The Universal Borknagar

After a hiatus of nearly 5 years, Borknagar has returned with their most stunning effort to date.  Progressive and decidedly extreme, Universal is a complex work of genius that should greatly impress many a music enthusiast.  In addition to a grand return to all things cosmic, many past Borknagar members make appearances on this groundbreaking work, joining core members Øystein G. Brun and Vintersorg.  We recently interviewed Brun to find out more about this mesmerizing new collection of sheer artistry, their first for The End Records… 

It’s been awhile since the previous Borknagar release (2006 actually). Why the long wait and how frustrating was it to wait so long to release a new CD?
—- Well, it was originally planned for a September 2009 release but had to be postponed due to reasons out of our control. Indie recordings had to set up a new distribution network, abit frustrating but in the end of the day it turned out better for us getting the album released though proper channels. Secondary we simply needed some time to lean back and stake out the course for a new musical journey, we didn’t want to rush anything and wanted to make sure that we had something great up our sleeve before recording it. We have been around for ages, done 8 albums and have a well established name- so we feel that we are in position to spend the time necessary in order to get the best out of it.

Is there any story or concept behind the CD title Universal?
—- UNIVERSAL is not really a concept album as I personally don’t like the idea of a concept album very much. The songs have different approaches in terms of the lyrics, but I must admit that there is some sort of connection between them. I have always been very fond of and spent my creativity speaking the tongue of nature. You might say that the nature somehow is the scenery where we play off our lyrical ideas. Also, I have always been very much into pagan traditions and philosophy. Mead and horned helmets are fair enough, but my main focus on this issue has always been the mental side of things. So with UNIVERSAL parts of my intention was to bring the whole pagan mentality into a more universal context. I believe that the Vikings where scientists of their time, more than being religious worshippers of Odin and Thor. So my intention is simply to project some of those mindsets with a modern twist.

How did ICS Vortex wind up singing on the track My Domain after so many years of not participating in Borknagar and who came up with the idea?
—- Well, we actually discussed his participation for this song already back in 2005. “My Domain” was actually written back in the days when he was a member of the band and he was really digging that song. Because of different reasons we never got the chance to record the song while he was in the band. So when we finally decided to record the song the only way around was to get Vortex to do the vocals, as this was sort of “his” song. This was just a one off event, but we all had a really had our share of magic moments in studio. Really nice to notice that time doesn’t bleak good friendship and musical brotherhood.

How has it been to have Jens Ryland and Tyr back in the band and how did they become involved with Borknagar once again?
—- That feels good! Even though the guy’s actually quit the band they have ever since lurked in the shadow of the band being good friends and so on. So from my perspective they more or less “called in sick” for a moment being and it was more a matter of time before they joined the band again.

Vintersorg has not been active for a while as well. Is there any news of a Vintersorg album coning out?
—- Yes, as far as I know he is about to finish the recording of a new album. I don’t know anything about any release date and so forth. But I just recently heard some pre-productions of the album and it sounds amazing. Fans of “Ødemarkens Son” will be amazed, as it really had some good old feeling to it.

Why do you think the collaboration between you and Vintersorg works out so well?
—- Simply because we both share the same passion for creating music in a certain way. I mean, there is not anything rare about creating music in general but we share so much of the same philosophy when it comes to “the meaning of music” in general as well. For some strange reason we can discuss music in a tongue that many don’t understand- so we’re probably some kind of “brothers in music”.

In retrospect, what do you think of the Cronian releases and will there be any other Cronian releases in the near future?
—- I really love the music we have done with CRONIAN– both those albums means so much to me. I would easily argue that “Enterprise” is one of the very best albums I have ever contributed on. But on the other side I can understand that the album is hard to digest for some people. We are currently working on a new album. I don’t have any specific details at the moment, but I am very excited about it!

What were your impressions of Los Angeles when you came over to do a Borknagar show and any chances of the band returning for a Universal tour?
—- Honestly, we had a really nice time in LA. The show was really nice, as far as I can remember, but the highlight for me was the 3-4 days we spent in LA after we finished the tour. Our last gig was in San Francisco which also was great. The day after this show show, Jens and me hired a car and drove from SF to LA along the west coast. We stayed in La for a few days and hung out with the guy’s at Century Media so we got a really nice impression of LA. For “farmer boys” like us the whole thing was quite overwhelming, goofing around in such a big and famous city…haha…

Are you involved with any other projects outside of Borknagar and Cronian?
—- No, that is enough for me at the time being in terms of releasing albums and so far. But I have written a symphony a couple of years ago and plan on writing some more soon. That is basically just for my own satisfaction and will most likely remain a personal thing in order to challenge myself musically.

What are your impressions of the current Norwegian Black Metal scene?
—- Quite honestly I am abit of a loner when it comes to the metal scene in general, so I am not really fully updated on what is going on. But there seems to be more bands around and enormous amount of album released so I guess that is a healthy sign in some way. But to me the drawback is somehow the quality. I mean, there is allot of great musicians and bands around but I think there is few that dare to really make something unique. Everything sounds so alike today and I kind of miss those days when bands got their recognition because of bringing something new into the scene- nowadays there seems to be so many bands that just jump down the usual slope in terms of production and songwriting. Nothing wrong about selling records, but I see a tendency of adapting to commercial interests rather than creating something ground breaking. That is kind of boring, but that is just my point of view.

When you look back on your work in the band Molested, what do you think of it now?
—- Man, I was about 14 years old when starting that band so it really belongs to a different era so to speak. But still, I am somehow proud of what we did achieve back then musically speaking- some really crazy music. Somehow I regard the music I have done as the soundtrack of my life, so in light of that the music we did with MOLESTED is equally valid as a part of my life. I am a very nostalgic person so I obviously have a lot of good memories this being part of my youth. The extreme dedication and urge to make something out of “nothing” back than, is unarguably the reason why I eventually made a career out of this. A very important part of my life and I am still a huge fan of brutal death metal- but I will say a fan….haha…

Will we have to wait another 4-5 years for the next Borknagar CD?
—- No, I am writing new songs for the next album as we speak. I don’t have any specific dates or so but right now we are roughly planning to start recording the album late this year or early next year. I am really excited as the material so far is a real blast.

Do you have any messages for Borknagar fans here in the Los Angeles area?
—- Hope we still have some fans in LA…haha… Well, you should check out the new album and hopefully we’ll get our asses over sometime in the future to play some gigs. That would be amazing! Thanx for the support and hopefully see you soon!

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions! Universal is phenomenal! Hope to see you here in the States sometime soon!
—- Thanx for the support and your kind words!

Answered by Øystein G. Brun, March 2010

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

Borknagar on Myspace


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