There have been some significant changes in the Borgnakar line-up since 2016’s ‘Winter Thrice’, with singer Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund, guitarist Jens F. Ryland and drummer Baard Kolstad all departing. Given how long the guys had all been members of the band, this was bound to have a major impact as Vintersong had been there continuously since 2000, Ryland had been there for 11 years this time, and another six-year period previously, while even drummer Kolstad had been there for six. The three remaining members obviously had a major rethink and decided to continue with ICS Vortex (bass) and Lars “Lazare” Nedland (keyboards) providing all the vocals between them, which meant the band could drop to a quintet. Founder Øystein G. Brun has now been joined on the six-string attack by Jostein Thomassen (Fracture, Profane Burial, Viper Solfa, Source of Tide), and with drummer Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow (Maahlas, Profane Burial, Viper Solfa) the band have returned with their latest album. It is interesting that both new members of the band are also active in the same bands, so they already have a strong working relationship.
The result is ‘True North’, and the title doesn’t only reference their home country of Norway but about staying true to their own beliefs and decision making. I have been a fan of Vortex since I first heard him performing on ‘Death Cult Armageddon’ with Dimmu Borgir (he left Borgnakar for ten years and then returned), as his vocals are simply superb. Musically the band have gone back to what people really expect of them, Viking oriented progressive black metal, which is bombastic and massively over the top, and is sure to get a great many of their fans very excited indeed. To my ears, I wish the production has been pulled back somewhat as the feeling is of an album which is smothering the listener as it feels like there is just no room at all to breathe. Then there is the closing song, “Voices”, which is basic, compelling and almost folk-like. This is totally at odds with the rest of the album, both in sound and format, and one wonders if it has been put there is fans decide they really aren’t interesting in it and can ignore. As for me, I find it quite compelling in many ways and certainly intriguing.
They have survived the loss of major members of their line-up and have come back with a very good album indeed (although not quite as indispensable as many fans seem to be saying). It will be interesting to see what happens next and how they build on this. 8/10 by Kev Rowland