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Borknagar – Fall

Borknagar – Fall

Borknagar - Fall

When I first discovered Borknagar, it was 1997 and I was still going to high school. Their “The Olden Domain” album made a lasting impression on me though and I’ve been following the band ever since. Despite many line-up changes throughout the years, mastermind Øystein G. Brun and his companions have consistently released quality music, exploring the boundaries between progressive, black and pagan metal. My personal favourite is 2016’s “Winter Thrice”, which found the perfect balance between those elements, while pushing a slightly heavier sound. It was also the last album with lead vocalist Vintersorg, who had to leave for health reasons.

2019’s “True North” saw a new Borknagar: with vocal duties now shared between bassist Simen Hestnæs and keyboardist Lars Nedland, as well as having a new guitarist (Jostein Thomassen) and a new drummer (Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow), the band did what they’ve always done: stay true to the unique Borknagar sound, without falling into a repetitive pattern. Now we have arrived in 2024 and it’s time for the band’s 12th album, called “Fall”. Without any line-up changes, is it finally time for stagnation?

Of course, the answer to that question is a clear no. Borknagar wouldn’t be Borknagar if they were ever to stay in their comfort zone and just release some uninspired music. These guys are simply not capable of that: they have a need to be progressive and innovative. On the other hand, one only needs to listen to the beginning of opening track ‘Summits’ to instantly recognize the typical Borknagar sound. It’s impressive how a band can sound so familiar while at the same time putting different accents into their music. While ‘Summits’ kicks off rather ferociously, tapping into the band’s black metal roots, it twists halfway into more progressive areas to display the versatile approach on “Fall”. ‘Nordic Anthem’ is even pure folk metal before the band goes back into a heavier direction with album highlight ‘Afar’. While the different aspects of Borknagar’s music have been more interwoven in the past, this time they have chosen to rather let them live next to each other, so “Fall” has become an album of great contrasts.


Whether those contrasts are helping or hurting the music is a matter of personal taste. At least they are not disrupting the flow of the songs or the album, because the quality of songwriting is very high. On the other hand, I would have loved to hear some more parts where things really come together, to create some powerful climaxes to an otherwise solid album. Another divisive issue might be the vocals of Simen Hestnæs. While he is technically proficient, his high-pitched tone does get on my nerves sometimes, and it somewhat wears me out towards the end of the album. Personally, I miss Vintersorg’s folky chest voice, but I also know that other people consider that the worst thing to ever have happened to Borknagar. It all boils down to a matter of personal taste in the end.

All things considered, “Fall” is another solid addition to Borknagar’s impressive catalogue, and I hope that the band will keep on releasing interesting music for years to come. Even though I do not consider it a career highlight, it still stands out among the stronger releases of 2024 so far, as it’s built on a strong foundation of excellent songwriting and musicianship. If you’re a fan of progressive metal with a touch of the extreme, you really can’t go wrong with this band or any of their releases.


About the Author


Lykle is the black sheep in the Progspace family. Coming from a background of gothic, doom and black metal, he joined the Progspace team to share his expertise about the dark side of progressive music. He enjoys these gloomy sounds from the Spanish Costa del Sol, where he works as a manager in the big tech industry. He has a special appreciation for Finnish melancholy, counting bands like Sentenced, Insomnium and Ghost Brigade among his favourites.

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