orknagar was founded by former death metal guitarist Oystein Garnes Brun of the act Molested to create a metal band that would be able express his ideas on how the genre should go. To complete this task he hired a bunch of veteran Metallers: Garm (Real Name: Kristoffer Rygg; of Ulver/of Arcturus; vocals), himself on guitar, Ivar Bjornson (ex-Enslaved; synthesizer ), Infernus (of Gorgoroth; bass) and Grim (Real Name: Erik Brødreskift; ex-Immortal (Norway)/ex-Ancient/of Gorgoroth; drums).
Speculating that the truckload of metal talent in Borknagar would sell records 'Malicious' signed them and released their eponymous debut in 1996. Following the release, Infernus decided to leave making room for Kai K Lie. The first album created a stir among the death metal community but to put to rest any notion that it was a one-off wonder when The Olden Domain (1997) was released on 'Century Media'. Using a variety of techniques and instruments to express their sound, the act showed their determination to not be clumped in with the black metal crowd, preferring the less than modest title of "Epic Metal".
Borknagar then engaged on a heavy touring schedule, not to mention their recruiting of guitarist Jens F. Rylands, and replacing singer Garm with Simen Hastnaes (a.k.a. ICS Vortex). The Archaic Course (1998) set them up for international acclaim. Their subsequent tour with Napalm Death and Cradle Of Filth were without Grim, Kai and Bjornson who were replaced by temporary musicians. By the release of Quintessence (2000) Asgeir Mickelson replaced temporary musician Nick Barker (of Cradle Of Filth) with Vortex now taking on vocals and Lars A. Nedland (a.k.a. Lazare; Solfaid) replacing Bjornson and Lee. But shortly after the release another change was afoot with Vintersorg (Real Name: Andreas Hedlund; ex-Vintersorg) replacing Vortex on vocals and Tyr (Real Name: Jan Erik Torgersen; ex-Satyricon; bass for sessions). Empiricism would be their 2001 release, but in 2004 Tyr amicably left the band due to his inability to complete his bass tracks for personal reasons, to be replaced for time being by drummer Asgeir Mickelson recording the bass parts for the follow-up, Epic, with Tyr returning for 2006's somewhat lighter sounding effort Origin.
In late December 2007, the band signed a three-album deal with the Norwegian label 'Indie Recordings', with Universal (2010) following.
Asgeir would leave in May 2008 to be replaced with David Kinkade (ex-Malevolent Creation.
In early June 2010, Jan Erik Tiwaz left due to "general disagreements"; ICS Vortex replaced him and Vintersorg on the upcoming tour.
2011 saw the deal with 'Indie Recordings' end and a new deal with 'Century Media' form. 2011 also saw Dave Kinkade leave for Soulfly; Baard Kolstad would replace him. The albums Urd (2012), Winter Thrice (2016) and True North (2019) followed, the latter album released after Vintersorg and Kolstad left; Kolstad was replaced by Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow at Kolstad's own suggestion.
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