Borknagar “Fall” Review

Century Media
Released: February 23, 2024

The mighty Borknagar are back with Fall, their first new recordings in five long years.

I truly love a band that continues to push its boundaries decades into their careers, when they could so easily sit back and rest on a formula that has worked for them in the past. To do so without compromising anything, at all, that made you the band you have always been, is phenomenal. To just continuously become a better version of yourself over and over again. And yes, I realize that the band as a whole has undergone many line-up changes in its time – but doesn’t that just add to the mythology that is Borknagar?

To be able to go through so much change and keep finding absurdly talented replacements that slot in so flawlessly, and still bring new elements to the fold, that not only retain the initial integrity of the band but help it continue along its evolution? Isn’t that a mindfuck? Especially when several of those changes are key members – like prominent vocalists. How do you lose someone like Andreas Hedlund and not suffer any sort of set back from it?

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The way that both guitarists, founding member Øystein Garnes Brun and Jostein Thomassen, play off of one another is incredible. So much complexity in the riffing and song structures, that flow together so seamlessly and without ever growing snotty or snobbish like so many progressive bands tend to do – notes played for their place instead of their difficulty. Solos that rip through the matter of the universe so gorgeously. There are so many emotional interludes and passages. Grandeur and perfection.

Vocally, just as awe inspiring as ever, despite having lost Hedlund. They did regain the talents of Simen Hestnaes who has since reassumed the role of lead vocalist. However, Hedlund hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a return, although that seems it may just be for a studio session or two. Anyone that has been following this band for a while now, probably gets a chill down their spine when I mention the two songs from 2016’s Winter Thrice that featured the combined vocals of all four singers that have leant their vocal chords to the band. Hedlund, Hestnaes, Lars Nedland and of course Kristoffer Rygg. Perhaps then, there is more of that to come on future releases.

The pure splendor on display throughout Fall is the stuff of legend. The wall of sound is so massive and engrossing, like a toasty warm blanket on a frozen winter’s morn. I’m really struggling not to use the word epic, as it is so over used and so often out of context – alas I just did. So much for that. There is a segment of three songs in a row that just floor me every single time I listen to this immense album. Those being Afar, Moon and Stars Ablaze. Each of them a beautifully composed tune with incredible vocals, emotionally charged at every element and just pure genius song structure.

On Nordic Anthem, there are several moments that are truly trance inducing. From the traditional Norse vibrations that are akin to the works of Heilung or Wardruna, to the formidable chorus where Hestnaes sings “we won’t bend our necks to any God“. Shivers. So many times, I found my flesh crawling, hairs standing on end and my neck bobbled my head to and fro – my body was as much in love with these compositions as my ears and brain were.

It is so hard to fathom that 2019’s True North was five years ago – yet that’s the truth of the matter. Harder still is to realize that this is the twelfth album in Borknagar’s history. That three decades have past since my teenaged self first fell upon this great band. And at the time, I almost felt a sense of guilt in enjoying their debut because it wasn’t pure black metal. How foolish we are in our youth.

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Just to make this perfectly clear – we’re only about two months into this new year, I know, and it may be premature to already be thinking so far ahead – but Fall is already atop of my list as frontrunner for album of the year. It is going to take something spectacular to dislodge this one as king of the hill. I am astonished at the growth Borknagar continues to undertake with each new record – and as a fan since their debut record (fuck, I’m getting old). Over and over again, I can honestly say that I am constantly floored by what these guys do next.

I suppose you could consider this a love letter to everything that Borknagar are.

Pre-orders for Fall are up over at the Century Media webstore on both Compact Disc and double gatefold vinyl editions. Hurry, before they sell out. Because they will.

For Fans Of: Opeth, Enslaved, Vintersorg
Track Listing:

01. Summits
02. Nordic Anthem
03. Afar
04. Moon
05. Stars Ablaze
06. Unraveling
07. The Wild Lingers
08. Northward

Author Rating

  • overall
  • composition
  • enjoyment
  • production
  • variety
  • memorability