BORKNAGAR
Progressive Metal / Black Metal / Metal Related • Norway

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Borknagar is a band from Bergen, Norway founded in 1995 by Øystein Garnes Brun. The band began as a black/viking metal band and quickly adopted a more progressive metal style after their first album.

As such, the band's most known style would be that of progressive black metal, with most of their albums taking from this style. Borknagar's lyrics often deal with philosophy, paganism, nature, and the cosmos. Øystein Brun stated once that the name was inspired by a Scottish legend about a man who climbed Lochnagar, a mountain in Scotland.

Borknagar rose out of the ashes of the Norwegian death metal band Molested when then-member Øystein G. Brun became tired of the brutal aspects of the band's music. Øystein formed Borknagar to explore a more melodic outlet of expression; he wrote all of the music and lyrics and gathered together an all-star group of black metal musicians to
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BORKNAGAR Discography

BORKNAGAR albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 4.12 | 12 ratings
Borknagar
Black Metal 1996
.. Album Cover 4.42 | 22 ratings
The Olden Domain
Black Metal 1997
.. Album Cover 3.95 | 11 ratings
The Archaic Course
Black Metal 1998
.. Album Cover 4.09 | 10 ratings
Quintessence
Progressive Metal 2000
.. Album Cover 3.70 | 11 ratings
Empiricism
Progressive Metal 2001
.. Album Cover 3.51 | 11 ratings
Epic
Progressive Metal 2004
.. Album Cover 3.39 | 9 ratings
Origin
Metal Related 2006
.. Album Cover 3.40 | 10 ratings
Universal
Progressive Metal 2010
.. Album Cover 4.35 | 12 ratings
Urd
Progressive Metal 2012

BORKNAGAR EPs & splits

BORKNAGAR live albums

BORKNAGAR demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

BORKNAGAR boxset & compilations

.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
For The Elements (1996-2006)
Progressive Metal 2008

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BORKNAGAR Reviews

BORKNAGAR Urd

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
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Warthur
Aside from a few thunderous outbursts of blast beats, Urd is an album which showcases Borknagar's utter transformation from their black metal roots. If releases such as The Olden Domain offered a more black metal-leaning precedent for releases such as The Sham Mirrors by Arcturus, here the impression given is of a taken on that sound with the prog elements emphasised and the black metal almost entirely drained away. Clean vocals are for the most part the order of the day (with ICS Vortex returning to the fold full time), as are sweeping keyboard passages courtesy of Lazare.

Some listeners may find that Borknagar's stylistic pendulum has swung a little too far in a prog direction by this point, though the trend has really persisted for several albums and if you've been listening to their material in chronological order and are still on the bandwagon by this point you'll probably find it satisfying.

BORKNAGAR Urd

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
Urd is the ninth full-length studio album from Norwegian progressive black metal act Borknagar. As with most albums by the band it features a different line-up from their previous one, this time seeing the departure of Jan Erik Tiwaz (aka Tyr) for the second time, and the return of ICS Vortex (Simen Hestnæs) on both vocals and bass, after having a guest vocal slot on prior album Universal’s closing track My Domain, giving Borknagar a line-up that features multiple singers, as Vintersorg, the man who replaced Vortex as the band’s lead vocalist back in 2000, remains with the band. Lars A. Nedland (keyboards) also performs some vocals.

As far as I’m concerned Borknagar was one of those bands that started strong but eventually started to get stale, with each album released being slightly inferior to the previous. Being familiar with their entire back catalogue I think they delivered great albums from the debut up to 2001’s Empiricism but the album’s they’ve released since then, while not bad albums have never really been able to grab me in the same way. To be honest I think the band peaked way back in 1997 with The Olden Domain, where they were still much more of a black metal band than a progressive metal band.

Enter 2012 and the release of Urd. This is where, against all expectations, things change for Borknagar. Unlike the band’s last few albums, which included the acoustic effort Origin, the first listen to Urd doesn’t leave a picture of me sitting there half bored because I’ve heard it all before from Borknagar and done better. Instead the album catches my attention immediately. It’s not as if the return of Vortex has changed their sound (although together he and Vintersorg work wonders as a vocal team) but the direction of the album instantly sounds more likeable than any of their post-Empiricism output. The material is the strongest output in a long time. It goes beyond Empiricism and actually comfortably sits beside The Olden Domain. The two album’s are much different in style, The Olden Domain is very much driven by black metal whereas Urd is almost full-out progressive metal, possibly even Borknagar’s most progressive album yet, but now there is finally a Borknagar album that highlights their prog side at their best. Honestly if you could only have one Borknagar album it would still be The Olden Domain, but if you could have two the other one should be Urd.

Urd is one of the best examples of not only returning to form but also delivering one of the best album’s a band has ever made. Like Brave New World did for Iron Maiden Urd has done for Borknagar, and hopefully this is a start in a strong new chapter in their story.

8.9/10

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))

BORKNAGAR The Olden Domain

Album · 1997 · Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
Borknagar's The Olden Domain sees them crafting an unusual variety of progressive black metal. The primary experiment here seems to be to inject more conventional metal sounds (both in terms of playing and singing) into a black metal do it, but the real trick is in managing to do that in a way which results in something which seems to be distinct from both metal traditions, rather than simply sounding like watered-down and weak black metal. With Garm's vocals in the picture the album sounds a lot like a foundational document along the way to Arcturus' glorious The Sham Mirrors. On the whole, a fascinating little album.

BORKNAGAR Quintessence

Album · 2000 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Wilytank
And here stands 'Quintessence', the last of the three Borknagar albums I got on that one day I mentioned in my previous two Borknagar reviews. But compared to the two other albums by them that I own, this one is the most distinct. It's an impressive archetype to what Borknagar would put out after this album.

It was during this album and 'The Archaic Course' that Øystein Brun would begin bringing musicians in to his project for the long run, all but discarding the supergroup lineup of well known Norwegian black metal musicians. ICS Vortex, who did vocals in 'The Archaic Course' previously, returns' but beyond him, there aren't any relatively well known players here. Grim, sadly, couldn't return to the drums due to his suicide in 1999. His replacement, Asgeir Mickelson, has proved his worth previously in Spiral Architect and plays the drums well in 'Quintessence'. Jens F. Ryland, previously playing second guitar on 'The Archaic Course', returns to reprise the role on this album. Ivar Bjornson is now gone, and he is replaced by Lars Nedland from the relatively unheard of duo group Solefald who would go on to be a permanent member of Borknagar.

Well, let's see what this new team can do. The folky, nostalgic, old world style of the first two albums are long gone. 'The Archaic Course' brought about a new style of goofy sounding progressive black metal that was definitely weaker than the first two. 'Quintessence' then works on the flaws of 'The Archaic Course' to make an end product that leans much closer to progressive metal than black metal. Vortex's clean vocals are used more often here, and he sounds great...just as long as his voice isn't being fucked with. If there's one negative thing to say about 'Quintessence', it's that layering the vocals can get somewhat annoying at times. One effect that's really irksome is on "Ruins of the Future" where he sounds like he's doing harsh vocals while his mouth is in a basin full of water and he's blowing bubbles. However, his voice sounds excellent clean and harsh on other likcs like "Colossus", "Icon Dreams", "Genesis Torn", and "Revolt" even if the vocals are layered at certain points.

Even the songs where Vortex's voice doesn't shine, the music is very well composed and makes up for it. The goofy sounding tone of 'The Archaic Course' has been peeled away, opting instead for a return to a more epic sounding tone like in the first two albums. Mind you, the nostalgic old world atmosphere did not get carried over. Instead, it seems that Brun and pals created a new epic atmosphere using the two electric guitars and more prominent use of the keyboards. To assign some describers to this atmosphere, I'd still say they bring up this old world that Brun loves so much; but now it seems like it's got some sort of mystical energy that Borknagar can wield using some sort of sorcery, especially evidenced on "Rivalry of Phantoms" where the lyrics talk about summoning winter, rivers, and the presence of time. Brun has been able to work this angle quite well. There's no acoustic guitar to be found on this album; but having Ryland on second guitar has allowed Brun to play some epic sounding leads, particularly on "Colossus". I do like Lars on keys more than Ivar, and the bigger role the keys play in Borknagar at this point in the band's musical transition is portrayed much better by Lars in 'Quintessence' than by Ivar in 'The Archaic Course'. The keys really shine on "Rivalry of Phantoms", "The Presence is Ominous", "Invincible", and "Genesis Torn".

It's not a perfect album, but 'Quintessence' has so many great things about it that the bad things have been greatly outweighed. Thus, I believe it deserves a top tier ranking. It's a very awesome progressive metal album with black metal influences, and it's Borknagar's second best album in my opinion. Unfortunately, Borknagar is coming close to the end of their golden era. They would still have 'Empiricism' yet to be released; but after that album, they would grow weaker as they would be unable to recreate the magic of these first few albums.

BORKNAGAR The Olden Domain

Album · 1997 · Black Metal
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Wilytank
The second of the three Borknagar albums to review in light of my lucking find I mentioned in my review of Borknagar's self-titled is 'The Olden Domain'. During my initial immersion into the band, I recall 'The Olden Domain' being one of the band's best. Now that I have the CD and have been able to give it more listens to strengthen my opinion in preparation for this review, 'The Olden Domain' actually extends further than being my favorite Borknagar album, but I'll get back to that later. What I will say now is that while it is nice to have the three Borknagar albums I got that day at FYE, I would be fine with just 'The Olden Domain'. In fact, 'The Olden Domain' was the first Borknagar album I saw on that shelf that day.

From the self-titled, Øystein Brun carries Garm, Grim, and Ivar over to continue his supergroup lineup. Infernus was dropped, and in his place is Kai K. Lie. 'The Olden Domain' is Lie's first big album he would perform on, but it's definitely a nice album to have on his resume. The production on 'The Olden Domain allows the bass to be fairly audible and reveals that Lie is definitely capable of playing his part. As for the other musicians, Brun's writing style change toward Borknagar's modern progressive metal sound first shows itself on this album. A large amount of the music here is slower paced akin to the slower parts on the self-titled, but there's still a good amount of fast paced sections on 'The Olden Domain', especially on "Grimland Domain". He also throws in acoustic guitar pieces along the rest of the music in "The Winterway", "To Mount and Rove", and "The Dawn of the End". Meanwhile, Grim plays slower, but at a more controlled pace to match the new song writing, but he still manages the rolling kick drums and blast beats when they are appropriate. Garm really shines on this album. Compared to the self-titled where he sang 90% in harsh vocals, it's more like 45% on 'The Olden Domain'. His mixture of clean and harsh vocals flows excellently throughout, and I always find myself singing or humming along to the "ah" parts of "The Eye of Oden" and "The Winterway" as well as verses or pieces of verses, particularly the final verse of "Dawn of the End", though having all songs entirely in English makes 'The Olden Domain' easier to go along with than the self-titled which was in Norwegian/Swedish/whatever. Ivar and the keys play both more and less of a notable role on this album in comparison to the self-titled. They are a little more prevalent here with piano pieces and other sections bringing the keys out of the back, but they aren't overused. They play less of a role in that there's a lot less interludes on 'The Olden Domain'. There's only one folksy ambient keyboard interlude, and thankfully it's not as dull as the "Tanker Mot Tind" pieces on the self-titled.

I feel like Brun's intended message of nostalgia for a better a better time in the ancient past is actually portrayed even better in 'The Olden Domain'. Attributes like acoustic guitar, piano, and large amounts of clean vocals help this; but the biggest influence is the generally slower tempo on the album. I've pointed out the atmospheric tendencies in the more mid-paced sections of songs in the self-titled. In 'The Olden Domain, the tempos are slower and stay slow longer, thus giving much more room for the atmosphere to paint its pictures. All the songs are arranged in the most ideal order with "Dawn of the End" being hands down the best way to end this album. I can't bring myself to skip any of these tracks, even the piano ambient interlude "Om hundrede aar er alting glemt" or the instrumental metal piece "Ascension of Our Fathers".

'The Olden Domain' has very excellent features, talented musicians playing their parts right, one of Garm's best vocal performances ever, and that special charm that puts me in a good mood every time I listen to it. Thus, I am comfortable with not only giving this album a top tier ranking, but also a perfect 100/100 score. And though I have given other albums the 100/100 that I may hold in higher regard than this one, I will give 'The Olden Domain' the distinct title of being the best Norwegian metal album, which is a damn impressive feat by itself having to compete against all the other big black metal acts and coming out on top.

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Vehemency wrote:
1818 days ago
I'm not entirely familiar with this band, but for now I've moved the first four albums to black metal. Feel free to oblige & share opinions.
topofsm wrote:
1819 days ago
Should be in black metal methinks.

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