BORKNAGAR - Don't Fear The Winter

February 14, 2016, 3 years ago

By Darren Cowan


BORKNAGAR - Don't Fear The Winter

Never the assemble of Turisas or the jolliness of Alestorm, Norway’s Borknagar knows how to throw down a memorable medieval riff or acoustic jam. Keyboards and acoustic guitars mimic the northern climates the band inhabits. Guitarist Jens F. Ryland lives beyond most of Alaska. It’s so cold where he dwells that he claims to have never written a guitar lick around a campfire. Borknagar pens tales of nature, not just the cold confines of northern Norway.  In addition to epic tales of battle, the group writes about humanity’s connection to nature. Ryland says its something you can’t escape. It’s in your blood and all around your senses. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your brow, taste the aroma of pine and hear the call of the black birds.  The latest album shares a phrase from the finishing notes at the end of their second record, Dawn Of The End, where Garm (Ulver, Arcturus) croons “Autumn-Twice, Winter -Thrice.” His area in Norway definitely experiences ‘winter thrice.’

In the following interview, Ryland sheds light on a place that rarely sees the sun. He discusses the local wildness. He also talks about recording their tenth studio album Winter Thrice, and even shares the last-minute addition of Garm.

Congratulations on completing and releasing Winter Thrice. How do you feel about the album and what have folks been saying?

Jens: “Thanks for that, it feels good and folks have been saying exactly the same thing we've been thinking ‘about time!’”

You kick off your promo campaign with the title track video. What was it like filming this video?

Jens: “Well, the first release was the lyrics video for ‘Rhymes Of The Mountains,’ the opening track back in November. The title track was filmed at Midgard Historical Center that I first visited during the metal festival Midgardsblot in August last year. It was just after that we decided we had to make a video and this was the first location I checked out, and luckily I found that the guy in charge was an old metal fan! We had some issues with Vintersorg’s condition, and a bit into the planning he was “grounded” by his doctor due to the complications after his ear surgery. Luckily we had Kris Rygg (Garm) to help us out.”

Please tell our readers about some of the imagery.

Jens: “Midgard Historical Center is a rebuilt Viking gild house, so a smaller longhouse, but with much of the same structure, decorations and functions. The center is part of the Borre Park that hosts the largest assembly of Viking grave mounds in Northern Europe. One of the Viking ships they dug up close by is presented at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.”

What’s your experience/relationship with the mountains and its wilderness?

Jens: “I grew up very far north in Norway (just inland from the Lofotens). The rough weather and nature has it's influence on every small thing up there, it's not something you choose to be a part of. For example as I was getting my drivers license I learned from my father to always park my car with the nose towards south-west, or the wind would rip the doors of when you climbed out… I also grew up on a farm and had nature and wilderness presented to me from the beginning. I've lived in Oslo since 1995, but I'm not much of a “concrete-kid”. I've fished with orcas (killer-whale) circling my boat, I've seen blue-whales up close, I've hunted elk with my father and all you can expect. It's like growing up in Alaska I guess. At one point I lived even further north, and I had an office down on the harbor where my view out the window was the fjord and the glacier on the opposite side!”

Enslaved are major fisherman. They get into town for a show and my buds take them to Bass Pro.  What types of outdoor activities do you enjoy?

Jens: “Yeah, I know Grutle and Bekkis enjoy their fishing trips, and Bekkis has done a career out of it. I go up north to my family every summer to feed my nature hunger. My family has stakes in both several lakes with good fishing opportunities and a salmon- river. We also have boats on several locations, both on salt and fresh water. The kids really love it, so it's not hard to persuade anybody. Biggest difference though is that I don't fish for sport, but for food.. Not that I would have turned down going with Bekkis on some exotic trip, I've just never done that. This picture is taken in mid July, see the snowy mountains back there?

How about campfire songs. Do you write while around a campfire drinking?

Jens: “Actually, I never, ever played a guitar by a camp fire.  The northern nature doesn't give that option…”

Garm sang in more of an epic range, like a battlefield bard on Olden Domain. Did you want a more serene/regal feeling for this song?

Jens: “Bringing Garm back in was more or less a coincidence. Øystein sent him the files. I don't believe he gave him much instructions. You don't need to do that with Garm, he knows Borknagar and everything it's about. Just let him do his thing and see what happens.”

Back in 1999 you did a run with Emperor in the States. How did that tour go? Norwegian bands were scarce in the United States back then.

Jens: “The tour was special, indeed. It was what we call a necro-tour with insane driving distances, shitty motels, some low end venues and such.  However, the audience and feedback made us keep going. I remember one place didn't even have a backstage, so I was outside in the backyard tuning my guitar on top of a trash container. I remember insane heat in the Mid-West limiting our ability to explore, and some sick concerts and audiences…I'll never forget. We realized a little later that there was not many Norwegian bands who had been over there in ’99.”

What other shows/tours have you played? Did you conduct headline tours in Europe?

Jens: “Our first tour was as support for In Flames in Europe on their first ever headline tour in January ‘98. Then we supported Napam Death and Cradle Of Filth in November and December ‘98 before we went to the States in ‘99. In 2000-01 we split the gigs more up into weekends and played around Scandinavia and Baltic before we took our hiatus in 2003. The period from 2002-2003 we did only a few select shows, mostly in Norway. 2009 we went to Wacken and also managed to do another weekend tour in Holland and Germany. Then in 2013 we started working with Athera (Susperia) as our live vocalist and the activity increased again. We did our first headline tour in Europe in 2014 along with festival gigs. 2016 looks like our busiest year since 1999.”

What’s next for Borknagar? Do you have any gigs/tours lined up?

Jens: “We are about ready to announce another European leg. I can tell as much as 12 concerts in April. We already have four festivals booked for the summer and we're about to start talking about what happens in October- November. So 16 concerts booked, more to come. I can say there is an ambition from my part to go to North- America, but no direct plans just yet.”


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