Borknagar – “True North”
Label: Century Media
Release Date: 27 September 2019
Borknagar should be much more popular than they currently are. For me, they are every bit as talented musically as Opeth. While Opeth has steered more toward a progressive rock sound, Borknagar have veered more into progressive metal. Yes they have a black metal streak to them because that’s how they got started but like Enslaved, they use the black metal harsh vocals as a piece of a much bigger puzzle.
They have been on a roll over the course of their last few albums with each one topping the last one. “True North” continues that trend. It’s not wildly better than their last masterpiece “Winter Thrice” but it’s close. The big change has been long time vocalist Andreas Hedlund a/k/a Vintersorg leaving the band. The good news is that Borknagar still has 2 more singers left! ICS Vortex takes over the bulk of the vocals, including the harsh vocals and I love his clean vocals so this really works for me!
The album kicks off with “Thunderous” which is an 8 1/2 minute ripper of a song. It’s a great showcase of what Borknagar is all about. But it’s the second song “Up North” that blows me away. It’s like Deep Purple on steroids. Lars A. Nedland’s organ would make Jon Lord proud. “The Fire That Burns” was the first single and shows the dynamics that Borknagar are great at. Powerhouse riffs, howling harsh vocals matched with tons of melody.
Another favorite of mine is “Wild Father’s Heart” which is essentially a prog metal ballad with some of the most heartfelt lyrics and melodies that the band has ever done. “Mount Rapture” follows it and snaps you back into reality. Yet another powerful track with a solid groove and a vastness that the band is known for. It’s fucking huge. Borknagar has done it again. “True North” is another masterpiece by a band that makes a habit out of incredible music.
Insomnium – “Heart Like a Grave”
Label: Century Media
Release Date: 4 October 2019
Topping an album like “Winter’s Gate” is something very tough to do. Insomnium raised the bar with that 40 minute long song/album. Granted something that insanely epic was not going to be for everyone but it was a masterpiece for me. “Heart Like a Grave” is not “Winter’s Gate Part II,” but it does have many moments that would not sound out of place on their last album.
The album’s key tracks are the epic “Pale Morning Star,” “And Bells They Toll” and the title track. Each are longer and decidedly more progressive. But for those that prefer when Insomnium steer more towards melodic death metal, there’s “Valediction,” “Neverlast” and “The Offering.” So basically “Heart Like a Grave” unifies all eras of Insomnium’s sound. It kinda plays like a Greatest Hits album in that way.
All in all, while “Heart Like a Grave” is perhaps not as focused as “Winter’s Gate,” it does show off the band’s versatility. There’s really something for all fans of the band on the album. I think it will be an album that I’ll like more and more after further listens. I’ve found that to be the case already. The first listen I was actually a little disappointed and now I really love it. “Heart Like a Grave” is another winner for Insomnium!
Cynic – “Traced in Air Remixed”
Season of Mist
27 September 2019
“Traced in Air” was released 10 years ago and it marked the long awaited return of Cynic. Now it’s been remixed by Adam “Nolly” Getgood of Periphery and features new bass work from Sean Malone. So the burning question is, how different is the remix from the original? While Malone’s new bass work is great, he sounded great on the original so that part isn’t that different to me. But there are parts lost in the original mix that are now present in the new mix.
The biggest change is that Tymon Kruidenier’s harsh vocals are either removed or altered. They sound more like a deep chant than a death vocal which actually works, especially on “The Unknown Guest.” Other times it just sounds more like a deep backing vocal.
Overall the mix is clearer and each instrument is better separated from the others. I am sure there are folks who will still like the original mix but I love remixes because they offer a different view of the same piece of artwork. Now if Getgood would remix “Kindly Bent to Free Us,” I would be beyond thrilled because that one sounds terrible.