BORKNAGAR

Progressive Metal / Black Metal / Viking Metal / Non-Metal / Melodic Black Metal • 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

BORKNAGAR Borknagar album cover 4.15 | 18 ratings
Borknagar
Black Metal 1996
BORKNAGAR The Olden Domain album cover 4.24 | 27 ratings
The Olden Domain
Viking Metal 1997
BORKNAGAR The Archaic Course album cover 3.69 | 16 ratings
The Archaic Course
Black Metal 1998
BORKNAGAR Quintessence album cover 4.26 | 17 ratings
Quintessence
Melodic Black Metal 2000
BORKNAGAR Empiricism album cover 3.56 | 18 ratings
Empiricism
Progressive Metal 2001
BORKNAGAR Epic album cover 3.63 | 15 ratings
Epic
Progressive Metal 2004
BORKNAGAR Origin album cover 3.64 | 14 ratings
Origin
Non-Metal 2006
BORKNAGAR Universal album cover 3.87 | 15 ratings
Universal
Progressive Metal 2010
BORKNAGAR Urd album cover 4.03 | 21 ratings
Urd
Progressive Metal 2012
BORKNAGAR Winter Thrice album cover 4.12 | 17 ratings
Winter Thrice
Progressive Metal 2016
BORKNAGAR True North album cover 4.08 | 9 ratings
True North
Progressive Metal 2019

BORKNAGAR EPs & splits

BORKNAGAR live albums

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

BORKNAGAR re-issues & compilations

BORKNAGAR For The Elements (1996-2006) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
For The Elements (1996-2006)
Progressive Metal 2008

BORKNAGAR singles (1)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Up North
Progressive Metal 2019

BORKNAGAR movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

BORKNAGAR Reviews

BORKNAGAR True North

Album · 2019 · Progressive Metal
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Kev Rowland
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.

BORKNAGAR Quintessence

Album · 2000 · Melodic Black Metal
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adg211288
I've had a long held belief that the Norwegian black/viking/progressive metal act Borknagar peaked with their second album The Olden Domain (1997). It's a view that many of my fellow fans seem to share. Recently though I've been spending a lot of time with the band's fourth album Quintessence (2000) and have had to seriously question whether I still believed The Olden Domain to be their best work, or if this one is. Both are quite different albums from the band and both have many claims to that top spot (while a good portion of fans will also throw the hat of the debut album Borknagar (1996) into the ring). Ultimately I had the question answered for me by my actions rather than any serious thought: whenever I thought I'd play one of my Borknagar albums my eyes always strayed first to Quintessence, which in turn has led to me playing this one more than any other of their releases that I own.

The music on Quintessence isn't quite like that of any other Borkngarar album. While many would put the band's transition from black to progressive metal at somewhere during this era of the band, which I think of as the ICS Vortex era after the then lead vocalist (he's since returned alongside his replacement Vintersorg), I find this album to be the band's truest fusion of the two genres, with the actual switch away from black metal only coming with the following Empiricism (2001), making Quintessence their last true black metal release even though they've always kept a blackened edge to their music after this point, notably through growling vocals.

I'd equally make an argument for this to be their most truly progressive metal album as well. Their later work I'd actually describe as an example of prog-lite metal (increasingly true with every new record), because it's not really all that adventurous to my ears despite the progressive label being regularly attached to the band (something I find true of many so called progressive metal acts). Quintessence is a different story, but it's also still a black metal album. To my ears this album is actually more black metal than the prior and first ICS Vortex fronted album The Archaic Course (1998), though it is of a much more melodic kind than that found on either of the band's first two albums, A.K.A. The Garm era.

The guitars of Øystein G. Brun and Jens F. Ryland are semi-raw and black metal based and there is some excellent keyboard work from Lars A. Nedland that absolutely reeks of classic progressive rock influence. It's musically an great sound that Borknagar have hit on for this one album, while ICS Vortex puts on possibly the vocal performance of his entire career here. As a singer mostly known for his clean vocals it's an unusual case to hear him growling, but he does it very well and in quite an epic manner that fits with the music perfectly.

The album's first four tracks are especially a real tour de force. The third of these is Ruins of the Future, which may just be the most epic song Borknagar has ever recorded and is without a doubt my personal favourite of the band (it's actually rare for me to have a favourite song from an artist's whole discography like this). Following straight away is Colossus, which is a great example of something I mentioned being possible (despite popular belief): clean vocal black metal, because growls are only used minimal and for backing purposes in this one, and try denying to yourself that the music in this track is any less melodic black metal based than Ruins of the Future, which is growl dominant. Next track Inner Landscape serves as an interlude a breather after the terrific first half of the album. While the remainder doesn't hit quite the same heights as those first four tracks, it's still very high quality work, with Genesis Torn and the finale Revolt being further tracks of note.

In summary Quintessence is a fantastic album from Borknagar. While I enjoy the works that followed they've never again been able to reach the same level that this is on. It has not only overtaken The Olden Domain as my favourite from the band, but I'd go as far to say that it's also overtaken Iron Maiden's Brave New World as my favourite album of the year 2000. I whole-heartedly recommend it as an essential purchase for both black and progressive metal fans.

You want to know what the real kicker about that finale statement is though? At least here in the UK this is the one Borknagar album not readily available to buy a physical copy of at normal prices. All nine others can be in a range of about £5 to £12 online, but this one will currently set you back about three times that, unless you get lucky. Bloody typical of the metal scene that!

BORKNAGAR Borknagar

Album · 1996 · Black Metal
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Warthur
Black metal supergroup Borknagar evolved over time into a prog metal force to be reckoned with, but on this debut album they showed a much harsher and more primal form. All the participants were members of significant groups in the Norwegian black metal second wave, and the style of that scene is prominently displayed here, with ample folk influences offering a gentler counterpoint.

Though Øystein G. Brun is the unquestioned leader of the project as its founder and main songwriter, the style here makes the band feel like siblings to early Enslaved, whose Ivar Bjørnson plays keyboards here. The combination of progressive elements to the music, proggier albums to come in the future, and a shared fascination with Norse mythology means that Borknagar's debut is a worthy choice for any Enslaved fan, as well as any fan of folk-influenced black metal.

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 reasonably satisfying. At the same time, Borknagar don't seem to have made much of a substantial musical advance over the sort of material they have produced on previous albums or which their members have produced on other projects, and numerous other progressive and avant-garde black metal acts have produced substantially more groundbreaking work of late, and Urd doesn't quite put Borknagar back at the head of the pack.

BORKNAGAR Urd

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
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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))

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Vehemency wrote:
more than 2 years 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:
more than 2 years ago
Should be in black metal methinks.

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