Following my recent look at the Swedish Prog scene, I’ve given myself another task. This time, I’m looking to Sweden’s western neighbour Norway, and its Prog Rock and Metal scene.
Although mostly known for its extreme metal scene, over the years many great Prog bands have emerged from Norway. After much thinking, I have come up with 20 bands that, in my opinion, represent the Norwegian Prog scene.
As was the case last time, the rules were that a band must be active, and that a band must have at least five studio albums.
Without further ado…
As it’s the case with many active metal bands coming from Norway today, Solefald too started as a Black Metal band back in 1995, and over the years and nine studio released they’ve expanded their stylistic palette by introducing different elements in music, ranging from Avant-Garde, Prog Metal, to Electronica and Pop.
Same as Solefald, Borknagar emerged in 1995 as a Black Metal band releasing first two studio albums under the influence of that genre. With the release of their third album The Archaic Course, the band has introduced the Prog Metal influences to their music. It’s interesting that in its early years Borknagar featured members of Enslaved, Ulver, Gorgoroth, Spiral Architect. The most recent line-up of the band also includes Vintersorg as a vocalist, and Leprous drummer Baard Kolstad.
Stylistically very close to Borknagar, Arcturus was on hiatus between 2007 and 2011, when the band reunited. In 2015 the band released their actual studio album entitled Arcturian, which saw the band exploring beyond The Sham Mirrors and Sideshow Symphonies, making for more than a solid comeback.
Gazpacho are definitely one of the finest Progressive Rock bands coming from Norway these days. The band started their journey in 1996, but it took them a few years to release their debut EP Get It While It’s Cold (37°C). Since then, Gazpacho were on a steady course, releasing nine studio albums in 12 years.
Trondheim-based trio Motorpsycho was formed in 1989, and they are one of the most prolific and hard-working bands coming from Norway. Since 1991, the band has produced 20 studio albums, as well as numerous EP’s, live records, singles, as well as the collaborations with other musicians and bands.
Enslaved are arguably one of the best-known Progressive Black Metal bands from Norway. Formed in 1991, they released thirteen studio albums in total which vary from old-school Black Metal to more Avant-Garde take on the genre and furthermore to the full-on Prog Metal inclusion on their latest releases.
From Skien comes Prog Metal band Pagan’s Mind, who were formed in 2000 under the name Silverspoon. The band, fronted by Nils K. Rue, released five studio albums and two live records. Their most recent studio album is titled Heavenly Ecstasy, and was released in 2011. In 2015, they put out a DVD/Blu-ray Full Circle – Live at Center Stage.
One of Norway’s most in-demand guitarists, Eivind Aarset has worked with Bill Laswell, Dhafer Youssef, Jon Hassell, Jan Garbarek, Paolo Fresu, Marilyn Mazur, J.Peter Schwalm, Talvin Singh, and Andy Sheppard. Under his name, Aarset has released seven studio albums. The most recent I.E. was released in 2015.
Hailing from Kristiansand, Green Carnation was formed in 1990 by Terje Vik Schei. The band released five studio album and one EP in the period from 2000 to 2006, when they disbanded. In 2014, Green Carnation reunited. The band achieved cult status with prog-rock/avant-garde metal fans all over the world in the early 2000s with its 60-minute masterpiece Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness, and is renowned for releasing extraordinary records and DVDs throughout its career.
This experimental ensemble has been active for over 20 years, and since 1996 they released seven albums. A band that is known for their unpredictability, Jaga Jazzist‘s every album sounds like nothing that preceded it. With Starfire, their latest effort, the group that has confounded categorization from inception has delivered yet another album unlike any they’ve ever done before. Yet, at the end of the day – despite touchstones ranging from Gil Evans to Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine to Tortoise, Oslo 13 to Motorpsycho and Fela Kuti to Steve Reich - Starfire still sounds absolutely like nobody but Jaga Jazzist.
Madder Mortem‘s origins date back to 1993 when a doom metal band under the name Mystery Tribe was formed by Agnete and BP M. Kirkevaag. They changed the band’s name to Madder Mortem in 1997 and released six studio albums since then. After seven years and the release of excellent Eight Ways in 2009, the band returned last year with the release of Red in Tooth and Claw, which “maintains the trademark Madder Mortem sound, but this time the quirkiness has become even more catchy.“
Influenced by the Rock in Opposition and Canterbury scenes, Oslo, Norway-based avant-prog band Panzerpappa were initiated by drummer / percussionist / multi-instrumentalist Trond Gjellum, who discovered a like-minded collaborator in saxophonist / keyboardist Steinar Børve and joined with Børve to form a quartet, also including guitarist Knut Tore Abrahamsen and bassist Jørgen Skjulstad, in 1998. Panzerpappa‘s discography includes six albums. Their latest, Pestrottedans, was released last year via AltrOck Productions.
After Emperor‘s swansong Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise was released in 2001, Ihsahn went on to form a one-man band under his name, and since 2006 he put out six studio albums. He has branched out from black metal, but there are still clear signs of his heritage within that genre. Now a respected individual in both the black and progressive metal circles, Ihsahn is one of Norway’s prog ambassadors.
Oslo’s Shining are truly one of the “hottest” experimental acts from Norway today. With their constantly evolving sound, the band led by Jørgen Munkeby released seven studio albums since 2001. Atop a tight foundation of dance-able rock energy, Shining add an unfamiliar distortion and atmospheric weirdness that sounds surprisingly unsettling, even to a seasoned progger’s ears.
The black-metal-turned-experimental Ulver was founded by Kristoffer Rygg in 1993, and since the release of The Black Metal Trilogy (studio albums from 1995 to 1997), Ulver‘s been everything but a black metal band. Rygg‘s explorations include everything from Pop to Electronica to Contemporary Classical and Jazz to Progressive Rock and Noise Rock. The Assassination of Julius Caesar, the 13th studio album, was released in April 2017, and it once again proves that with each new album Ulver continue to reinvent themselves.
White Willow come from a legacy of Scandinavian bands that have been upholding the symphonic prog rock tradition since it fell out of favour in the UK during the 1980s. Founded in 1992 by guitarist Jacob Holm-Lupo, the band went on to release seven albums since 1995. The band’s most recent full-length release is this year’s Future Hopes, which features artwork designed by renowned Roger Dean. White Willow is an excellent outing for distinctly modern symphonic prog.
Rhys Marsh, based in Trondheim, is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist & producer. He’s a solo artist, leader of The Autumn Ghost, as well as a part of Kaukasus & Mandala. As a solo artist, Marsh has released five albums since 2008. His take on the Prog Rock genre is often ethereal and haunting.
Leprous is arguably the biggest Prog Metal band coming from Norway. Formed in 2001, the band released five studio albums, and are currently working on a follow-up to 2015′s The Congregation. Leprous are one of the most evocative bands operating within progressive metal today.
Extol from Bekkestua are known for playing a variety of different styles of metal which include progressive metal, death metal, black metal and thrash metal. The band has five studio albums under their belt, and they cite Genesis, Rush and Yes as some of their influences.
Virus was formed in 2000 from the ashes of his 90’s avant-garde black metal project Ved Buens Ende by Carl-Michael “Czral” Eides (Aura Noir, ex-Dodheimsgard, ex-Satyricon, ex-Ulver), with the idea of creating a new kind of experimental metal / rock. Virus is definitely one of the most unique bands coming from Norway today.