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Bergen's BORKNAGAR, created during 1995, holds the distinction of being made up of various members of the Death Metal elite. MOLESTED's Øystein Garnes Brun (a.k.a. 'Panzerschwanz'), having composed an album's worth of music and lyrics, gathered around him Ivar Bjørnson of ENSLAVED as keyboard player, drummer Grim (Erik Brødreskift) of IMMORTAL and GORGOROTH, bass player Infernus (Roger Tiegs) of GORGOROTH and ULVER's Garm (Kristoffer Rygg) as lead vocalist.

Over a series of innovative albums the band, despite ongoing line-up tribulations and members commitments to other high profile bands, has maintained their status, initially delving into melodic Black Metal but then drifting successively into progressive, Viking edged Metal riven with philosophical content.

Following two demos, 'Stalk The Dead' and 'Unborn Woods In Doom', Brun's prior group MOLESTED had ploughed a stereotypical Death Metal furrow, putting out a 1995 album 'Blod-Draum' on the Effigy label and an EP, 'Stormvold', in 1997. MOLESTED, existing in parallel to BORKNAGAR for some time, scored a deal for a proposed second album but Brun opted to close off this avenue of aural aggression to fully prioritise BORKNAGAR.

Unusually the new band chose not to demo up material and launched straight into their debut with the Norwegian language 'Borknagar' album, recorded at Bergen's Grieghallen Studios and released through Malicious Records in February 1996. A thoroughbred manifestation of bombastic Black Metal, 'Borknagar' held true to a formulaic combination of growled vocals, buzz guitars, sweeping synths and blast beat drumming with only the respite of the acoustic punctuated 'Ved Steingard' and 'Tanker Mot Tind' giving any hint of future direction.

Switching to the German Century Media imprint the band, having dropped Infernus in favour of fresh four-stringer Kai K. Lie and having Garm now characterised as 'Fiery G. Maelstrom', followed up with 'The Olden Domain', crafted at Woodhouse studios in Dortmund and issued in August 1997. In union with GRIP INC. guitarist Waldemar Sorychta acting as producer, BORKNAGAR took a daring leap forward with 'The Olden Domain', stretching the confines of the genre into unexplored areas. Whilst the guitar power base still remained cruelly triumphant, the essence of BORKNAGAR swelled into epic magnificence. Black Metal elements still remained, with bursts of blast beats and guttural vocals, now significantly in English, but highly mature works such as the rousing 'A Tale Of Pagan Tongue', the monolithic instrumental 'Ascension Of Our Fathers' and the piano piece 'Om Hundredeaar Er Alting Glemt' showed the band had charted a new course.

BORKNAGAR undertook a European tour that September alongside HECATE ENTHRONED, ROTTING CHRIST and OLD MAN'S CHILD. All did not run smoothly however as vocalist Garm unexpectedly withdrew his services on the eve of the tour. BORKNAGAR rapidly supplanted Garm with erstwhile ARCTURUS and LAMENTED SOULS man ICS Vortex (Simen Hestnæs) at the same juncture bolstering their live sound with a second guitarist Jens F. Ryland from DØDHEIMSGARD. Third opus 'The Archaic Course', emerging in October 1998, would also be laid down at Woodhouse Studios. Here BORKNAGAR opened themselves up to fully explore the Nordic myths, their technical ability and range of expression manifesting a near extreme-Prog masterpiece in the process.

BORKNAGAR put in a tour of North America during 1999 as part of a package bill including EMPEROR, WITCHERY, PECCATUM and DIVINE EMPIRE. This was despite the band being an understrength trio of Brun, bassist / vocalist Simen Hestnæs and guitarist Jens F. Ryland. Grim had died from a drug overdose on October 4th, deemed as suicide, and bassist Kai K. Lee had quit. BORKNAGAR quickly recruited Lazare (Lars A. Nedland) of SOLEFALD on keyboards and guest drummer Nick Barker of CRADLE OF FILTH and DIMMU BORGIR.

The 2000 album 'Quintessence', produced by HYPOCRISY's Peter Tägtgren at Abyss Studios that January, was recorded with fresh drummer Asgeir Mickelson of Progressive Rock act SPIRAL ARCHITECT and ANESTHESIA. Lazare's contribution in the studio was to replace the anterior architectural keyboard structures with expansive and detailed domination. As such, 'Quintessence' marked a shift away from the epic and into the truly Progressive. However, in August the band had to pull out of a projected tour with MAYHEM after Hastnaes, who had been a part time member of DIMMU BORGIR under his pseudonym of I.C.S. Vortex on bass guitar, decided to concentrate solely on that act.

The same month BORKNAGAR enrolled erstwhile MORPHEUS WEB, SATYRICON and EMPEROR bassist Tyr (a.k.a. 'Erik Tiwaz' / Jan-Erik Torgersen). By November the vocal position had been filled by Vintersorg (a.k.a. Andreas Hedlund), a well known character having made his presence felt on the scene with his own acts VINTERSORG and the Folk Metal combo OTYG.

Mickelson would session for ENSLAVEMENT OF BEAUTY in late 2000. The drummer would also session for Oslo Black Metal band LUNARIS, a side project band made up principally of his colleagues in SPIRAL ARCHITECT. The newly stabilized BORKNAGAR would put in a valuable high profile appearance at the Norwegian 'Quart' festival in early July as support to CRADLE OF FILTH. Meanwhile, Lazare would release his latest SOLEFALD project album 'Pills Against The Ageless Ills' during September 2001.

The October 2001 'Empiricism' album, released in North America during January of the following year, would witness a BORKNAGAR line-up of vocalist Vintersorg, guitarists Øystein G. Brun and Jens F. Ryland, bassist Tyr, keyboard player Lazare and Asgeir Mickelson on drums. Working with studio engineer Børge Finstad the band tracked this album utilising Fagerborg Studio and Toproom Studios. Mickelson contributed session drums to VINTERSORG's album 'Visions From The Spiral Generator'. Meantime, Ryland would pursue outside activities with DHG.

The band unveiled plans for an October co-headlining tour of mainland Europe with FINNTROLL topping a strong billing comprising SUSPERIA, SUIDAKRA and WINDIR. However, these dates would be curtailed due to transportation problems.

Øystein G. Brun and Vintersorg founded a side adjunct to BORKNAGAR in late 2002 entitled ÍON. Guitarist Jens F. Ryland left the band in mid February 2003. Drummer Asgeir Mickelson stepped in as a temporary stand in with Bay area Thrash veterans TESTAMENT that same month. Further outside activities found Vintersorg collaborating with VINTERSORG live session drummer Benny "Hägge" Hägglund in a new Thrash Metal venture entitled FISSION. Lazare too would be active outside of the BORKNAGAR camp, founding AGE OF SILENCE in union with Eikund of TULUS and KHOLD repute and the notorious MAYHEM, WINDS and ARCTURUS drummer Hellhammer.

BORKNAGAR set about recording their sixth album 'Epic' in early 2004, recording at Toproom and Fagerborg Studios with producer Børge Finstad. For these sessions drummer Asgeir Mickelson also handled bass guitar as the band parted ways with Tyr. Asgeir Mickelson was announced as having temporarily joined the ranks of DIMMU BORGIR as stand in live session drummer during March 2004. However, upon issue of this statement the drummer's manager refuted the assertion.

BORKNAGAR touring plans were put on hold due to a profusion of new-borns in the camp, three band members, Brun, Vintersorg and Mickelson, becoming new fathers. In January 2005 ex-member Simon Hestnæs rejoined ARCTURUS as their new frontman. Meantime, BORKNAGAR revealed their next album was to be an entirely acoustic affair. Yet further side activities culminated in the announcement of the ÍON project of Vintersorg and Øystein G. Brun, this venture soon being re-titled CRONIAN, and a further Hedlund solo concern, the 1970s Progressive Rock concept WATERFIELD for the debut album 'The Astral Factor'. BORKNAGAR returned in October with the 'Origin' album.

Retaining his BORKNAGAR ties, drummer Asgeir Mickelson joined the ranks of THORNBOUND in January 2007. Mickelson also produced and performed session drums on the SCARIOT album 'Momentum Shift' and guested for Norwegian folk fiddle playe KNUT BUEN.

Asgeir Mickelson quit the band in May 2008.

The band played the THIN LIZZY, SAXON, UFO, MOTÖRHEAD and HEAVEN AND HELL headlined August 2009 'Wacken Open Air' festival in Germany. 

Garry Sharpe-Young

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