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'Winter Thrice'
(Century Media)
Release Date: Friday 22nd January 2016

jools green

Jools Green


'Winter Thrice' is not just their tenth album, it's also a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the release of the debut and self titled release from Norwegian Progressive Black Metal outfit 'Borknagar'.

It's also a somewhat unique offering in their impressive back catalogue as it features four vocalists covering all the parts of the lyrical content, including the original vocalist Garm (Kristoffer Rygg) on tracks 'Winter Thrice' and 'Terminus', along with Vintersorg covering harsh vocals, clean vocals and choirs and ICS Vortex and Lars A. Nedland on clean vocals and choirs.

Originally forming as a Black Metal band, those roots are still very noticeable, but now with a sound that goes beyond those constraints, encompassing and merging whatever elements inspire them, classical music, hard rock, even folk, all with a very progressive edge.

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The result is a very full and rich sound that is also very easy on the ear. It's a consistent release and if you like the first track I guarantee you will like all eight offerings across this forty nine minute release.

It's unusual for me to enjoy an album with so much clean singing, but the layering of the vocals is just sublime, particularly against the more blackened riffing or alongside the harsher vocals and it's so powerfully delivered that the impact alongside the more clean guitar work is equally as effective.

I also couldn't imagine initially just how four vocalists could work until I heard the final result, which is nothing short of stunning.

All the tracks come in at around mid-tempo, many opening in a clean reflective manner, all are very complex in their construction and each has that little something that catches your attention across an album that opens out to be a very relaxing listen.


There are superb contrasts on the opening track, 'The Rhymes of the Mountain', between powerful bursts of harsh vocals which build after clean guitar work, intensifying towards the close.

'Winter Thrice' gains a very haunting mood from its progressive elements and after midway a reflective drop-away in tempo elevates with harsh vocals and intense riffs.

'Cold Runs the River' particularly caught my attention with its slightly different approach, ripping straight into harsh pummelling drums and dark haunting riffs followed and overlaid by cleans, still maintaining that slow to mid pace but slightly more crushing and dark than the predecessors yet still with a soaring progressive aspect to the mood.

'Panorama' has some great keyboard work, a mix of the progressive, the gritty and the quirky. Also catching my attention, after a brief piano opener the superb 'When Chaos Calls' wows with intense riffs, pummelling drums and is punctuated by melodic and reflective moments, rich layering of choir voices, clean and harsh vocals, all of which are exceptional here.

Opening on clean guitar work and again making an impact on me, 'Erodent' expands out to one of the most powerful offerings of the release with a sound that wells in waves, dropping back to calm reflective, then building up into a sound that is all encompassing, with a haunting layer of Black Metal riffing coursing beneath the mix of clean vocals, choir vocals and harsh vocals.

With its reflective opener of clean guitars that expand into a repeat 'Noctilucent', the shortest track, I thought, was going to be an instrumental, with no vocals, aside from the mention of the title, until midway, but when the cleans arrive they are reflective and emotive, standing alongside some brief but superb second half lead work.

Then in complete contrast to its predecessor, 'Terminus', is dark and crushing but with melodic elements to balance and there is a generous proportion of harsh vocals here balanced by superb soaring cleans.

'Winter Thrice' was, like the last Borknagar album, 'Urd', once again mixed by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Kreator, etc.) at Fascination Studios and the artwork is by Marcelo Vasco/P2RDesign.

The album is available as a Digipak or Gatefold 2LP, both of which have the bonus track 'Dominant Winds' or as a CD or digital download.

The more I listened to this album the more it blew me away as the subtle intricacies revealed themselves with each subsequent play, an utterly moving and evocative listen.

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