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BORKNAGAR

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • Norway


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Borknagar biography
Founded in Bergen, Norway in 1995 - Still active as of 2019

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 Øystein 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! Their sound is highly progressive with the technical guitar - and keyboard - based compositions with complex instrumental passages.

See also:
- Arcturus
- Ulver

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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)

3.10 | 34 ratings
Borknagar
1996
3.38 | 41 ratings
The Olden Domain
1997
3.19 | 30 ratings
The Archaic Course
1998
3.22 | 42 ratings
Quintessence
2000
3.28 | 41 ratings
Empiricism
2001
3.65 | 39 ratings
Epic
2004
3.40 | 36 ratings
Origin
2006
3.23 | 36 ratings
Universal
2010
3.19 | 46 ratings
Urd
2012
3.96 | 45 ratings
Winter Thrice
2016
3.90 | 49 ratings
True North
2019

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 | 4 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
 Borknagar by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.10 | 34 ratings

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Borknagar
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars BORKNAGAR started as a project once Norwegian guitarist Øystein Brun grew tired of the 90s world of death metal when he was in the band Molested. Having been surrounded by the explosive world of second wave black metal that was taking Norway by storm in the1990s, Brun desired to create a more progressive form of the style by mixing traditional second wave black metal sounds with the newly created Viking metal from Bathory along with Scandinavian folk music and progressive rock.

Brun's vision was so persuasive that he successfully recruited a cast of underground superstars which included Roger TIegs aka Infernus (bass) of Gorgoroth, Erik Brødreskift (drums) of Immortal and Gorgoroth, Ivar Bjørnson (keyboards) of Enslaved and Kristoffer Rygg aka Garm (vocals) who sang in Ulver, Head Control System and Arcturus. This dream cast was so impressive that the BORKNAGAR project was able to by-pass the demo process by scoring a record contract on Malicious Records solely based on the lineup and the newly formed band quickly recorded and released this self-titled debut in 1996.

Brun's desire to expand the boundaries of the second wave black metal that had launched the scene onto the world's stage came at the right time when the limitations of the traditional ways were presenting themselves however black metal has proven to be a very adaptive beast with early bands like BORKNAGAR showcasing its adaptability and resilience. Having been put off by the relentless brutality of his death metal involvement in Molested, Brun was more interested in integrating melodic expressions in conjunct with the ferociousness of black metal but also added the pagan folk infused aspects of Viking metal along with the more adventures themes of progressive rock.

BORKNAGAR's eponymous debut differs from the band's many albums that came after in a few ways. Firstly this was the only album to be performed exclusively in the Norwegian language and the only album to feature Infernus as the bassist. The album is also the closest to the second wave black metal with caustic second wave black metal alternating with non-metal segments which feature ominous piano rolls, acoustic guitars and dark ambient atmospheres. While the band would develop the folk and progressive aspects much further on the second album "The Olden Domain," on this debut they still make their presence with folk infused musical scales providing the melodic infrastructure as well as progressive time signature deviations and unconventional song structures taking unexpected turns.

While the black metal aspects are very much in the vein of Darkthrone, Immortal, Gorgoroth and other no nonsense black metal bands bent on burning down as many churches as humanly possible, the seasoned playing skills of the musicians allow the tracks to be quite difference in how the instrumental interplay unfolds. Bass lines, guitar riffs, drumming styles and keyboard runs exude a firm sense of creative control while offering a sense of fearless improvisation in variations. The balance between sheer brutality and the sensually melodic is achieved and sounding seemingly effortless. The contrast between the dissonance of the buzzsaw guitars and frenetic raspy screams with the beautiful melodies and pacifying atmospheres is uncanny. Even some clean vocals can be heard.

Overall BORKNAGAR's debut may not be representative of the band's classic sound that followed but showcased the true power of a supergroup and its potential. Some 25 years on after its initial release, nothing on this album may sound revolutionary but during its time it was a true innovator which pioneered the world of progressive black metal that would allow bands like Enslaved to take black metal into the 21st century. Even without such plaudits, BORKNAGAR's debut is a true powerhouse of inventive black metal that exploits brutality and sensuality in tandem to unthinkable resolution.

As far as i'm aware this may have been one of the first albums to demonstrate as well how comfortably frenzied second wave black metal with its angsty raspy screams could coexist with the more chilled clean vocal mood swings of Bathory styled Viking metal. Any way you slice it, this one is a satisfying amalgamation of the entire black metal menu of variations up to this point and one that more than stands the test of time sounding as creative a quarter of a century after its release as when it must have during its own time. As the least progressive of BORKNAGAR's canon, this is also the most easily accessible to newbie ears and the obvious entry point for any curious ears wanting to explore this unique band's eccentricities.

4.5 rounded down

 Empiricism by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.28 | 41 ratings

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Empiricism
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by lukretio

3 stars Released in 2001, Empiricism marks a fine return to form for Borknagar after two albums (The Archaic Course and Quintessence) that were far from the level of quality the Norwegians had reached on the splendid The Olden Domain. After Quintessence, ICS Vortex, who had sung on both previous albums and played bass on Quintessence, left the band to concentrate on Dimmu Borgir and was replaced by the talented Vintersorg on vocals and Tyr (who had played live with Emperor and Satyricon) on bass. The change of line-up was very beneficial for Borknagar, not because ICS Vortex is a bad vocalist (to the contrary, he's excellent), but because Vintersorg seems to fit much better the sonic masterplan of band leader Øystein G. Brun. His singing is more epic and less extravagant than ICS Vortex's, which is a better match for Borknagar's progressive/folk blend of extreme metal. Tyr's performance is also very notable, with some excellent parts on bass and fretless bass, including a few solos. The rest of the line-up for this album is comprised of Øystein G. Brun and Jens F. Ryland on guitar, Lars A. Nedland on keyboards and Asgeir Mickelson on drums.

The fact that we are in front of a much stronger record than the previous two is already apparent from the opening pair of songs, "The Genuine Pulse" and "Gods of My World". On both songs the songwriting is lean and direct, with some excellent guitar riffs and leads intertwined with Nedland's great barrage of vintage keyboards. The song structures explore different themes and sections, but they are always anchored in instantly recognizable choruses and melodies, that help the listener keep track of the journey. The arrangements add just enough layers to make the music interesting without overburdening it with excessive complexity. Fast and aggressive parts are complemented with grandiose mid-tempos giving the music an epic and majestic tone, reminiscent of the atmosphere one can find on Dimmu Borgir's Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, but with an added dose of quirkiness and folk allure. The overall impression is that on the new album Borknagar have finally achieved the right balance between their various facets (black metal fury and melody; progressive experimentation and accessibility), which is a huge improvement over The Archaic Course, for example.

The individual performances of all musicians involved in the album are outstanding. Vintersorg is excellent, both when he uses his epic clean vocals and when he resorts to his grim growls. Both styles are nicely balanced through each song and fit well with one another. Tyr offers a very melodic bass presence which constitutes an exceptional rhythm section together with Mickelson's varied and sophisticated drumming. Brun and Ryland's guitars nicely complement one another, which is again an improvement over previous albums where one had the impression that Borknagar had not yet figured out how to make the two guitars work together. Lars A. Nedland's performance also deserves tons of praise. On Quintessence he had already demonstrated to be a very talented musician, but his role on that album was perhaps a bit disconnected from the rest of the band, with the result that occasionally his keyboard parts were sounding a bit out of place and forced. Nedland is perfectly integrated in the band now, and it is great to hear his always tasteful choice of keyboard sounds, varying from vintage Hammonds to futuristic synths.

Probably a lot of these improvements come down to the longer time the band actually spent in the studio, honing the songwriting and recording the songs (two months compared to the few weeks of previous releases), and to the excellent sound production by Børge Finstad (who will go on to produce several records in this genre, with Borknagar, Solefald and Wind). The guitars and drums sound great, with lots of bite and edge. There is a lot of space and dynamics in the sound that let each instrument come through when necessary, even Tyr's bass ? which is an instrument that often gets sacrificed in this type of music. This spaciousness does not at all come to the cost of power, though: the album can pack a punch or two when needed. Again, the record is excellently balanced in its various facets.

While there is a lot to like on Empiricism, the album does contain a couple of dull moments, with slightly more nondescript songwriting. This is the case especially in the second half of the record, where we have tracks like "Inherit the Earth" and "Liberated" that are borderline fillers. Fortunately, the good moments greatly overweigh the bad ones, and tracks like the opening duo, the progressive tour de force "Soul Sphere", and "Four Element Synchronicity" stand tall as great example of the talent of these six musicians. The latter song is particularly remarkable for how modern it sounds still today, 20 years after it was first recorded: this track could have been taken from one of the recent albums of Leprous (before their progressive-pop turn) or Ihsahn, showing how visionary and forward-looking Borknagar were back then (or perhaps how backward-looking the progressive metal scene is today!?).

In summary, Empiricism is a strong album, marking a definite return to form for Borknagar. After Quintessence, I had started to wonder whether Borknagar were perhaps a "one album" wonder, which after the excellent The Olden Domain were destined to drown in mediocrity. Empiricism proves me wrong. It is not quite at the level of excellence of The Olden Domain, but it gets damn close and is definitely a highly recommended listen if you are into progressive extreme metal.

 Quintessence by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.22 | 42 ratings

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Quintessence
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by lukretio

3 stars Quintessence, Borknagar's fourth album, was released two years after the underwhelming response to their 1998's album The Archaic Course. It is a record that rights many of the wrongs of its predecessor (messy and unfocused songwriting; overambitious experimentalism; sub-par production), but that also contains lots of material that falls into averageness and mediocrity, giving the overall impression of an album where Borknagar decided to play it safe. It is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in light of the pas-faux of the previous album. But in a period of burgeoning avant-garde extreme metal, it may be seen as a step back that puts Borknagar in the position of playing catch-up with other purveyors of the genre, like Arcturus, Enslaved or Ulver.

The band underwent a couple of significant line-up changes in the period between The Archaic Course and Quintessence. Ivar Bj'rnson, who had played keyboards for Borknagar since the debut album, left to concentrate on his main project Enslaved, while drummer Grim (also with Borknagar since the beginning) sadly passed away of drug overdose. They were replaced respectively by Lars "Lazare" Nedland from Norwegian avant-garde band Solefald and drummer Asgeir Mickelson (Spiral Architect). Bass player Kai K. Lie also walked out, but was not replaced by any new member, as vocalist ICS Vortex doubled up as bassist on Quintessence, instead. With this renewed line-up, in early 2000 Borknagar entered Abyss Studios and recorded the album udner the supervision of Peter T'gtgren.

Sonically, the album takes a half-step back towards the days of The Olden Domain. There are less clean vocals, and more grasps and growls. The music is also simpler and more direct, leaving behind much of the experimentation that one can find on The Archaic Course. The performances are also more streamlined, especially thanks to Mickelson's tight drumming replacing Grim's more extravagant style. Newcomer Lars Nedland also makes his presence heard, as the 10 songs of the album are washed with tons of stylish vintage keyboards (Hammond organ, mellotron). Despite these more or less subtle changes, Borknagar's music direction does not differ much from what the band had proposed on the previous two albums. Centred on 'ystein G. Brun's dense riffs, Quintessence offers a mixture of black metal, folk and avant-garde that bends the rules of extreme metal into more melodic directions.

T'gtgren's production is good, giving good balance to the various instruments and vocals. If anything, the sound is a tad too balanced, in the sense that none of the instruments stands out particularly on this album and one has to make an effort to figure out the instrumental leads that are being played on the songs. Much of the problem, however, lies in the songwriting and arrangements that are very much nondescript, almost as if Borknagar were afraid to indulge in bold songwriting after the backlash they suffered with the previous album. The result is 10 songs that are fairly bland and lifeless and where it is difficult to find episodes that one gets excited by.

The album starts well, with 'Rivalry of Phantoms' and 'The Presence Is Ominous' representing two of the strongest tracks of the record. The playing is tight and the music strikes a good balance between aggression, melody and structure, alternating between epic mid-tempos and faster parts. Nedland's keyboards take centre stage, especially on 'The Presence Is Ominous', and stand out as perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the whole album. Alas, the expectations created by these initial songs are soon disappointed, as the record starts to spin on itself, essentially recycling the same ideas over and over for its whole duration. 'Colossus', with its clean vocals, and 'Invincible', with its death metal vibe, rekindle some interest, but otherwise I find it a bit of a chore to remain fully attentive as the record plays through to its conclusion.

Overall, Quintessence is a decent album that certainly represents an improvement over the messy results of The Archaic Course, but also fails to reach the levels of inspiration and creativeness of The Olden Domain. If you are willing to forgive the somewhat dull and uninspired songwriting, you'll find things to like here as Borknagar's sound remains pleasant and enjoyable. But this record does not hold my interest enough to ensure I'll be playing this very often in the future, as there are better albums of progressive extreme metal out there even from the same period (Enslaved's Monumension) or from Borknagar themselves.

 The Olden Domain by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.38 | 41 ratings

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The Olden Domain
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by lukretio

4 stars Back in the mid-90s, Borknagar were pretty much one of the first black metal supergroups around. The band was formed and led by ex-Molested guitarist Øystein G. Brun, who grouped together an exceptional cast of fellow musicians, including Kristoffer Rygg (vocals; Ulver, Arcturus), Erik "Grim" Brødreskift (drums; Gorgoroth, Immortal), Roger "Infernus" Tiegs (bass; Gorgoroth) and Ivar Bjørnson (keyboards; Enslaved). After releasing a self-titled full-length in 1996, they replaced bass player Infernus with the relatively unknown Kai K. Lie, and headed to the then state-of-the-art Woodhouse Studios to record and self-produce their sophomore album The Olden Domain, which was then released on Century Media in 1997.

While the debut album was pretty much rooted in black metal aesthetics, The Olden Domain offers a more eclectic blend of styles that stunned the extreme metal scene at the time. Black metal, Viking metal, classic HM and progressive rock are all audible influences across the eight songs of the album, giving the record a very definite and special sound. Øystein G. Brun blends in equal parts aggressive guitar riffs typical of the black metal scene with more folk-oriented leads and acoustic passages. His guitar tone is fat and noisy, and his playing is articulate but at the same time raw and spontaneous, which gives the music a distinct lo-fi feel (in fact the whole album was recorded in only two weeks and mixed in three days, which probably reinforces its underground feel). Grim's drumming can be fast and furious when needed, but it often breaks down in more expressive and articulate playing, with lots of drum fills and builds that bring to mind the style of heavy progressive rock bands like King Crimson. Ivar Bjørnson's keyboard textures are another hark back to the 1970s progressive rock aesthetics, which are particularly marked on symphonic tracks like "Grimland Domain" and "The Dawn of the End". Meanwhile, Kristoffer Rygg offers a varied and excellent performance, alternating between raspy growls and theatrical cleans with his unmistakable baritone voice and unique phrasing.

The forward-thinking and progressive nature of the material is also apparent from the song structures, which is loose and fluid, exploring different tempos and moods in the space of a single composition without giving too many reference points to the listener. For this reason, The Olden Domain can be a fairly challenging album to listen to, but it definitely grows with repeated listens as one needs time to make sense of its stretched structures and complex arrangements. Yet, the record also possesses a raw immediacy that makes it easily accessible to those who are not inclined to invest too much time into it. This is especially true for tracks like the epic duo at the front of the disc ("The Eye of Oden", "The Winterways"), and what is probably the best track of the album, "A Tale of Pagan Tongue". These are all tracks dominated by strong guitar melodies that are very memorable and instantly likeable. Rygg's vocals often double the guitar melody, accentuating even further its impact on the listener.

But all songs offer interesting moments, be it an atmospheric acoustic interlude, a glacial guitar riff, or an epic folk melody. There is also sufficient variety across tracks to keep things fresh. The two instrumental pieces, "Om hundrede aar er alting glemt" and "Ascension of Our Fathers" are helpful in this respect. The first one is a short atmospheric song that revolves around a melancholic keyboard motif that is doubled up by an icy distorted guitar. It breaks up nicely the flow of the record, giving the listener a moment of respite from the black/viking metal assault of the previous two tracks, before the album plunges again into more extreme sounds. The other instrumental track is more of a band effort, with guitar, drums and bass playing around a folksy theme with a strong melancholic feeling. Meanwhile, "To Mount and Rove" shows a more marked classic heavy metal influence, especially in the opening guitar riff. However, this track is probably the weakest song of the lot, with a songwriting that is still partly immature and cannot make the various subsections of the composition flow nicely into one another.

This is probably the biggest limit of this record. While there are some excellent ideas that are genuinely interesting and exciting, Borknagar succeed in channeling them into smooth compositions only in a handful of tracks (the aforementioned "The Eye of Oden", "The Winterways" and "A Tale of Pagan Tongue", plus the symphonic "Grimland Domain"). Elsewhere, the song flow stutters somewhat, bordering on the chaotic. But for most part The Olden Domain is a thoroughly enjoyable album, showing a band of enormous potential and unafraid to carve an original and relatively untrodden path in the universe of extreme metal. For this reason, The Olden Domain is highly recommended to fans of bands like Enslaved, Ulver and Arcturus, and anyone interested in music that explores the boundaries between progressive rock, folk and black metal.

 The Archaic Course by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.19 | 30 ratings

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The Archaic Course
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by lukretio

2 stars After releasing in 1997 a strong album like The Olden Domain - an eclectic blend of prog, black metal and Viking metal -, Øystein Brun and his bandmates entered Woodhouse Studios again in 1998 to record eight new compositions under the supervision of sound engineer Matthias Klinkmann, who had already worked on their previous record. However, the line-up that entered Woodhouse in 1998 was quite different from that that recorded The Olden Domain in 1997. Singer Kristoffer Rygg left the band to concentrate on his mainstay bands Ulver and Arcturus. He was replaced by ICS Vortex (real name Simen Hestnæs), who had already appeared on Arcturus' La Masquerade Infernale and who came with the recommendation of Rygg himself. In addition, a second guitarist Jens F. Ryland was added to the line-up, while keyboard player Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) was essentially on his way out of the band, being already credited as guest player in the CD booklet.

All these transformations may partly explain why Borknagar's third full-length feels much more tentative, messy, and ultimately disappointing than its predecessor. I suspect in particular that the transition from one to two guitar players was not yet fully metabolized by the band, seeing how in most songs of the album the guitar work is in considerable disarray, with ruffled riffs, chaotic leads and a general lack of refinement in how the different guitar parts are overlaid and arranged. I should say that the production certainly does not help here. The album sounds rough and dirty, definitely not making justice to the complexity and busyness of the material. The mix is also rather unbalanced, with keyboards and guitars all over the place and the vocals buried deep down to the point of being barely audible at times.

But messy production and overcrowded songwriting cannot fully explain the palpable dip in quality in the new material relative to The Olden Domain. Part of the problem lies instead in an increased musical ambition that was unfortunately not yet fully matched by actual songwriting and arrangement abilities. Don't get me wrong, all musicians involved in this album are top-notch, and in fact Borknagar were rightly considered a sort of extreme metal "super group" at the time. But Øystein Brun's songwriting on this album does not sound fully mature and up to the level that is required to properly blend together extreme metal and progressive/experimental metal, as Borknagar were clearly attempting to do at the time. The album tries really hard to innovate and surprise the listener with a flurry of tempo changes, interlocking sub-sections and quirky arrangements. But there is no flow, harmony or coherence in the way these musical ideas are structured and arranged, and the result feels very much like an infernal cauldron that is constantly on the brink of spiralling out of control (which it does more than once). My overall impression is that the material for this album would have needed a longer gestation period, possibly in the hands of a more expert producer (Klinkmann had worked mostly as sound engineer in his career) who could help the band hone their sound, by refining the structure and arrangements of the songs and pruning away the most out-there and superfluous bits.

Speaking of out-there bits, ICS Vortex is an excellent singer as he will demonstrate with his stints with Dimmu Borgir and Arcturus, but he does not exactly shine on this album. Again, the problem is one of trying too hard. His vocals sweep between grim vocals, theatrical baritones and extravagant falsettos, which is impressive. However, his performance does feel forced and strained at times, like on "The Witching Hour" and "The Black Token", a pair of songs which is probably the lowest point of the record and where ICS Vortex sounds more like a caricature of Rygg than the good singer he actually is.

All this trying hard to be progressive and experimental also means that a lot of the folk vibes that had adorned The Olden Domain are notched down considerably on The Archaic Course. The new music is also more aggressive and frenzied, making fewer concessions to melody in favour of speed and heaviness, another aspect that I do not particularly appreciate of this record.

Ultimately, there are only a handful of tracks that I find myself returning to on this record. "Ocean Rise" and "Universal" open the album in a style that is not dramatically different from the songs of The Olden Domain, albeit "Universal" does feel a tad too busy at times. However, the best song on the album is probably "Ad Noctum", the only track not penned by Brun but by ICS Vortex. It is a frenzied mash-up of 1970s Hammond organ and furious black metal played at a breakneck tempo, which is stunning in its vigour and audacity. It feels very much ahead of its times, like some of the music that Arcturus were doing around the same years, and it would not feel out of place even today, 25 years later, on the record of a forward-thinking extreme metal act like Ihsahn or Leprous.

Although on each song I can find one or two musical moments that draw my interest, there is no other track on this record that I enjoy listening to from start to finish. Ultimately, this makes sitting through the album quite a chore and I can't see myself playing this one much often in the future, especially when I could instead play one of the other better albums by Borknagar, like The Olden Domain. Overall, I'd say The Archaic Course is for completionists or hardcore fans of the band only. Everyone else should approach this one with caution, if at all.

 True North by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.90 | 49 ratings

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True North
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars 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 'ystein 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 Bj'rn Dugstad R'nnow (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.

 Origin by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.40 | 36 ratings

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Origin
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars This might be the most accessible Borknagar album for a progger simply due to lack of extreme metal element. Borknagar prove that they can craft beautiful acoustic, melodic and creative music highlighting their prowess diverse music styles. Emotions are limited to the more positive ones. The absence of heavy elements let some of Borknagar's strongest weapons to dominate: excellent vocal tone and harmonies, accessible melodies and clearer keyboards. Furthermore, violin, cello and flute add a more folky feeling.

On a less positive note, after a couple of tracks, the typical Borknagar fan might lack music challenges and ambitions of previous releases. One exception is "White" that stands out due to its instrumentation, melody and pace. "The spirit of nature" is a purely symphonic number and instrumental. A good album that is not overly long and very original/unexpected of Borknagar.

 Epic by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.65 | 39 ratings

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Epic
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars Another very strong output by Borknagar, I see it in the same league with Empirism, strong progressive elements, clever songwriting while retaining extreme metal hooks and not getting commercial as on the later "Winter Thrice" or "True north". Contrasts between solid melodies and heavy black/death/viking metal massage is stunning. It sounds as if the band penned the tracks with ease because they found the great balance of talent, maturity and heaviness/softness.

"Future Reminiscence" has their trademark black metal shrieks but also Viking harmony vocals in the middle section. Also, listen to tasty symphonic and keyboard elements. "Traveller" has soaring melodies that oscillate between melancholy, depression and anger. "Origin" has a slowlier Opethesque sequence of riffs, the second half with vocal harmonies and keyboards is incredible. "The weight of the wind" has a retro prog 70's feeling with haunting piano and synth line, not many black metal bands could pull out such song. The black metal "Resonance" takes everything by force but has Viking vocals. "Relate" confirms the talent by the band to combine organ, Viking influence and black metal elements. "Cyclus" is my most favourite song and a very memorable one for its sinister riff, vocals and great Hammond chords. "Circled" could be considered a semi-ballad thanks to harmony vocals, tender melody and symphonic sounds of brass instruments? "Quintessence" starts on a sober note but transforms into a relentness black metal excercise. The last song, "The wonder" has a great melody and epic feeling although having only 4 minutes. 5 stars for metal listeners, 4 for progressive rock/metal fans.

 Empiricism by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.28 | 41 ratings

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Empiricism
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars Keyboards and drums continue to be the most progressive elements on the album followed by vocals. By now, the band can offer a high quality clean vocal tandem, black metal screaming as well as death-metal growling. Especially the second half of the album is ambitious and progressive by Borknagar standards.

A very unusual electronic start in the first few seconds is abruptly interrupted by unmercible black-metal drums with a retro-synth. There is a duel between the warm clean vocals and black metal shrieks. If you listen to the previous album and skip to this track, you will notice quite a flat sound and drums higher in the mix which I don't like m uch. It is one of the most memorable tracks on the album due to its simple buf effective melody. I don't like the sound of the drums on this album.

With "Gods of my world" awaits us another good track with vocals standing out. Notice also quality keyboard work in the end that make the uutro a bit fairy taile.

While I don't particularly enjoy "The Black canvas", it offers interesting Hammond work, both chords and solo. That's not if from the keyboard, "Matter and motion" leads us to a jazzy and playful territory with even some dissonan chords, unheard of a black-metal band!

"Soul sphere" pulls of a great progressive drumming pattern, seems like > 2 hands/feet playing ;-). Also worth netioning is the acoustic mellow part with acoustic guitar.

The last three tracks are unusually progressive, "Four element synchronicity" already has an ambitious name and displays great compositional craft with complex arrangements, moods. Listen to the playful piano-drums duel at the end of the track.

"Liberated" is a progressive metal piece with black metal vocals and great atmospheric piano. "The view of everlast" is the first ballad by Borknagar, melancholic, mellow and radio friendly at the same time.

This album may not be the most favourite for pure metal fans but will please every progressive heart and ears.

 Quintessence by BORKNAGAR album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.22 | 42 ratings

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Quintessence
Borknagar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars Borknagar has achieved their trademark sound as we know if for most of the time on that album. The line-up has changed again, keybords and drums were it for this time. Despite this, the band sounds tight and players well aligned. Borknagar has by this time turned into a all-around metal beast manifesting black metal as well as death metal and progressive traces.

The band got heavier after delivering quite a polished third album.

The start of the album is powerful with a mighty long multiple shriek however, the sound of Hammond and warm vocals will soon remind us that this is above the usual metal league. Vocals have been more elaborated than on this album. "The presence is ominous" has a more memorable motives with semi-prog keyboard synths and prog/death intensive drumming with high and normal vocal. Great level of complexity for a black metal band.

"Ruins of the future" is a Viking black-metal track with ominous guitars and shrieks. The instrumental part with synths and keyboards is brilliant.

"Inner landscape" has undeniably influence in classical or progressive-rock music but that only holds for the keyboards, drums and bass are rather straight rock. "Invicible" and "Genesis torn" are argubly the heaviest tracks on the album with both death-metal and black metal bloody beat-up ;)

The latter has no similarities to the progressive Genesis, on the album with complex drumming, I also like growls that are pretty advanced, maybe slightly hardcore style influenced.

A small epic comes in the end, there is a even a good guitar solo and multiple shifts with clean vocals and growling and top notch drumming.

Thanks to Logos for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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