "ballad" of the album. The song doesn't feature much vocals, but they are all clean and beautiful. The music behind it is very majestic sounding and gives a nice breather for the last couple songs to come. Terminus is by far the best song on the album. Starting off with a quick drum fill leading to a Black Metal driven Assault that has a bit of an early to mid era Opeth and even some Soilwork feel to it. The chorus is slower but sounds absolutely grand. This song has the best use of the of the synths that not the typical keyboard sounds. And absolute highlight of the band's career. The closing track, Dominant Winds, sounds very desolate as well with some wind sound affects that make you feel like you are alone right before the force of double bass driven, grandiose clean vocals, and Black Metal riffing takes place. The middle of the song is another highlight of the album that is both beautiful and evil. Roughly 3/4ths of the way through hits a big Opeth/Goblin style keyboard instrumental section before kicking into the grand finale of the album. Another great mix of the cleans and screams. It ends with keyboard becoming a force with a mid-tempo evil riff leading to a slower clean guitar and bass that slowly fades away making you want to start the whole album cycle over again.
In short, Borknagar has come back with a vengeance! Winter Thrice is the perfect mixture of Prog, Black Metal, Folk, and Melodies/Harmonies. Winter Thrice is the perfect starting point for getting into the band. Any direction you go from here is the way to go. For those that want more substance out of your Black Metal or want your Prog to be way more evil, Borknagar is the band for you! This will be regarded as one of the best albums of 2016!
Borknagar- Winter Thrice available January 29th, 2015 via Century Media Records!
Intronaut- The Direction Of Last Things
FFO: Progressive Metal, Sludge Metal, Atmospheric
Intronaut is back with their 5th album and it is their most ambitious album to date. Going back, somewhat, to their roots, the band is starting to venture back into it's jazzier roots and instrumental sections and adding quite a bit of clean vocals to boot. Having Devin Townsend come in at the end for mixing was an absolute great touch!
The album starts with the single, Fast Worms, which is a pretty accurate portrayal of the direction of the album. Heavy and aggressive in the right spots, jazzy in the right sections, clean and growled vocals as needed and the right amount of adventurous genre bending. Digital Gerrymandering starts off completely heavy and sludgy with a mix of Devin Townsend style guitar riffing then builds up and up till it kicks in with almost CKY-ish style vocal melodies which continues throughout the song. The Pleasant Surprise starts off with a Brann Dailor style drum intro, not to be outdone with the Mastodon style riffing and arrangement to match. The song stays consistently fast and is arguably the heaviest song on the album. The Unlikely Event Of A Water Landing is the centerpiece of the album. It starts with a errie soundclip then begins. There is a big Cynic vibe on this song. Mellow pacing with lots of intricate sections on every instrument. The middle of the song picks up a little bit with heaviness ala Devin Townsend. The ending of the song (5:26 till the end) is the real highlight of the album. While staying mellow. The bass starts to really shine before the guitar leads kick in ala Cloudkicker's mellow side. A great Post Rock-ish way to end the song. Sul Ponticello, the other heaviest song on the album starts off ferociously almost Death Metal, then glides back into the Intronaut style we all know and love. The song stays more mid tempo with the right moments of heaviness thrown in and sludgy all the way through. The song ends with some soundclips and chanting. The title track, The Direction of Last Things, starts off nice and heavy with lots of double bass throughout almost the entire song. Lots of Sludgey style Progressive riffs that the band is best known for as well. 3/4ths of the way into the song, it switches into a Cynic style Jazz section once again with lots of ethereal vibes behind it before unleashing a crushing riff to close out the track. The album ends with City Hymnal which almost sounds like a tribute to Cloudkicker, but with vocals. Crazy off time drums and staccato guitar and bass riffing with an atmospheric, Post Rock leads behind everything. Much like Cloudkicker, the song builds up then back down then builds up until the end but then ends on an abrupt note, much like a hymnal being closed shut angerily.
Overall, Intronaut has knocked it out of the park once again. The band is on record saying the album only took 4 days to complete recording, which is a shocker in today's age. But it also proves that all you really need is to be able to get your songs down as tight as possible before going into the studio. This is going to be held very high as one of the best albums of the year and arguably the band's best album. It is very much worthy of that notion. This is an album that Intronaut fans have wanted all along and any real fan of the band will not be disappointed!
Intronaut- The Direction Of Last Things available November 13th via Century Media
It has been over 2 decades since we last saw an album from the legendary Power/Thrash Metal band, Sanctuary. Warrel Dane and Jim Shepard went on to form the also legendary band, Nevermore. But in 2010 Sanctuary officially reformed and 4 years later the world has received the latest offering from Sanctuary, The Year The Sun Died. Does Sanctuary still live up to their former glory? Let's find out!
The album begins with the first single, Arise And Purify. It is a great fast and heavy way to start off an album fans have been waiting so very long for. Dane's unforgettable voice still shines through as clear as ever. The solos are amazing and everything feels so fresh, as if the band never left. The next track, Let The Serpent Follow Me, has a bit more dynamics to it. When it is fast, it is fast, when it is mellow, it is mellow. Overall, a killer song. Exitium (Anthem Of The Living) is up next and it starts off with a quite epic intro that leads into the early day Sanctuary sound. For those that love the mid-tempo Sanctuary, this song was written for you. Question Existence Fading sounds like straight up Nevermore, which is not a bad thing (and let's be honest, Sanctuary and Nevermore go hand in hand). A very solid, straight up rocker. I Am Low is one of the few mellow moments of the entire album. The music brings back the memory of the song The Legacy by Testament. A great break from all the heaviness and thrashy moments that fill up the rest of the album. The next song up is Frozen, which is a killer in your face Thrash song. This song feels right at home with something off Dead Heart In A Dead World or Enemies Of Reality by Nevermore and the chorus is so, so catchy. One Final Day (Sworn To Believe) is actually an acoustic driven track. It still features some electric guitar leads and drums, but Dane and the acoustic guitars drive this song. More upbeat than I am Low, so it's not really fair to call this one a ballad, just acoustic and awesome. Up next is The World is Wired. It starts with a lone guitar ala Judas Priest and leads to a nice mid tempo hard rocker filled with double bass and soaring vocals. The Dying Age is more somber and a bit slower track. In a way it almost feels like a track off Alice In Chain's self titled album (if it had a tinge double bass). The acoustic instrumental interlude, Ad Vitam Aetemam, fills up the next track. It progressively gets heavier and heavier until it unleashes into the title track The Year The Sun Died. The somber guitar continues in this song and helps give the song the most epic feeling in the entire album. The song is filled with despair and no hope, a great feeling for the entire album. The album closes with Waiting For The Sun. This is another song that kinda has that late 80's Power Thrash feel mixed with Alice In Chains (Seattle style) Hard Rock. A different ending than one would expect from Sanctuary, but a very nice fit.
The Year The Sun Died is a much different album than one would have expected from Sanctuary. It is a bit more diverse in sound (especially in the second half). It is filled with Power, Thrash, Hard Rock and great acoustic passages that makes this a fun listen. One thing to note about the entire album is that whenever Dane hits his infamous falsetto vocals, it is used more as background vocals, rather than in the forefront like the bands first two albums Refuge Denied and Into The Mirror are known for. Don't let that ruin it for you, those falsettos are still awesome! Now let's all hope for a full fledged 2015 Sanctuary World Tour!
Sanctuary- The Year The Sun Died available October 14th via Century Media
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)