In 1994, the death-metal guitarist Øystein G. Brun started to work on a musical vision, a vision of musical boldness. Having always been fond of melodious atmospherics, he recruited like-minded musicians from Enslaved, Gorgoroth, Arcturus, Immortal, and Ulver with the goal of rupturing the peripheries of what was deemed "traditional" black metal. Thus, the brilliant and sophisticated anomaly that is BORKNAGAR was born.
With no history of a demo tape in circulation, the release of their first self-titled album on Malicious Records in early 1996 surrounded BORKNAGAR with the mythos of unanimous acclaim, which prompted a phone call from label owner Robert Kampf asking Øystein to sign the band to Century Media. That accomplished, The Olden Domain was released in 1997, demonstrating to fans and critics alike, their masterful talent and artistically mature experimentation earning them a 1998 European tour supporting In Flames.
Returning to Woodhouse Studios in August of 1998 with engineer Matthias Klinkmann and themselves as producers, The Archaic Course which featured new members, Jens F. Ryland on guitar and Simen Hestnæs a.k.a. I.C.S. Vortex on vocals (former bassist and backing vocalist for Dimmu Borgir), left an undying mark on the metal scene, solidifying them as true visionaries. Following an incredible performance at Germany's 1998 Wacken Open Air Festival, drummer Grim and bassist Kai Lie exited the band before they embarked on their 1998 tour with Cradle of Filth, Napalm Death and Krisiun, bringing in Justin Greaves (from England's sludge-core legends Iron Monkey) on drums and assigning Vortex to additional duties on bass. In May of 1999, BORKNAGAR (joined by ex-Cradle Of Filth and ex- Dimmu Borgir drummer Nick Barker) pillaged through North America on the now legendary Kings Of Terror Tour with Emperor, Witchery, Peccatum & Divine Empire, adding yet another epic chapter in the band's career.
BORKNAGAR entered Sweden's famed Abyss Studios with engineers Lars Szöke and Peter Tägtgren in January 2000 to record the material that would become their fourth album, adding to their ranks drummer Asgeir Mickelson of Spiral Architect (and co-founder of the Norwegian metal magazine Scream) and Solefald's keyboardist Lars A. Nedland. Quintessence was one of the year's most creatively inspiring extreme metal releases, leading Metal Maniacs to state: "To understand BORKNAGAR is actually a formidable task. Each answer beckons 10 questions, and each listen reveals another layer you never noticed, a more intricate labyrinth of content than initially suspected." The album achieved nomination for the Norwegian national Alarm prize.
Simen Hestnæs soon relinquished ties to the band to concentrate on his duties with Dimmu Borgir, and the search soon began for his replacement on vocals and bass, which luckily did not take long. With a friendship spanning several years, Øystein and the Swede Vintersorg (from the band of the same name and Otyg) realized the commonalities in their musical attitudes and motivations, so it became natural for these friends to work together. Erik “Tyr” Tiwaz (session and touring bassist for Emperor and Satyricon) was invited to contribute his unique talents while Lars continued to diligently divide his time between Solefald and BORKNAGAR.
In October 2001, one of BORKNAGAR’s best selling records, Empiricism was released, co-recorded at Toproom studios and co-produced by Børge Finstad. Empiricism fleshes out main songwriter Øystein G. Brun's opulent compositions (complemented by string sections, a Hammond organ and a grand piano) which are inspired by his deep love for the cold glory of Nordic nature. The album was nominated for two prestigious awards in Norway, the National Grammy Award and again the Alarm prize.
In 2004 BORKNAGAR finished the 6th album entitled EPIC. Prior to the recording of the album Jens F. Ryland and Erik “Tyr” Tiwaz decided to leave the band due to personal reasons. The album turned out to be one of the most ambitious albums the band had done, an album where the horizon and the sky was barely the limit. The album entered the national charts in Norway and received a great response worldwide.
In 2006, BORKNAGAR did the last record “Origin”for their long-time label Century Media Records. This album was recorded entirely acoustic and contrary to the predecessor, this album was all about getting back to the very basics in BORKNAGAR’s musical universe. To fully achieve the “acoustic vision” the band hired musicians to record cello, violins and flute. Most notably, Steinar Ofsdal, a Norwegian folk music icon, embraced the band with outstanding use of a variety of flutes. In spite of the rather untraditional musical move, the album achieved alot of praise worldwide and slightly opened the door to the domains of the “world music” movement. The album marked an end of a musical journey. As a musical testimony of the years that passed, Century Media Records released a "best of" CD with a suitable title “For the Elements 1996-2006” in 2008.
In 2008, as the deal with Century Media Records was fulfilled, BORKNAGAR signed a deal with Norway’s finest; INDIE RECORDINGS. Jens F. Ryland and Erik “Tyr” Tiwaz rejoined the ranks of BORKNAGAR. Shortly after, due to different musical ideas and goals, long time drummer Asgeir Mickelson decided to leave the band. A few months after his departure, David Kinkade (ex- Malevolent Creation, ex- Council of the Fallen, ex- Arsis, ex-Divine Empire) joined the band as the new drummer. With the “new” line-up complete, in January 2009, BORKNAGAR once more entered Toproom studio to start recording the 8th. album, entitled UNIVERSAL. In late May 2009 Peter in da Betau at Tailormaid Audio mastered the album. BORKNAGAR’s founder and guitarist Øystein G. Brun comments:
“We are extremely satisfied with the result! The album turned out even better than we dared to hope for when starting this journey. There is an attitude, energy and nerve to this record that will appeal to the most primal side of man, yet there is complexity and atmosphere that will challenge the most sophisticated parts of mind. The album contains all the elements that made BORKNAGAR the band we are and we firmly believe that this album will be a huge piece of candy for those who have followed the band through the years. This is by far the most complete album we have done to date- musically and production wise- and we are right now just immensely eager to get the album out there!”