|Borknagar was first founded by guitarist Øystein Garnes Brun in 1995, who previously played in the Norwegian metalband Molested. After 2 albums Molested split up due to a number of different circumstances. Øystein wanted to move on with his music and started his own project Borknagar. He wrote all the music and lyrics. Øystein then called into its ranks the formidable talents of some "all-star" black metal musicians who liked the idea to play majestic epic metal. The first album was born. This self titled debut album has the likes of Garm (who also plays in both Ulver and Arcturus and owns Jester Records) doing the vocals, drummer Grim (ex-Immortal, Gorgoroth and Ancient), Ivar Bjørnson doing the keyboards (ex-Enslaved) and bassist Infernus (who played in Gorgoroth). The first album was instantly released by Malicious records, Borknagar even didn't have a demo. The press reactions were excellent and people liked the fresh sound of this project. The epic music was something original at that time and people were looking forward to the next album.
After their successful debut Øystein started to write the songs for the next album. He signed Borknagar to the popular German metal label Century Media to release The Olden Domain. Because of some difficulties Infernus left the band and was replaced by Kai K. Lie. Taking full advantage of their new-found resources, the group entrenched themselves in the fabled Woodhouse Studios in Hagen, Germany. The album had a big impact in the metal-scene. This was highly exceptional music and because of the huge success the project became a band. Borknagar did a phenomenal job in distancing themselves from the corpse-painted hordes, utilizing a dense arrangement of instrumentation (including acoustic guitar and piano sections) and vocal choir effects to give them a rich quality that few bands of their sect possess. It's not a stretch to comment that The Olden Domain is probably one of the finest-sounding records the black metal scene has to offer. Øystein even prefers to avoid the black metal tag, opting for Epic Metal in its place, and it's a fitting description for this highly skilled and musically ambitious group.
Because of the great impact The Olden Domain had Borknagar went on their first tour through Europe alongside In Flames and Night in Gales. They also attracted 2 new members to the band, Jens F. Ryland and Simen Hestnæs's. Jens plays the second guitar on stage and has been since then a full time member. Simen is the new vocalist of the band and replaced Garm, who left on a friendly base and was searching for new musical experiences. Although there were some small technical problems on the first tour Borknagar were still successful and could rely on a great response from the audience.
Borknagar appeared on numerous samplers and in dozens of metal magazines. The work on the third album had begun. The Archaic Course was released in October 1998 and got rave reviews from metal magazines worldwide. 7 out of 7 points in the German Hammer magazine and 14 out of 15 points in Deftone magazine. The Archaic Course was Simen Hestnæs's' first Borknagar album to appear on and because of his sublime vocalwork it made the album the most epical and majestic Borknagar release till now. Second guitarist Jens F. Ryland also appeared on the album and made the guitar work together with Øystein stand out as one of the very best. That's why Guitar World magazine did an article about Borknagar and their epic music.
The band went on tour after the release of The Archaic Course, but had difficulties with the line-up once again. Drummer Grim, bassist Kai and keyboard player Ivar Bjørnson left the band. Ivar already was not a full time member, but the two others left the band because of some personal difficulties with the rest of the band. Still Borknagar went on tour with Cradle of Filth and Napalm Death in winter 1998. The band had a session drummer for this tour and no keyboards. Still, everything went great. The only complaints were about the playtime the band had. Because they were a support band they only had 20 minutes till half an hour. In spring 1999 Borknagar were one of the first Scandinavian metal bands to cross the ocean to successfully play in the US of A. Headlining with Emperor they crossed through America for more then 1 month. Nick Barker from Cradle of Filth & Dimmu Borgir fame was behind the drum kit this time. This was one of the most successful tours for extreme metal bands through the USA. Borknagar will for sure come back.
The band has finally found a full time replacement for the drums and keyboards. Asgeir Mickelson (Co-owner of Scream magazine and plays in technical metal band Spiral Architect) will do the drums on the new album and Lars A Nedland (Lazare of Solefald) will do the keyboards. Both are fine musicians and will give Borknagar a new fresh sound to continue with. The band recorded their fourth opus: Quintessence in the Abyss studio with Peter Tägtren as producer/engineer in January 2000. The album got already great response by the metal press and it shows that Borknagar matured and that they don't follow the latest trends. Folk, metal and a dose of their own ingredients makes Quintessence one of the winner albums of 2000. This is the year of Borknagar.