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BORKNAGAR

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • Norway


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Borknagar biography
The Norwegian group BORKNAGAR is quite a different prog band. They actually started out as a pure black metal band but through the years they've evolved with every album, and today BORKNAGAR is a progressive symphonic black/death metal band with viking / folk elements. Their lyrics consider such topics as philosophy and nature. The band was formed in 1995 by guitarist Řystein Brun, who left his former band MOLESTED because he wanted to explore the more melodic sides of metal. The band has gone through several line-up changes and today it consists of Brun (guitars), Andreas Hedlund aka Vintersorg (vocals), Lars Nedland aka Lazare (keyboards) and Asgeir Mickelson (drums).

BORKNAGAR has released six studio albums. Their first, self titled album is a black metal album with Norwegian lyrics, but all the later albums have been sung in English and with the change of language the music has also evolved. Their best efforts are probably "Quintessence" (2000) and "Epic" (2004) , both being symphonic prog metal with an epic edge.

Highly recommended to all prog metal fans!

See also:
-Arcturus
-Ulver


Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
Their sound is highly progressive with the technical guitar - and keyboard - based compositions with complex instrumental passages.

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BorknagorBorknagor
Import
Displeased Holland 2006
Audio CD$11.88
$15.00 (used)
UrdUrd
Century Media 2012
Audio CD$7.50
$5.49 (used)
OriginOrigin
Import
Imports 2006
Audio CD$4.94
$4.88 (used)
EmpiricismEmpiricism
Century Media 2002
Audio CD$0.79 (used)
Quintessence [Vinyl]Quintessence [Vinyl]
Limited Edition
Plastic Head 2010
Vinyl$17.98
Olden DomainOlden Domain
Import
Imports 2012
Audio CD$8.38
$3.57 (used)
UniversalUniversal
Indie Recordings 2010
Audio CD$9.80
$4.24 (used)
Archaic CourseArchaic Course
Century Media 1998
Audio CD$5.37
$3.48 (used)
EpicEpic
Century Media 2004
Audio CD$5.49
$0.69 (used)
For the Elements 1996-2006For the Elements 1996-2006
Remastered
Century Media 2008
Audio CD$7.49
$0.01 (used)
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BORKNAGAR shows & tickets


  • Blastfest 2015 on 18 Feb 2015

BORKNAGAR discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

BORKNAGAR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.51 | 16 ratings
Borknagar
1996
3.30 | 25 ratings
The Olden Domain
1997
3.34 | 16 ratings
The Archaic Course
1998
3.19 | 23 ratings
Quintessence
2000
3.17 | 26 ratings
Empiricism
2001
3.49 | 31 ratings
Epic
2004
3.46 | 23 ratings
Origin
2006
3.21 | 24 ratings
Universal
2010
3.41 | 31 ratings
Urd
2012

BORKNAGAR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

BORKNAGAR Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

BORKNAGAR Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.50 | 2 ratings
For The Elements (1996-2006)
2008

BORKNAGAR Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

BORKNAGAR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Urd by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.41 | 31 ratings

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Urd
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

2 stars I confess that I'm not a fan of Borknager or of black metal. I was intrigued by a recent review of this album that claimed that this band has been getting more and more melodic and less black metal. I will admit, though, that I enjoyed Borknager's older album "Empiricism", as it contained wonderful folksy melodies and much creativity.

So, I listened to this new album, and I came away unimpressed. Maybe a dozen or more listens would allow this to grow sufficiently, but I don't think I can bring myself to do that. This band is certainly more melodic, but that doesn't stop them from the overuse of the bass pedal or the "white noise" effect of the rhythm guitars. I hate those things. They have also omitted the folksy melodies, and replaced them with, well, nothing. Maybe some vocals harmonies that aren't that impressive? They have also taken away the rather intelligent lyrics, as far as I can tell (it can be hard to decipher them, obviously). So, all points of interest for me are now gone.

What we have, then, is a constant storm of double bass (with no variation at all), a blurriness from the guitars, and some okay vocals. Everything else is lost. On top of that, there is little variation between tracks, so the album itself becomes a blur, too. I'm sure fans of Enslaved and Ne Obliviscaris will love this, but I'm don't.

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 Urd by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.41 | 31 ratings

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Urd
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 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.

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 Epic by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.49 | 31 ratings

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Epic
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Borknagar can mean a lot of things: an alien race, an insect that eats trees, or a deviant sexual act. Apparently the name is just a name, as the band didn't wish to be tied down genre-wise by a title that adheres to strict categorization, which in a way gives them prog credentials before even hearing the music. Name your band Skullripper or Satan's Buttocks and you'll likely have a tougher time convincing potential fans that your brand of metal is intrinsically progressive, although Gorguts managed that feat. Borknagar's version of extreme metal doesn't shoot for off-kilter weirdness though; they play a rather melodic and easy-on-the-ears variety while maintaining enough aggression and speediness to easily hold on to their classification here.

The base of their music is symphonic black metal. There's the atonal goblin rasps, sections bolstered by blastbeats, tremolo riffs and plenty of keyboards to add extra layers to the mix. The mix itself seems to almost favor the keyboards by merely giving them an equal push to the front as the guitars sound-wise. But other aspects of the band give them a bit of identity separate from the numerous Emperor clones that began clogging metal sections of large and soon to be defunct record chain stores in the late 90s. By the time this album was released, that whole scene had mostly withered out, possibly due to the backlash involving a few bands of that ilk that became commercially successful by underground standards, but Borknagar stuck to their guns and evolved their sound somewhat with a strong hammond organ presence and an increasing majestic and far from 'grim' sounding chord sequences. Vintersorg's clean vocals continue to be used frequently, and why not since the guy can sing, and does so without resorting to falsettos, 'gruffiness' or a soft approach. The lyrics have next to nothing to do with typical morbid subject matter, focusing instead on the mysteries of life, the universe and everything. No mention of Douglas Adams though.

To be honest though, their style gets a bit tiresome after awhile with all the bombast and a production that's tight, clear but lacking in atmosphere. I actually prefer a couple of their early works just because they just felt more organic rather than clinical, but I could just be thinking this because I've heard enough bands with elements this album possesses that it doesn't strike a chord except on a few occasions. "The Inner Ocean Hypothesis" without a doubt remains memorable though thanks to the cool piano, drum and bass jazziness going on at times. Probably my favorite track off the album.

I can't fault the band at what they do; they most certainly are a talented bunch, including the vocalist, and there are plenty of quality moments throughout that stand out after repeated listens. As a whole though, it doesn't grab me like it would have done if it were released in the mid-nineties...although I'm guessing it would've thrown me across the room if that was the case.

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 The Olden Domain by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.30 | 25 ratings

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The Olden Domain
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 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.

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 Epic by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.49 | 31 ratings

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Epic
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by nahnite

5 stars I first got into the heavier aspects of music (meaning metal of all kinds) around about 2004, when this record came out, though I hadn't yet heard of Borknagar. I discovered bands such as Deicide and Cannibal Corpse first, and despite my liking for some of the music, I was seeking something with a touch more melody and atmosphere. I knew it had to be out there.

It was.

I was asked by an old friend to join him for lunch and to come back to his place to listen to some CD's he had just gotten. I was drawn, for a then unknown reason, to his CD shelf. I began to pull each CD case out, one by one, staring at the artwork. Then I came across Borknagar's "Epic". The front cover caught my eye, as I had never seen anything like it prior to that moment. I asked my friend if he could pop it in the player. He smiled at me and said "You're gonna like this."

Damn it all if he wasn't totally right.

To this day, I still enjoy the record. Since I discovered it that year, I have bought and thoroughly ruined about 6 copies. Why? Let me tell you.

First, the production is wonderful; clear and crisp without being slick. I know it's a digital recording, but it doesn't SEEM like it's digital. I hate over-processed, Pro-Tools sounding records, but I have none of that feeling with this release. With that said, they could have gotten their hands a BIT dirty, as sometimes it seems like Mickelson's snare floats in and out of the mix. That complaint is rather trivial, as the rest of the recording is pretty much dead-on.

The band knows how to arrange a tune, don't they? The record comprises twelve songs, and it's a little over 58 minutes, so the average track length is four minutes and change. Unlike most prog-metal bands (I turn my gaze towards you, Opeth, Dream Theater and Metallica, though I do love you three), they seem to know when to let a song end, either by fading it out or stopping it completely. They also don't seem to want to be heavy or brutal simply for the sake of being brutal or heavy, unlike the massive dick-waving contest that is much of today's metal scene (of any stripe). Oystein is a great guitar player, and it appears that he has perfected an excellent mix of acoustic and electric, push/pull, action/reaction, pulse/pathos. This might seem like semantics, but-to these ears, anyway-each riff or melodic theme sets up the next one pretty nicely. To that end, there doesn't seem to be much-if any-repetition. Brun DOES repeat himself, yes, but when he does, it's usually to emphasize a point or structure a melodic theme. His playing-both acoustic and electric-is solid and well done. Melodic and atmospheric, it almost seems that he speaks through his guitar. I like that.

Now, let's talk about the rest of the instruments, with vocals first. Vintersorg has an eccentric (mildly put) tone, somewhere between Dani Filth's "terrier's nuts in a trap door" squeal and Shagrath's stentorian bark. His clean vocals, however, are pretty majestic, and he does have a range. Check out the vocal backing on "Sealed Chambers Of Electricity". His vocal is absolutely spine-tingling, and only adds to the lush atmosphere. The keyboards, played by Lars A. Nedland, are another ace up this band's sleeve. Lars knows nothing but melody, and he plays some resolutely majestic parts here, whether it be on piano, organ or synth. The guy is simply impressive, and a is a capable backing vocalist as well, which the trained ear will hear on various parts of the disc. The drums and bass (both played by Mickelson), are a technical triumph, but they don't get techy for the sake of being techy. In fact, the disc really doesn't get "heavy" at all. But that might be the band's trump card; instead of balls-out savagery, they appear to prefer mood, feeling and atmosphere (there's that word again), which I quite like.

Moving on to the songs themselves: This is a compact little firecracker indeed, with an average track time of four minutes and change. The tunes, despite some speed-ups and random breakdowns, are deceptively accessible things, laden with hooks soaring guitars and an almost psychedelic feeling. Now, I wasn't born in the sixties, but if this is what the psychedelic boom sounded like, I'll book a trip to Woodstock faster than you can say "I saw Hendrix burn his Strat.". Despite being lumped in with the "black metal" scene (which they still have ties to, mind), they're not the average, run of the mill BM band. The lyrics deal with philosophical issues; Oystein manages to namedrop Copernicus in a song, which is a rare thing for anyone to do (irrespective of genre). So no; no typicality here at all.

In closing, I wish they had continued down this path. Both "Origin" and "Universal" are strong showings, but neither really gave me the mix of sensuous melody and spine-tingling atmosphere that "Epic" did, which is why I will always turn to this disc when I need a fix of the 'Bork. So my rating is 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

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 Universal by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.21 | 24 ratings

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Universal
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

2 stars Borknagar used to be a reasonably inspired band that didn't shy away from pushing the barriers of their epic-styled and razor-sharp symphonic Black Metal. After a folksier experimentation, they announced a return to form with Universal.

Returns to form are always sure to cue my scepticism. If a band needs to proclaim a return to roots to trigger album sales, you can rest assured to get a weak and uninspired product, a formulaic re-play that is unavoidably dwarfed by the spontaneous vigour and passion of the original thing.

That's exactly what you get here. Competent but complacent symphonic black metal that is so lacking in ideas and drive that it wouldn't even inspire the most bloodthirsty Viking for a raid on the hated Saxons. Vocalist Vintersorg may still sound like an instigated troll (as my wife described him :) but proves unable to breathe creative fire in his troops.

There's not much depth in this music. It sounds as if no one really cared how strong the riffs and melodies were, they all sound very similar anyway. So do all songs. Universal is an unexciting listen but it's reasonably pleasant and it's accessible, so it might attract new audiences to the blacker sorts of metal, which is always a good thing obviously.

2.5 inoffensive stars

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 Quintessence by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.19 | 23 ratings

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Quintessence
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Borknagar were really onto something by the end of the 20th century. The Archaic Course was a strong album and the Quintessence album pushed the symphonic black metal to an even louder and more extravangant level of bombast then anything before.

10 years ago I had a short fling with this type of music that lasted for about 3 albums. 2 from Dimmu Borgir and Borknagar's The Archaic Course. That is probably about all you need. This music is so formulaic and single-minded that you'll never need more then 3 albums. Each minute must be loud, it must feature dual guitars engaging in sharp-edged riffing battles that take place under dark keyboard heavy skies. Busy drums have to seal each possible breathing space tight with blasting beats and endless fills. Add a vocalist varying gutteral bile with clean anthemic metal chants and you got it nailed.

That doesn't necessarily mean it's bad, it's a description that can be applied to many types of music, but there's actually only one track that moves me a bit and it sits right at the end. Revolt stands out with one of the very few remarkable melodies.

You get it, I'm not too fond of this, but it's well done and probably deserves 3 stars, maybe 4 if you're into this type of music.

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 The Archaic Course by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.34 | 16 ratings

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The Archaic Course
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Borknagar are one of the early bands in the Norwegian symphonic black metal legions, it's a type of music with a high black metal factor when promo pictures are taken or cameras are around, but with nothing of the libertarian ideology nor the harsh power of real black metal. Luckily for Borknagar, they aren't too concerned with their image but focus on the music instead.

The sound is very different from the bleak black metal of Enslaved or Satyricon. Melodic and symphonic elements dominate over blast beats, harshness and aggression. The music is fast-paced, upbeat, well produced and thrashy rather then the usual repetitive drone of black metal. In fact, this sits fairly close to symphonic power metal, it's just a bit more creepy and crazy at times.

This certainly goes for Borknager who crafted a fine metal album here with mostly melodic vocals of the very dramatic and slightly operatic type. The vocalist would soon leave Borknager to join the more successful act Dimmu Borgir and deliver some good melodious vocals in that band. His vocals are very affected and slightly strained at time, creating a tiring effect on me that wants to put off the album halfway in. Nevertheless, it's worth persisting as the second half is better then the first. There's not that big a difference but the songs tend to be more distinguishable from one another.

Prog fans shouldn't get their hopes up from the progressive tag, the music is high quality and melodious, but is a true metal feast, meaning there's next to no dynamics and it rocks at virtually the same pace, intensity and density from start to finish. 3.5 stars

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 Universal by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.21 | 24 ratings

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Universal
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars Deamh (combination of Doom & Death) Metal of unknown origins. Oh, actually they are from Norway, but anyway, this music they are producing is charmingly interesting for what they are actually doing. Dark side of the Prog we have here guys, even not so hardcore stuff (like these atmospheric Dark Metals where you have to be very patient while waiting for growls and other sounds of jungle).

Check this line in lineup of Borknagar, - Lars Nedland / keyboards, hammond, grand piano, backing vocals, that's quite unusual and therefore even more promising (promise fulfilled, Marty says). There's a lot of melodic parts (or at least harmonic, maybe both) and also chanting. Yes, the same chanting as you can hear on football match. I guess where these guys trained it.

This year seems like inoffensive year, as most of the stuff I've met this year (and it has been a lot of albums so far, I'm trying to catch up with this year and be "in touch" with current Prog as much as possible - I want to enjoy at least one year of doing this). So this year is characterized by diversity. By not just merely depending on one certain genre, but ranging through, in and out (of Extreme Metal in this case), layering and gathering strength, graduating and climaxing. Having acoustic solos, being multi-vocal groups. And this group is perfect example of this "trend". So again today, I'm giving

5(-), because numerous listens proved this record's worth. Correct ? Let's try it. Really, if you hate Death Metal, try to give it a try and see for yourself. It works well even for those who normally doesn't listen to this kind of music. Nice piece of art the cover is by the way.

The album that overcomes boundaries and stubborn limits of Doamh Metal and arriving to a place never (I don't know for sure) discovered before. At this magnitude.

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 Empiricism by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.17 | 26 ratings

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Empiricism
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Empiricism is the fifth full-length studio album by Norwegian melodic/ symphonic black metal act Borknagar. After the recording of Quintessence (2000) vocalist/ bassist I.C.S. Vortex left the band and new lead vocalist on Empiricism is Vintersorg. New bassist is Tyr.

The music on Empiricism is much in the same vein as on Quintessence though. The lineup changes doesn´t mean that much even though I know some people find Vintersorg´s vocals to be an aquired taste. The vocals still alternate between raspy black metal style vocals and clean male vocals. Well executed vocals IMO. The music is dominated by loads and loads of classical inspired keyboards, organ and synths by Lars A. Nedland ( Age of Silence, Winds, Vintersorg, Solefald) and the guitars which are normally the most prominent instrument in metal is a bit more in the background. The drums are excellent and it´s greatly enjoyable that Asgeir Mickelson lends his skills to another Borknagar album. He is such a skilled drummer. The songs are very melodic and generally memorable even though they do tend to get a bit trivial towards the end of the album. I´m not much a fan of this melodic/ symphonic black metal genre though so fans of the genre might feel otherwise.

The musicianship and production is top notch. Nothing wrong in that department.

Empiricism is a good album by Borknagar and I was actually considering at some point if it deserved a 4 star rating but I´ve come to the conclusion that it´s a big 3 star rating. Not quite to my taste but definitely a quality album.

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