is a progressive black metal band from Bergen, Norway, founded in 1995
by Øystein Garnes Brun. The band's style combines folk metal and black
metal with progressive and melodic elements. BORKNAGAR 's lyrics
often deal with philosophy, paganism, nature, and the cosmos.
was founded by a remaining member of the Norwegian death metal band
Molested when Øystein Brun became tired of the brutal aspects of the
band's music. Øystein formed BORKNAGAR to explore a more melodic
outlet of expression, apparently inspired by the burgeoning black metal
movement Norway was experiencing. He wrote all the music and lyrics, and
gathered together an all-star group of black metal musicians to play in
his band, such as Infernus of Gorgoroth, Grim of Immortal and Gorgoroth,
and Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved. When Garm of Ulver, Head Control System,
and Arcturus joined the project, it brought the band immediate
attention. The band never even recorded a demo; they simply asked for a
record contract on Malicious Records and were granted their request.
Borknagar's music instantly gained fans and received positive press
has released seven albums to date. Their self-titled debut album
features lyrics solely in Norwegian; all subsequent albums have featured
lyrics written in English exclusively (however, ‘The Olden Domain’
featured an instrumental track titled in Norwegian). Aside from Brun's
lyrical contributions, the band has featured lyrics by other members as
well: ICS Vortex from Arcturus and Dimmu Borgir, drummer Asgeir
Mickelson, keyboardist Lars Nedland and more recently by current singer
Vintersorg from Otyg and his eponymous band. Bassist Jan Erik Tiwaz aka
Tyr wrote the song “The view of Everlast”.
previous album, ‘Origin’, is "an acoustic effort based entirely on the
epic and progressive aspect of the band", according to Øystein G. Brun's
statement. In late December 2007, the band signed a three-album deal
with the Norwegian label Indie Recordings. In March 2008, Øystein
announced that Erik Tiwaz and Jens Ryland had once again become official
members of the band, and that the band were aiming for a January 2009
release. In May 2008, Øystein released another statement announcing
Asgeir's departure as the band's drummer, due to "evolving differences
in musical ideas and visions”, later that year drummer David Kinkade
joined the band.
In 2009 BORKNAGAR has completed work on its new album,
‘Universal’, for an early 2010 release via Indie Recordings. The CD was
recorded and mixed at Toproom Studio in Lunner, Norway, with the band
members themselves handling the production duties.
It appears there is much to talk about and so we tracked down
to ask him some questions, here you can read what he had
to say to the readers of Metal-experience.
Although your new album ‘Universal’ has been postponed to
an early 2010 release, we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about
it. First of all, could you start this interview off with a short
introduction of the members, you’ve had some line-up changes so can you
give us a quick update on Borknagar?
I guess you can say there was a revitalizing within the band as the
Century Media contract expired and gave us room to look for other
possibilities. Nothing wrong with CM, but you know: it's like getting a
fresh start with someone else. So Øystein phoned me up one day and told
me there was a contract suggestion from Indie, and things just started
rolling from there. In between both Tyr and me were playing the
liveshows anyway, so it's not like we all lost connections. Somehow it
feels more like I've been on vacation from Borknagar than having left
Those are the changes you talk about, Tyr and me rejoined.
How did you launch into writing material for ‘Universal’
and how much time did you spend on the songs?
The writing process is Øysteins, and him being one overproductive fellar
he’s had some of the riffs on tape since the late nineties. The song
named “My Domain” was actually intended for ‘The Archaic Course’ in
1998, that's also why Vortex was brought back in to do the vocals. Then
there is the actual preproduction work to bring it all together, but
also here most of the work is done by Øystein.
What approach did you take to create this album, did you
go for a more raw exposition.. or something more reminiscent of your
previous other works, or something all together different?
The key words here are “fresh start” and the spirit within the band also
reflects on the album. We want to move back in time a bit and recreate a
bit of rawness in the sound and the songs themselves. Still the album is
the best produced work we have done so far, Øystein is getting really
good at this.
How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the
typical writing process like for Borknagar?
The actual writing process has changed over the years. As we live quite
far apart we can't work things out in the rehearsal- studio, so we use
Cubase to exchange files. Usually Øystein has most of the songs done
anyway, so it's more about arrangements and details by the time we get
the files. Øystein also always has a lot more material than we actually
end up recording, and part of the process is to filter out what we don't
want to use.
Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them
down or was it more of a careful composing thing?
You would have to ask Øystein about this really...
What comes first, lyrics or melodies?
Melody comes first.
What were the goals you had in mind when you started to
record ‘Universal’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the
For my part I just wanted to get back into the process and contribute to
a recording again. Studio work has never been my favorite part of “band-
work”, but it has grown on me with time. Øystein’s preprods sounded both
strong and interesting, so I was kinda eager to get to it.
Could you describe the implications of the title
‘Universal’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning
As always, a Borknagar title has many meanings and no one way to
understand. I guess by using “Universal” we want people to look back in
time, one of the songs on ‘The Archaic Course is also called
“Universal”. But we haven't made this album with a reference to TAC
either. It's only a hint. Universal seems like an allround fitting name
for our music anyway, it's dynamic, varied and challenging. It's music
you need to listen to, and it's not meant for a small group of
listeners. We're not a grind-core band, we're not a strictly Black
Metal band either, our music is more Universal...
Can you give us a little background information on the
songs, is there a story behind them?
The songs are individual, no concept album here. They're within the
usual Borknagar spirit...
How did the recording process proceed, did you work
differently this time than you did with your previous works? How much
time did you spend in the studio?
As always, we broke the recording into sequences as everyone has work
and other obligations. Staying for one month in the studio with the
whole band to record an album is so nineties he he. The only one who has
actually been in the studio during the whole process is Øystein who also
produced the whole thing. David came over for the first week to record
the drums. I only went in there to deliver the drumkit, I never set foot
in the studio in the actual drum- recording process. I guess this is how
we have worked since we visited Abyss studios in 2000. Andreas just came
down one weekend and he had already recorded all the vocals in his home-
After the release of your previous studio album ‘Origin’
there were some line-up changes and some members rejoined band. Did this
line-up change have an influence on the new songs?
Not really, Tyr already played on the Origin album so the small
difference would be my guitar- tracks.
Did they contribute to the songs?
Not as much as I would wish, as I rejoined rather late in the writing
process I didn't participate as much on the album as I normally would
have, but I'm still there...
What do you think the main differences are between your
previous works and
Production and perhaps sound. Øystein is getting really
good at this by now.
What is the utmost important ingredient for a song?
I don't see the songs on an album standing alone, I'm more concerned
about the big picture here. I've always been the one that loves playing
live, so I tend to enjoy the “live- friendly” songs more than the
others, but on an album we want diversity so we need all the others
Do you have any favourites on the album?
Kinda contrary to what I just answered my actual favorite on the album
just now is one that starts out with a very moody acoustic riff: “Stirr
Of Seasons”, but this tends to change back and forth.
Have you received any feedback on the album yet?
We're keeping the cards close to avoid any leaking on the net this long
before the actual release, but we have played the album to a few people,
and I think we're gonna turn some heads with this album yes :)
Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your
music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that
Well, I can say that we're mostly unaffected by opinions when it comes
to the process of making the music, but the good part is to get
recognition from outsiders, that confirms we're making music people find
interesting or inspiring. If we kept making music we found very suiting
ourselves, but which everybody hated I guess it wouldn't be as
Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or
would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective? Which
element of the CD are you the most proud of?
In the process of releasing an album you go through a lot of emotions
and phases, some compare it to a mild version of having a baby. At this
point I'm very content. The overall view of things is that we have made
an album that's very whole, varied and dynamic like a Borknagar album
should be. We have made progression in sound and it's very well
produced. There are details I would have changed, but nothing worth
With several albums under your belt, how far has
Borknagar surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the
most rewarding part of being in the band?
Oh, when I pull back to family and work after doing “band- duty” I
sometimes think I'm partly living a dream. In many ways we're in a
perfect place right now where we can choose when to expose ourselves and
meet the fans, but in my everyday life back in Norway I don't get any
attention at all for being a musician, here I'm just Jens, I don't envy
those who have become rich and famous, even though that might have been
one of the goals back in the mid nineties for us also. As long as we get
to go out and play some concerts as it suits us, I'm happy.
The strange thing to get used to now is being one of the veterans in the
scene, releasing a “best of..” made me feel old! But it has its
What is your opinion on the metal scene these days? What
do you think of the overload of bands at the moment and is there
anything missing in the scene?
The metal scene is sharing the same problems the rest of the music scene
is, and that's how to deal with the problems of downloading. Almost all
labels are stunned with the developments and have no clue how to deal
with it. And the problems the upcoming metalbands are facing is that the
old way of measuring how popular you are for a live show is looking at
the sales numbers in the area you want to play live. Now there is no way
of comparing bands up against each other as sales numbers don't tell you
naught! So in my opinion it seems like when a band is up and coming, it
is more out of pure luck than it used to be. You need to get an album
out, and if you manage to create some kind of buzz on the net you pave
the way to play a few gigs, and if enough people turn up for the gig,
you have made a buzz for yourself by playing live.
In my view, most major labels are now looking like dinosaurs just after
the meteor hit the Earth, causing their extinction: They're just too big
and can't cope with the development and are just running in circles
finding nowhere to hide. Soon they will be dead and the path will open
for new races to develop.
I see that the bands succeeding in the future will be those who are able
to master more of the business themselves. You can't have 5 people in a
band where everyone makes music and no-one is thinking about all the
What can we expect from Borknagar in the future, any
We're not built for touring; we have too many responsibilities back
home. But things change and the world turns, so you never know what we
might do he he.
Where do you see Borknagar going within the next couple
of years, and where do you see your musical direction going for the next
I want to do more gigs for sure. As I said, don't expect us to go on 2
month tours, but we want to go out and meet some fans and play our music
for them directly, so that's the goal for the next few years. As for the
next album, that's really too early to say.
Anything left to say to our readers?
Jens: I'm not gonna be the one moralizing about downloading and such,
just remember there are many ways to support the bands you like. Buy
merch, go to concerts, be supportive on the forums and let your favorite
band know you're there in other ways if you choose not to buy the album.
It does help. It's like this: If you look at Borknagar we see no reason
to visit a country like Portugal as our label tells us we sell only a
few albums down there. So we can't tell if it would be worthwhile or
not. But if you let us know with other measures we might show up ;) Let
us know you exist; we know you're there...
Jens Fredrik Ryland
Thanks for your time!
Øystein G. Brun - Guitar (1995-)
Andreas "Vintersorg" Hedlund - Vocals (2000-)
Lars "Lazare" Nedland - Keyboard, Backing Vocals (1999-)
Jens F. Ryland - Guitar (1997-2003, 2007-)
David Kinkade - Drums (2008 - present)
Jan Erik Tiwaz - Bass (2000-2004, 2007-)
Infernus - Bass (1995-1996)
Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg - Vocals (1995-1997)
Ivar Bjørnson - Keyboard (1995-1998)
Erik "Grim" Brødreskift - Drums (1995-1998)
Kai Lie - Bass (1996-1998)
Simen "ICS Vortex" Hestnæs - Vocals, Bass (1997-2000)
Justin Greaves - Drums (1998-1999)
Asgeir Mickelson - Drums (1999-2008)
(1997) The Olden Domain
(1998) The Archaic Course