Borknagar
1995
Norway
Music group
The Black Canvas
In the realm of music, there are The Listeners (those who appreciate but do not create), there are The Makers (those who create but do not defy), and there are The Visionaries (those who not only defy but also invent). The last-and smallest-group is comprised of people who possess a wider wisdom of where music comes from and understand its intent is more than just a form of entertainment. Those Who Know never cease to push themselves into unexplored musicalisms, actively constructing their musical expressions in the present while carrying wisdom from the past in order to face the future.

The roots of The Visionaries in Norway's Borknagar lie in a furious creative propensity that is loyal to the unbreakable commitment to brilliant sound. Their latest braintrust, Empiricism, is a full and dynamic musical expression that is as mesmerizing as the beauty and danger inherent in fire. It grants listeners a way to ascertain something forgotten about themselves with each listen, holding their innermost selves hostage until the promise of transformation is attained.

The Genuine Pulse
It began with instinct, and when combined with the yearning and means to transcribe those instincts, the results were nothing short of evolutionary.

In 1995, guitarist Øystein Garnes Brun of the brutal Norwegian death metal band Molested grew tired of the band's sound. 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, the name a variation on a fictitious character in a Norwegian fairy tale which yields no concrete definition, very much like the epic music they set out to create.

With no history of a demo tape in circulation, the release of their first self-titled album on Malicious Records in early 1996 (and later reissued domestically by Century Media in 1999) 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 (with the production signatures of Waldemar Sorychta [Tiamat, Moonspell, Samael] and Woodhouse Studios), demonstrating to fans and critics alike their masterful talent and artistically mature experimentation earning them a 1998 European tour supporting In Flames and Morbid Angel.

Inherit The Earth
Returning to Woodhouse Studios in August of 1998 with engineer Matthias Klinkmann (Therion, The Gathering, Sentenced) 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 (now 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 current 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 (Hypocrisy, Destruction, Rotting Christ) and Peter Tägtgren (Dimmu Borgir, Marduk, Dark Funeral) in January, 2000 to write 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."

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. Tyr (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.

Liberated
Continuing their tradition of combining the awe for the phenomenal landscapes of their native lands with the realities of the human condition, the music of Borknagar reveals its secrets one at a time. Through the obscure aesthetic of metal, they at once poise philosophical questions engaging in provoking conversation but not for the sake of achieving explanations. While it's been said that their music is the soundtrack to the everlasting supremacy of nature and the beautiful (yet fierce) elements, within those vast, astral aspects of synchronicity between Øystein's songwriting and Vintersorg's exemplary lyrics are eclectic detours, intricate arrays and expansive ranges of light and dark speaking of something profoundly ancient that awaits us all in our collective future.

The immense, graceful and emotionally-charged vocals of Vintersorg, the fury behind Øystein and Jens' guitar playing, the mathematical equations of Asgeir's drumming, Tyr's grandiose bass lines and the somber moodscapes of keyboardist Lazare all cohesively construct a tale of mature, mist-laden self-exploration guided by the ingenious essence of creation and boundless permutations of sound. Empiricism carries with it an unmistakable and intrinsic passion that fuels all things destined to evolve.

Co-produced by Børge Finstad (Mayhem's Grand Declaration Of War) in part at Fagerborg Studios and Finstad's own Toproom Studio, exhibiting artwork designed by drummer Asgeir Mickelson, sharing Opeth's audacity of imagination and maintaining the tradition of Rush's non-conformity, 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 waves of the sea, the traveling wind across rough slopes and the icy silence over snow- and ice-covered fields of his native Norway are all evident in "Gods Of My World," "Soul Sphere," and "Four Element Synchronicity" and unite to form a mighty choir of nostalgic reminiscences and endless imaginations.

Liberated from stringent definitions by their epic and engulfing intermusicality, Empiricism immortalizes a superior gathering of instinct, talent, and integrity which invites you into a universe where unexpected frenzies transform themselves into acoustic tranquilities in a creative interplay of eternal, symbiotic coexistence.
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