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Burzum (1992)
 
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If you talk to a lot of people, today, they'll have you believe that they were in on the ground floor of the Norwegian Black Metal scene. Seriously. Worse yet, half the people are my age or even younger, yet they'll swear up and down that they were into it from day one. Truth be told, most of the people that were even old enough to be around at this point were probably wearing their mother's make-up and listening to The Cure or some sort of glam rock, when Deathcrush was released. The vast majority only ever heard about the Norwegian Black Metal scene after it was, more or less, dead. Maybe they read about the church burnings and the murders. More likely, they read about it online or in "Lords of Chaos". People carry on heated discussions regarding the relationship between Euronymous and Varg, as if they knew the people, personally. Sadly, most of these people are in it for the hype and nothing more. Very few actually bother to listen to the music and even less have a true understanding of it.

I was not "waiting at the local record store" the day that A Blaze in the Northern Sky or Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism came out. I was mostly listening to Thrash Metal and the most evil thing I had discovered, by the time churches were being burned across Norway, was Slayer's Hell Awaits. However, as it concerns Burzum, I think I had an advantage. While I wasn't listening to these albums as they came out, I still managed to make the same progression as those that came before me. Unlike kids who, today, hear a million different "extreme metal" bands and then can't understand why bands like Venom and Bathory are so important, I was exposed to everything in the proper chronological order. I first heard Black Sabbath before I could even walk. I listened to various rock and metal bands, during the 80s and early 90s. I then ran across bands like Slayer, Venom and Hellhammer. This was my introduction to Black Metal, and darker music in general. Luckily, for me, I started at the beginning. So, by the time I heard bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum, I had a decent background in the same old bands that had inspired them. Despite this, nothing could prepare for the experience of hearing Burzum, for the first time.

One gloomy and depressing night, many years ago, my best friend came by to visit me. I'm not sure how or where he'd acquired it, but he had a CD that included various bands. I can't really recall most of the other songs that were on there, but one song commanded my attention. This was "Black Spell of Destruction" from Burzum's self-titled debut. This was prior to finding Transilvanian Hunger on cassette, so "Over Fjell og Gjennom Torner" was still the only Norwegian Black Metal that I had, at the time. The haunting, depressing melodies suited my mood at the time, perfectly. Then, I heard the vocals. Not even the tormented shrieks from "Triumph of Death" could prepare me for this. I'd never heard anything like it. The tortured screams, filled with despair, spoke to me on some deep level that I was not even able to fully understand. I couldn't even decipher what was being said, but I knew what it meant, without a doubt. As the song neared its conclusion, the mournful wails and somber melodies obsessed my mind and through those terrible screams I could feel the misery and hatred in my own black heart being expressed. I wasn't just listening to the music, I was experiencing it. I knew that I must own this album. It took a couple years to locate, but it was well worth the wait. Though it was recorded and released in the Winter months of 1992, the first Burzum album was far ahead of its time.

"Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown" begins the album with fury and speed, and is one of the most straightforward Black Metal songs on the album. Few of the riffs are repeated and the song kind of gives the feeling of traveling slowly down a dark path in the dead of night. After beginning with very fast tremolo-picked riffs and blastbeats, it then slows down, and as it progresses, it descends deeper and deeper into the abyss of despair. As the song slows down and nothing is left but the guitar and the tortured screams of Count Grishnackh, it sends chills through my body. However, then the song speeds back up and the hatred bursts forth. It is quite appropriate that the first four songs are "Side Hate". This song is indeed, fucking cold. So to speak, of course. The song then settles down a bit as a melancholic riff carries it to its conclusion. That was no mere song, it was like a journey, and it was only the beginning.

Next is "Ea, Lord of the Depths". This song begins with a drum beat that remains consistent throughout much of the song. Count Grishnackh handles all of the instruments in Burzum, and is quite a competent musician. Many other one-man bands, that draw a lot of inspiration from Burzum, usually display their shortcomings with one or more instruments or resort to using some sort of drum programming. Not the morbid Count. He wrote and recorded everything, perfectly, without even the benefit of being able to rehearse the songs or hear them in the entirety until after he was finished. He simply knew what they were supposed to sound like, in his head, and made it happen. As for the music, the second song features the aforementioned double bass at the beginning, and a very dark guitar melody that weaves through your subconscious and corrupts your very soul. Again, the vocals are filled with hate and winter and add greatly to the atmosphere. Many have tried to imitate this style and have failed, miserably. As the song progresses, the riffs are repeated and there is a short solo, near the end.

Next is "Black Spell of Destruction", my favorite song on the album. This one is slow and ominous. The melodies are filled with mourning and the vocals convey an unrelenting despair. This is one of the darkest and most depressing songs ever recorded. This is like a journey through the blackened depths of the human mind. Here, there is no hope... no peace. There is only anguish and misery. The walls are closing in and it becomes more and more difficult to breathe. The tormented screams mirror those within your own heart. Everything comes to a stop, as there is nothing left but a mournful guitar melody and the most agonizing screams imaginable. You feel claustrophobic within your own skin and yearn to be released. The haunting melody urges you to seek death, to seek release. The screaming continues, and yet you realize that you are screaming as well, within your mind. There is nothing but despair. You must escape the bonds of human flesh...

"Channeling the Power of Souls Into A New God" is a brief ambient piece that serves to continue the journey. The tone is a somber one, and it feels as if your spirit is wandering, aimlessly, through space and time. This allows you to breathe once more before the coming battle.

"War" is pure Bathory worship. This song serves to reinvigorate the listener and bring them to life once more. The song is short, simple and filled with energy. There is also a decent solo, by Euronymous, near the end.

"The Crying Orc" is a brief instrumental piece, consisting of only a sorrowful guitar melody that fades in, depresses and then fades back into oblivion. It does well to calm the listener down after the bloodlust of the previous song.

"Side Winter" continues with "A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit". Having first heard the re-recorded version from the Aske EP, this is a bit difficult to digest. My favorite parts of the song are the slower sections, yet the original has a faster pace and the atmosphere is not the same. It does slow down, after about seven minutes, to the familiar pattern of a slow and melancholic crawl. However, this does not quite make up for what is missing from the first half of the song and I am very glad that the Count re-recorded this as the second version is darker and does a better job of conveying the cold, mournful feeling that he was going for.

"My Journey To the Stars" is next. This, along with “Spell of Destruction”, contends for the position of “best song on the album”. The song starts off with tremolo-picked tri-tone notes, before flowing into the higher range of the guitar, and going into a fast drum beat. This creates a sense of doom and tension. This all takes over a minute to build up, and by leaving nothing out, it is the perfect build-up to a song of such an epic nature. As the drums come in, you prepare to go beyond the mortal realm, into the nightsky. This is one of the fastest tracks on the album, and very lengthy, clocking in at just over 8 minutes. The guitar tracks are harmonized very well, and this song contains the greatest riff ever written, at 4:53. There are several tempo changes, allowing tiny bits of hope to creep in, only to be trampled by overwhelming grief. The song slows down toward the end however, and contains another part of only guitar and vocals. This creates a bitter cold atmosphere and the anguished vocals prepare you for your ultimate demise. As the dark ritual nears completion, there is but one thing left to do.

"Dungeons of Darkness" ends the album in an obscure and sinister manner. This is another ambient piece, and serves as the soundtrack to your final breath...

(7 Sept. 2008)

 
Aske (1993)
 
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Aske was released in March 1993, on Deathlike Silence Productions. It was recorded in August 1992, at Grieghallen Studios and produced by Count Grishnackh and Pytten. Aske is unique in that it features a session member. Samoth, of Emperor, plays bass on this E.P. This was around the time that the Count was considering putting together a full lineup and playing live. Despite being the second official Burzum release, this E.P. was recorded after Det Som Engang Var, which was intended to be released first. The cover features a photo of the ruins of the Fantoftkirke, a church burned in 1992 by Count Grishnackh.

The E.P. begins with "Stemmen Fra Tårnet", which fades in and immediately seizes you by the throat. The tempo is sort of a mid-paced gallop, and the terrible shrieks rip right into your soul. This song seems to appeal to the imagination, and evokes images of a landscape befitting a Tolkien novel. While maintaining a dark atmosphere, this is probably the most uptempo Burzum song ever recorded. The title translates to "Voice From the Tower" and the lyrics could be interpreted as somewhat optimistic. Certainly an escape from reality and the confines of this world. Sadly, the song cuts off, abruptly, and the dream dissipates into nothingness.

The very somber "Dominus Sathanas" is next. This is a very dark and atmospheric instrumental track, though it does include one extremely soul-shattering scream. This song was recorded in April 1992, around the same time as Det Som Engang Var, and would not be out of place on that album. It drags the listener back into the abyss visited on the debut L.P.

The E.P. concludes with a re-recorded version of "A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit". Apparently, the Count was not satisfied with the way that it turned out, the first time around. This version is slower (and longer) and I think that helps the atmosphere greatly. It is during these moments that the melodies lull you into a trance and your mind is most open to the magic within the songs.

This song features more straightforward Black Metal riffing and cold, hateful vocals. After a couple minutes of this, the song slows way down and the mournful atmosphere returns. This is the longest song on the album and is quite entrancing. This song has a very calming effect. You know that death is near, yet you have come to grips with this fact. No longer consumed with hatred for the world or for life, you simply await the end. As the riffs chill your skin, you know that soon you will be free of this prison of flesh. You begin to think about how peaceful everything will be once the end comes. Yet it is taking too long. You become impatient. The song speeds up once more and you unleash the last bit of hatred and energy as you slash at your veins, moving closer to the abyss. The song slows down to a crawl. Count Grishnackh's miserable shrieks fill your soul with a longing for the end. Plagued with memories of suffering and despair, you yearn to be free. His screams continue and they speak to you on a level beyond human language. The time is ever nearer. The sorrow must be released.

(8 Sept. 2008)

 
Det Som Engang Var (1993)
 
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Det Som Engang Var was recorded in Grieghallen, in April 1992, not long after the release of the self-titled debut. Like that album, this was produced by Count Grishnackh and Pytten. Its release was delayed until August 1993. Originally intended to be the second official Burzum recording, the Aske E.P. was mistakenly put out before this. It was by this point that the Count had a falling out with owner of DSP, Euronymous, and decided to start his own label, Cymophane Productions. If he could not rely on others, he would take matters into his own hands and see to it that things would be done properly. In interviews from early 1993, Grishnackh expressed his disappointment in the delay of this monumental album and worried that it would be dated and already ripped off countless times before it was ever officially released. He may have been underestimating his own abilities, as this record was far ahead of anything else being done in the Black Metal scene.

After experiencing the brilliance and power of "Black Spell of Destruction", I scoured the earth for any Burzum album that I could find. While I was unable to locate the first one, I did manage to get my hands on Det Som Engang Var. In between hearing that first song and acquiring this album, I had also recorded the song "Burzum" from "The Haunted Mansion". At this point, I had no real idea of what the trademark Burzum sound was, other than certain riff patterns. The vocals from the self-titled album and Filosofem are quite different, so I didn't know what to expect when the second album arrived in the mail.

The album begins with "Den Onde Kysten", a two and a half minute long intro. This creates a sense of continuity as it seems to pick up from where the first album leaves off, with "Dungeons of Darkness". The atmosphere is that of darkness and dread. The title translates to "The Coast of Evil" and it does give the feeling of being isolated in a sinister place, bereft of light or hope.

As the listener's spirits have been drained with the intro, "Key to the Gate" marches forward, unrelenting and chaotic in its attack. It is quite the shock to your system. The song begins with great speed, then goes into a Thrash riff reminiscent of old Destruction, and alternates back and forth for the early part of the song. But this does not last long. Everything comes to a stop, and nothing is present but the guitars and the tortured and misanthropic shrieks of Count Grishnackh. This is followed by a melodic dirge of droning riffs and some terribly desperate shrieks. He sounds almost as if he is dying, or at least wishing for death. This is sorrowful Black Metal at its finest. The song then builds up again before unleashing a dark and beautiful guitar solo that penetrates your soul and slowly carries you toward oblivion. Once again, the Count opens an album with a song that is nothing less than perfection.

"En Ring Til Å Herske" is next and it continues from where the previous song left off, being a slow and anguished march through darkened mountain passes and dismal forests, bound in chains and forced along by black Orcs. The plodding pace and eerie clean vocals in the background create an atmosphere of utter desolation and agony. As the song reaches its slowest point, again we are left alone with only the guitar and the sorrowful wails of Count Grishnack. The drums return and the tempo begins building up toward a desperate climax as the miserable screams imbue the listener with a cold and hopeless feeling.

"Lost Wisdom" is another minimalist Black Metal song, consisting of faster, Thrash sections, and the typical slower parts that Burzum is well known for. The song is more upbeat than the previous two, yet mournful as well. The lyrics are both depressing and misanthropic, without being exactly hateful.

"Han Som Reiste" is a quiet instrumental piece that maintains the atmosphere of sorrow and lamentation. This song seems to truly embody the title of the album, which translates to "What Once Was". Actually, while reading "The Hobbit", I played this song over and over again and it suited the story very well.

"Når Himmelen Klarner" is another instrumental, though being simply a normal song without vocals. The first minute or so consists of nothing but guitars, and it is somewhat reminiscent of "Dominus Sathanas". The title translates to "When the Sky Clears". Like the previous song, this one allows the mind to wander, endlessly. There is a dark beauty here and the harmonies have somewhat of a calming effect.

"Snu Mikrokosmos Tegn" puts an end to the serene atmosphere created by the previous song. This one begins with fast tremolo-picked riffs, blasting drums and every bit of the cold hatred and misanthropic agony that can be conjured by the otherworldly shrieks of Count Grishnackh. There is a definite sense of urgency in the melodies presented. This is one final assault before the end comes. After a few minutes, the pace slows down a bit and the vocals convey the feeling of an agonizing death. Again, the other instruments stop, leaving only the guitar, which uses that melancholic, bleeding, open-arpeggio riffing style pretty much patented by Burzum. Behind the painful screams are some clean vocals that add a lot to the atmosphere. Choosing to use this instead of keyboards adds somewhat of an organic feel to the song. The listener feels as if something has reached inside his chest and is firmly gripping his heart with an icy hand. A sense of desperation builds as you want the pain to end, even if it means that your heart will be ripped right out. You know that relief will come only with death and yet you welcome it. As the song fades, you can see the dark gate before you.

The album ends with a bleak and obscure outro, very similar to the intro and yet giving the feeling that the journey is complete. This is much more complex than the intro, as well, containing many different effects and a melody that seems to recall a world long lost. Then, in the final moments, all recollection of this world is stamped out and gone forever, leaving you empty and alone.

(8 Sept. 2008)

 
 

Count Grishnackh was a busy man, in the early 90s. In a very short span of time, he recorded the material for all of the classic Burzum albums, yet never allowing the level of quality to drop as a result. It had nothing to do with trying to generate a lot of revenue or to impress anyone; he was simply that creative and passionate about what he was doing. As a result of holding himself to a high standard, some material ended up taking a little more time than others to finally appear on a proper album, while others never made the cut. Such is the case with Et Hvitt Lys Over Skogen.

Somehow, I managed to be completely in the dark about the existence of this bootleg, for several years after having collected all of the available Burzum releases. Once I read about it, however, I was obsessed with tracking it down. Not to a psychotic level, since the demo material was less-than-impressive, but with average expectations. Upon hearing it for the first time, I was stunned that this failed to make it onto one of the official albums. I also assumed that it was recorded during the Hvis Lyset Tar Oss session, but most research has placed the recording of the song in the summer of 1992, during the Aske session. At any rate, this discovery was like receiving a gift from the past. At the time, there was still a lot of speculation as to whether or not the criminal Norwegian government would keep Varg imprisoned forever, as well as debate over the chances that he would ever record music again. And even still, it would never sound like the early stuff. So this one final treasure from the past was unearthed and enjoyed ever since.

"Et Hvitt Lys Over Skogen" is a somewhat lengthy song, approaching the ten-minute mark. As expected, everything about this falls in line with the rest of the material from that period. Recorded in Grieghallen, it possesses the same guitar tone that is present on the old albums, though it does not sound as if it has been properly mastered. Despite being a little rough around the edges, this is classic Burzum. The main riffs are all kind of catchy, which was sometimes the case with the Count's songwriting. It is mid-paced and even a little upbeat, in a sense, but the tortured screams are what really make this stand out. The vocals convey a feeling of intense hatred and misery, and the listener can truly feel this as the song plays. When really paying close attention to this, it is not terribly difficult to see why the track was not used; this kind of repetition is not exactly conducive to the same type of atmosphere that is found in the other songs, and the aura is not quite dark enough. Chances are, if not for the fact that it was 'lost' for some years, most may consider it kind of average. Things get more interesting, later in the song, but it takes a little too long in getting there. This definitely could have been worked on a little more and perhaps used for a later record, in a more focused and concise form; nonetheless, this never happened.

Side B contains "Lost Wisdom", but there really is nothing to say about this that has not already been said in the review for Det Som Engang Var, and the truth of the matter is that the title track is the main attraction, here.

Et Hvitt Lys Over Skogen offers a look into the past and allows Burzum fans to get a little more classic material, when most would have assumed that this was impossible. It is not the very best song ever composed by Count Grishnackh, but it rests somewhere in the middle range and is certainly worth hearing if you prefer the earlier approach to songwriting and vocal delivery.
 
(24 Sept. 2011)

 
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994)
 
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This was the last Burzum album that I acquired. In a moment of stupidity, I nearly passed it up as I imagined it to be an E.P., since there were only four songs, and I was reluctant to go through the trouble of finding it for so few songs. Thankfully, I had a friend that had a copy and introduced me to the first song on a lengthy car ride, one night. Some time later, when I found myself face to face with this masterpiece in a Swedish record store (Sound Pollution), I did not hesitate to pick it up.

Hvis Lyset Tar Oss was recorded in Grieghallen Studios in September 1992. It is amazing to think of the fact that the first three albums, and an E.P., were all recorded within a span of only eight months, yet so much musical progression takes place. This album was released on Misanthropy Records as the Count was chained in a dark dungeon by this time. He dedicated his creation to Fenriz and Demonaz. The album cover is artwork from Theodor Kittelsen (1857- 1914) called "Fattigmannen" (The Pauper), and it suits the music, being beautiful yet sorrowful.

Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is widely regarded as the moment when Count Grishnackh reached his creative peak. Regarding the guitars, he retains his basic power chord and tremelo style guitar lines that he used on the previous albums. The emphasis is on quality over quantity (a point many Black Metal bands fail to understand). One of the main reasons this release is so memorable and highly regarded is the fact that the riffs are all brilliant. All of the songs flow seamlessly, and the riffs are repetitive to the point that you can't help but think that the music is simply a gateway into one's own visions and thoughts, and that the music merely acts as a catalyst, presenting possibilities and ideas to the mind.

"Det Som En Gang Var" begins with a lengthy guitar intro that also features some keyboard use. Burzum is unique in that the keyboards actually become another part of the music, rather than dominating the sound or becoming the only means of creating atmosphere. For example, if you were to remove the keyboards from an Emperor album, most of the atmosphere would be lost. However, if the same was done here, very little would change. They are used only to accentuate the atmosphere. Of notice is that the sound is very clear, very cold. As the drums build up and the song really begins, you are taken on a journey through dreams and memories. The title translates to "What Once Was" and, as a very nostalgic person, few things can evoke such a reaction as lamenting that which has gone forever. As the first anguished screams are unleashed, nothing could be more perfect. It is remarkable that such melancholic melodies can be created while maintaining the inherent simplicity and repetition of Burzum's style. This is the most epic song ever recorded by Count Grishnackh and yet, at 14 minutes, it doesn't seem nearly long enough. The atmosphere is stark and despairing. The harmonies chill you to the very bone and circle around you like a blizzard of knives. With each tortured scream, one of the knives pierces your freezing flesh. In mourning for that which was, the beauty that has withered away and passed into the realm of shadow, never to return, the agonized shrieks are a reflection of the darkness within. Hope has died. Halfway through the song is the greatest riff ever captured. It pierces your heart with sorrow and yet is liberating at the same time. As everything gets quiet, there is just the guitar and vocals. The desperation is overwhelming. Then, the song builds back up, in all its epic glory, as the terrible screams wail with pain and misery:

"Det som en gang var"

Yet, the true meaning of the song is finally understood with the final two lines, not just in realizing what they mean but in the manner in which they are conveyed: the anguished screams of a being trapped between life and death.

"Vi døde ikke... Vi har aldri levd"

How does one follow up such an epic masterpiece? The draining experience of being immersed in the first song is sharply contrasted by the "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss", which is one of the most straightforward Black Metal songs to be found in Burzum's discography. The pace never slows down, yet it is not energizing like a song such as "War". The feeling is hypnotic and trance-inducing. The title translates to "If the Light Takes Us" and the lyrics convey sorrow and hatred for the world or, at least, what it has become.

Much like the previous song, "Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen" clocks in around the eight minute mark, yet still seems short when compared to the first and last songs. This song continues on in the same style as the title track, yet is infinitely more droning and hypnotic. It is like a long journey through a harsh and desolate landscape of darkened forests, paths covered with jagged rocks and obscured by mist. The title translates to "Into the Castle of Dreams" and one is hardly given the chance to breath, until about halfway through. The structuring of the album is truly brilliant as it seems designed to create the most intense experience possible. Halfway through, the song slows down and the tension is finally released with the anguished screams of Count Grishnackh. This is definitely one of the most memorable moments on the album. The whole tone of the song changes as the journey of life comes to an end and one enters the castle of dreams.

The 14 minute long ambient piece "Tomhet" finishes the album. The title translates to "Emptiness" and the song conveys this with ease. This song is like journeying deep through some forgotten land, through dangerous mountains, the murky shadows of dismal valleys and the ever-present threat of one's own demise. There is little hope, if any, and the burden of life becomes greater with each step. After several minutes, the song gets much quieter, and the feeling of total and absolute emptiness is overwhelming. The hopelessness is unbearable. And yet, at the darkest point, a faint glimmer of light shows through the darkness. Pleasant memories can be recalled; memories of better times. Memories almost forgotten. Yet in this moment, a longing takes hold and the realization that those times are, indeed, forever gone is impossible to escape. The hope that something good and pleasant may return... it only serves to torment the heart into utter oblivion. What was once beautiful has now faded into nothingness. The truest evil lays not in the realm of dragons and demons, but within the heart of man. In the emptiness of the human spirit...

(8 Sept. 2008)

 
Filosofem (1996)
 
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After discovering the brilliance of the song "Black Spell of Destruction", so many years ago, I searched to find any Burzum album that I could. Back then, it was very difficult and the search took longer than I had anticipated. In the meantime, I managed to record my first Burzum song from the college radio show, "The Haunted Mansion", that I regularly listened to. This song was titled "Burzum".

[Contrary to popular belief, this is the official title of the song, not "Dunkelheit" as many seem to think. I have no idea why the German translations were listed on the back, but this is obviously a mistake. There is not a single word of German spoken on this album, as the actual lyrics are in English and Norwegian.]

The word "Burzum" means "darkness" in the black speech of Mordor, a language created by J.R.R. Tolkien. This was the first song Varg ever composed and wrote lyrics for. Upon writing this song in the summer of 1991, he changed the name of the band from Uruk-Hai to Burzum. This song was initially intended to be included on an earlier album, but the recording was considered to be poor.

Filosofem was recorded in March 1993, in Breidablik Studio. The sound is more harsh and raw, especially the vocals. It has been said that Varg chose to use the worst possible mic for the recording, and it shows. I think this is the one major setback of this album, when compared to the others. For one reason or another, this seems to be the most popular and accepted Burzum album, yet I feel that the loss of such unique and powerful vocals is a detriment to the music. This was the last Black Metal album recorded by Burzum.

"Burzum" begins with Varg's trademark, sweeping guitar riffs and sparse drums. The sound is cold as ice and the song is mid-paced throughout. There are keyboards that are used sparingly, perfectly blending with the music. The vocals are heavily distorted and raspy, yet more decipherable than the earlier albums. The effect is more grim, but it loses something with regard to the emotion that was conveyed with the previous style. Very inhuman, to say the least. However, later in the song, he uses clean vocals for a spoken word part. The mood is very dismal and hopeless as the music plods along and the arpeggio riffs repeat, again and again. It seems almost trance-inducing.

"Jesu Død" begins with fast tremolo-picked riffs but no drums. This continues to build up the suspense for a minute or so, as you know what is coming and become a little impatient. Absolutely brilliant harmonies used here. The raw production suits this song very well. The screeching vocals seem to take a place in the background, along with the drums, as this song is largely driven by the guitars. They are very distorted and abrasive, yet they require close attention in order to hear the different layers of melody. The fury unleashed by this song is truly unrelenting and Varg displays a great deal of stamina.

"Beholding the Daughters of the Firmament" is next, and the pace slows down from the previous song. This is very primitive and simplistic, yet creates a cold and sorrowful atmosphere. Again, I feel that the different vocal approach really holds this album back from achieving its true potential. As this song draws to a conclusion, the general consensus is that the album begins to lose something in consistency. I reject this view, but it may depend on what you are looking for when you listen to this album.

The next track is an atmospheric piece that abandons conventional song structures. "Decreptitude I" is very melancholic and imbues one with the sense of drowning in blood. Indeed, Varg sounds as if he is dying. As good as this is, I must wonder what it would sound like with his trademark screams. Either way, though most consider the album over after track three, I feel that this song is very essential to the overall atmosphere of the album.

"Rundtgåing av den Transcendentale Egenhetens Støtte" is a 25 minute long ambient piece, very much the successor to "Tomhet", from Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. It would seem that the masses lose interest by this point, or just can't digest such a lengthy song. Either way, it's their loss. This somber piece is actually very liberating in a sense, if you allow yourself to be taken away by the magic it creates. Along with "Tomhet", I played this song over and over as I was reading "The Lord of the Rings" and the two songs made a perfect soundtrack. It is odd how a piece of music that is so minimalist and simplistic seems to be lost on the most simple-minded listeners. Close inspection will reveal the melody from the song "Det Som En Gang Var" reappearing here. It kind of gives the impression of remembering that classic song, but in a dream.

"Decreptitude II" ends the final album recorded by a free Varg Vikernes. This is, more or less, a very lengthy outro piece, as opposed to being an actual song. After a minute or so, fuzzy guitar riffs fade in to add to the bleak atmosphere being created, with the same melody from "Decreptitude I".

I've read where people complain that the second half of this album is hard to get into and tries the patience of the listener. In all honesty, I think these are the sentiments of simple-minded sheep that shouldn't be listening to the album (or Black Metal, as a whole) to begin with. The masses simply want instant gratification without having to invest any significant amount of time, energy or thought. That is why this music is so difficult for them; it challenges them to think, and that's what many people fear the most.

(9 Sept. 2008)

 
 

This has to be one of the most anticipated albums in recent memory, comparable to the feeling that preceded the release of the last Dissection album. However, unlike Jon Nödtveidt, Varg Vikernes was repeatedly denied parole, thus his incarceration dragged on. It seemed as if it would be endless. Then, last year, he was finally free. He had been speaking for the past few years, with regard to a new Burzum release, stating that it would most likely sound like Filosofem. Regardless of which album was preferred, most fans were relieved just to hear that he intended to return to the Black Metal sound of his early works. While Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf certainly warrant attention, they simply weren't the same. And so, in the winter months, Varg returned to Grieghallen to record his first album in over a decade. For many of us, this had been a near-unbearable wait. For others that had only just discovered the band, there was still a great deal of interest. Could the album possibly live up to the expectations that everyone had for it? Some were ready to praise it, no matter what it sounded like, out of loyalty to Burzum. Others were prepared to lambaste it, before even hearing it, because they dislike Vikernes as a person. For better or worse, many had shifted their attention to Belus, released on 8 March.

The album begins with "Leukes Renkespill (Introduksjon)", which is a brief intro that features the sound of a hammer hitting an anvil. Similar to Dauði Baldrs this album deals with the story of Baldr, though with a more developed approach. The sounds heard in the introduction are a part of this, but it still fails to prepare for what is to come.

"Belus' Doed" begins with an eerily familiar melody. This first song is a reworking of the track "Dauði Baldrs", and Varg has done an incredible job of maintaining the dark feeling present in the original and adding so much more to it. The first thing to notice has to be the vocal performance. Many people seem to have a difficult time with the vocal style from the early albums, though I actually prefer that sound to anything else that he has done. Incredibly, Varg himself looks back on these previous performances with some amount of disappointment. At any rate, there was much speculation regarding how he would sound, all these years later. Thankfully, the extremely distorted style used on Filosofem does not return. The vocals are similar enough to the old albums that one can instantly tell who this is, but they are a little deeper and more controlled. With that said, the vocals are very powerful and filled with conviction, matching the dark atmosphere of the song. The brief spoken word parts also add another dimension, accentuating the dismal mood. The production is a bit fuzzy and definitely not overdone, though the digital recording removes the openness that was present on the early albums. This mid-paced track is dominated by brilliant tremolo melodies that play over somewhat thrashy rhythm guitars. The bass is audible, though seeming to follow the main theme. If certain elements of this album have to grow on the listener, through a few listens, this song is absolutely the exception to this. The melodies and vocals are haunting and they permeate your subconscious on the very first listen. You will hear the death of Belus in your dreams.

"Glemselens Elv" is next, and the title translates to "The River of Forgetfulness". It begins with a tremolo riff alongside a loud bass line, before the drums and another guitar enter and carry the song forward. This is a nice way to build some tension and anticipation. As one would expect, this song is also rather mid-paced yet the tremolo melodies weave in and out of your mind, lulling you into a trance. At nearly twelve minutes, this is the longest song on the album and maybe the most hypnotic as well. The vocals feature a combination of harsh and clean, simultaneously, though the clean vocals are a bit lower in the mix. Everything about this screams Burzum, from the drumming patterns to the riffs, themselves. It's long been said that Varg has been one of the most copied musicians, ever, and yet no one has ever been able to recreate the magic in the same way. One can imitate the overall style, attempting to match the guitar tone or the vocal style, but not one single band has ever even come close. After about four minutes, the pace changes and another brilliant tremolo melody arises from the blackened depths. There's a refrain of clean vocals, used almost in a chant-like manner. The feeling is abysmally dark and dreary. A few minutes later, another soul-murdering riff emerges from the shadows and brings to the listener a slow death. On the first listen, this song was a bit difficult to sit through, as I was eager to get to the rest and hear what I'd waited for, for a decade. After repeated listens, the brilliance has unfolded, lured me in and enveloped all. It is also worth noting that, on this album, all of the lyrics are in Norwegian. In the past, of course, Varg utilized English as well, but it seems that he has rejected the use of the "international language".

The next song, "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning", starts out with great intensity. The riffs are fast and thrashy, though still repetitive and somewhat droning. This continues the trance-like feeling present on the previous track. The energy level has increased and the urgency found in the vocals adds to this. There are calmer moments, with a single line spoken in a grave and serious tone. There is nothing uplifting about this. The sombre atmosphere of darkness and dread is ever-present and the cold hand of doom stretches out from the shadows, reaching for you. As the song progresses, the pace slows down and the riffs possess a cold and dreary feeling. You can feel the empty black hole growing within. As the song concludes, one line is repeated again and again, in an eerie manner.


"Jeg reiser til mørkets dyp der alt er dødt."

"Sverddans", meaning sword dance, tells the tale of winter coming under attack from the foul and disgusting summer. This song has its origins in the pre-Burzum project, Uruk-Hai. Clocking in around two and a half minutes, this one is the shortest proper song on the album. Some seem to feel that it is out of place, though it appears to make perfect sense, regarding its placement. The album has built in intensity, over the course of the previous songs, reaching sort of a climax with this track. Similar to "War", from the debut album, this merely adds another dimension to the album and displays yet more versatility on the part of the musician.

The next song possesses one of the best riffs of the entire album. "Keliohesten" slowly rises from the nothingness, and then unleashes a brilliant tremolo melody upon an already exhausted listener. The drumming is fast-paced, suiting the main riffs, and the vocals are lethal in execution. The lyrics tell a depressing story, as the snow melts and winter is fading away. The horrible summer spirits celebrate their triumph. The cold riffs convey a deep sorrow, or perhaps they bring this to the surface; that which already resides in the dark recesses of your spirit. By the middle of the song, there is a thrashy riff that only serves as a transition back to the cold and deathlike atmosphere of the main theme. Though the sound isn't very similar, the structure of this song is somewhat reminiscent of that found on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, to a small degree.


"Når snøen smelter gråter vi
vinteren har blitt beseiret"

Just when you feel safe from the utter black and the freezing emptiness of absolute oblivion, "Morgenroede" comes to plague you with such a life-draining and hopeless feeling that death soon calls your name. The song marks the slowing of the overall pace of the album, as it now makes its funeral march toward the end of all things. There is a sense of urgency in the first riffs, then turned to emptiness and sorrow with the coming tremolo melody. The pulsing of the bass is almost like that of the heart beating for its final moments, pumping out the remaining blood and bringing on lifelessness. Nothing lasts forever. All that which one finds meaningful in this wretched world will succumb to decay and death, in one form or another. Just like the snow will melt and winter recedes, all hope will fade to nothingness and emptiness prevails. After a few minutes, the final words spoken on this album then give way to a new riff, one filled with utter despair. The drumming reminds of that found later in "Tomhet", yet the atmosphere here is similar in its desolate and miserable feeling. The riffs become very repetitive, building the sorrowful aura and draining you of any and all life. One sees through illusions of optimism and positivity. There is none. These things are not real. They never were. They are but creations of man, much like gods, to try to trick ourselves and to avoid facing the bleak and harsh reality that is existence. It is meaningless and empty. The melodies found in this song are like freezing knives, carving the listener more viciously than the subject of an autopsy. You are laid open and bathed in misery and the horrible truth of the world.

And, finally, the album reaches its end with "Belus' Tilbakekomst (Konklusjon)", which is an instrumental that features very simplistic chords and riffs, yet it builds on the desolate feeling created by the previous song. It's very droning and repetitive, serving as the final journey into the endless graveland. Your corpse is dumped into the cold earth, forgotten and nameless, as your spirit is consumed by the great abyss of suffering and eternal torment. This isn't the end. This isn't the beginning of the end, yet the end of the beginning.

Belus may be the final death cry of the legendary Burzum, as Varg Vikernes may opt to disappear into obscurity. However, it may very well be a rebirth. While the overall feeling is undoubtedly Burzum, the sound is not identical to the classic albums. It seems, very much, like a time capsule from an earlier period and is about as close to the old output as any of the Norwegian bands are likely to get. Forget about the legions of bands that have attempted to imitate this style, over the years. Burzum has returned.
 
(23 March 2010)

 
 

Fallen is the eighth studio album from the legendary Norwegian Black Metal band, Burzum. Recorded and mixed during two weeks at Grieghallen Studios, it comes just a year after Belus and continues the sound that was established on that album. Varg Vikernes returned to his old ways of being very productive, and it should be no surprise to those familiar with the classic Burzum albums since they were all recorded in a short span of time. In the press release, it was stated that the new record would have more influence from the debut album and Det Som Engang Var, though the reality of the situation is that this is not as overt as many might have hoped. Of course, a similar thing happened with the last release.

It was in a 2005 interview where Varg made the announcement that he would record more music and that Filosofem was the album that most resembled the new material that he had in mind. This was mistaken to mean that his next effort would possess this same sound, which was neither what he said nor (probably) what he would want anyway, since that album had already been ripped off an infinite amount of times and the sound was no longer unique to Burzum. What seemed to happen, with the passage of a decade, was that the music still managed to develop and elements of the classic releases were mixed with the strange atmosphere of Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf, along with some new darkness that was now hanging above. While not exactly the same, it was clearly Burzum.

Belus was Varg's first release in eleven years, and it was the first proper Black Metal album released under the Burzum name since 1996's Filosofem. Expectations were extremely high, from the long-time fans to the legions who had discovered Varg's music during his incarceration. Whether they wanted to enjoy his music or to simply have more fuel for the constant criticisms of his character, Mr. Vikernes found himself the subject of quite a lot of scrutiny. Belus had a heavy task, as there was a lot of pressure to deliver something that would not only introduce the band to a new generation of listeners, but to somehow retain the old fans as well. Those who did not get what they expected with the last record have likely already wandered on to something else, and a great deal of the media hype has long since faded with the many months of silence in the Burzum camp. With the ice broken, Varg had more freedom and less pressure as he worked on the new material.

Fallen follows the path that was taken on the previous album, maintaining a similar feel and yet pushing the boundaries of experimentation. That is not to say that there is really anything present that would not seem normal or natural for a Burzum release, just that there is more of it. While there are a decent amount of similarities to the band's classic period, Varg has truly entered a new phase of his musical career and must be respected for his efforts. He could have been lazy and just made Metal versions of all of the tracks from the two ambient albums, before working on new songs. Instead, he used a few ideas and then moved on into new territory, keeping true to his roots while expanding the Burzum sound.

The album begins with "Fra Verdenstreet", which is a brief intro that hearkens back to the old days. It is not particularly useful, but does not detract from the proceedings and adds to the atmosphere of the album in its own way.

"Jeg Faller" is the first proper song, and it begins with the cold tremolo riffs that one would expect from Burzum. In a way, the long period of inactivity has allowed Varg to serve as a window to the past, being somewhat more pure than most of his peers that continued making music for the last two decades. Upon first listen, this song is slightly disappointing, as it is at this point where the realization hits that any similarities to Det Som Engang Var would not include the vocals. The tortured shrieks of the past are truly gone and shall never resurface, it appears. The use of clean vocals has increased and this takes a couple listens to get used to, for some. In particular, the strange spoken word sections seem to interrupt the flow of the song, at first. After a few listens, this feeling passes and it sounds more natural. The music begins with a faster pace, before transitioning to something a little slower. The track is rather dynamic, never sticking to one riff for too long and including a variety of ideas. The faster parts, at the beginning and end, seem to stand out the most.

The next song is "Valen", which seems to stand out as the most memorable of the whole record. It is more mid-paced and melancholic that the previous track. The riffs are haunting and epic as well, though never quite reaching the same disturbing levels of misery that were found on Belus. Once the new vocal approach has been accepted, one can really enjoy the performance given on this piece, as a lot of feeling is conveyed and a dark atmosphere created by the utilization of clean and harsh vocals. While unable to compare to the performances of "Black Spell of Destruction" or "En Ring Til Aa Herske", there are some truly miserable sounds emitted from the man once known as Count Grishnackh. The riffs are rather simple and repetitive, but technicality was never a key ingredient to Burzum's music, nor should it be. This is all about atmosphere, and that is something that this Norwegian band is well known for. The hypnotic melodies are enough to carry one to the dark realm where life is traded, willingly, for glorious death.

Døden var her først
Glemselen seirer til slutt

The next song is "Vanvidd", which is another one that features a strange use of clean vocals. The pace is much faster and the razor-thin tremolo riffs slice into your weakened flesh with ease, as the drums pound your skull into dust. After a couple minutes, the song slows down to the standard mid-paced Burzum death march that most longtime fans are used to. This lulls the listener into a a trance, preparing them to be mercilessly assault by the horrible screams that soon follow. This has a chilling effect and soon restores all faith in Varg's abilities as a vocalist, despite his development since the early 90s. Over the course of the song, even the clean singing seems less unnatural, though certain parts would still benefit with only the freezing cold riffs to command all of the attention.

"Enhver Til Sitt" begins with a brilliant doom-laden riff, with mid-paced drumming and spine-tingling vocals that soon accompany the miserable feeling of depression and melancholia. Hopeless tremolo riffs join the sorrowful bass lines in creating an aura of despair and all-consuming dread. The title translates to something along the lines of "each man gets what he deserves" and, in this case, mankind deserves horror and death. The lyrics are very poignant and thought-provoking, as well. Again, one has to be amazed how the Burzum sound seems to expand, subtly, while still remaining pure.

Jeg fryser ikke mer
Jeg varmes av månelyset

The final song is "Budstikken". which begins with somewhat of an epic build-up, with the mournful tremolo riffs accompanied by thunderous drums, before the song truly breaks free and moves forward at a faster pace. Somehow, this is slightly reminiscent of "My Journey to the Stars", and it is at this point where one can really feel the connection between new and old. The bass, which has been rather audible throughout the entire record, seems to stand out the most on this track, adding a layer of misery to the atmosphere. Strangely, this song is sorrowful while also being the most upbeat of the whole album. The clean vocals bring things back to a somber place, as the guitar riffs shift back to something darker and more life-draining. In a sense, the music gives the feeling of going off to war, to fight in a battle that you know will be lost, yet one that you must fight anyway. However, by the end, you simply wish for a cold grave to swallow your lifeless body and to be forgotten for eternity. The old ways are gone and the world is crumbling. All that we possess are fading memories of a dead age and the knowledge that what once was is forever lost. The roots of Irminsûl are rotten and dead. Existence is pointless and life itself seen as a curse.

Fallen ends with "Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen", which is an instrumental piece that, at first, seems quite useless. When it was mentioned that the album would feature some ambient tracks, this was not what most fans had in mind. The first few minutes are more annoying than anything else, but the final moments make it worthwhile as a simple, yet effective, acoustic guitar passage manages to tear your spirit right out of the body and to slowly smother it into nonexistence.

In the end, Fallen is a worthy follow-up to Belus. It is a little more dynamic, in that the atmosphere includes more highs and lows, rather than the soul-shattering misery of the previous record. The use of clean vocals seems to be slightly overdone, but this may continue to grow on me as time passes. This is a solid album, worthy of the Burzum name, and there is no reason to doubt Varg's musical abilities at this stage in his career. His passion and creativity are as evident as ever, something all Burzum fans should be grateful for.
 
(12 March 2011)

 
 

From the Depths of Darkness is not a new full-length Burzum album. It is a compilation of re-recorded tracks from the self-titled L.P. and Det Som Engang Var. These represent Varg's favourite songs from those releases, and this effort is merely a reinterpretation of those early works. Of course, the decision to revisit this material has generated a considerable amount of controversy. Some people have labeled this as a cash-grab, while others are simply angry that the classic songs are going to be tampered with. Naturally, such powerful and influential music is going to elicit strong reactions from fans. In my view, there is nothing wrong with this release, in itself. The problem with re-recordings comes when an artist attempts to use them to replace the original material, thus robbing future generations of the opportunity to experience them as they once were. However, countless bands have gone back and revisited their early days by making updated versions of classic songs. Ultimately, it is the band's right to do whatever they wish, so long as the original music remains available, as well. That way, if people disagree with the latest interpretation, they are free to enjoy the original. In the case of Burzum, it would seem that Varg is a perfectionist and, rather than trying to give the music a modern feel, he just wanted to correct things that he felt to be mistakes and to present his songs as he meant for them to be heard, in the first place.

He has done this before. The Aske E.P. features a re-recording of "A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit", since he thought the version from the debut album did not turn out as it was supposed to. It is quite likely that, had he not lost so much time in prison, Varg may have included more re-recorded songs on his albums, throughout the years. Given that he recorded the early Burzum albums at a young age and with little experience, he may have felt strongly about this material the entire time. It is both a gift and a curse of the perfectionist to find fault with everything that they create, eventually, whether or not they act on those urges. Released in November 2011, From the Depths of Darkness is the product of such impulses.

The material on this compilation remains true to the originals, as much as possible. The faster sections are hardly any different than before, though the slower parts are where one can see the most disparity between old and new. In general, the pace is slowed down even more and the atmosphere takes on an increased sense of dreariness and morbidity. Anything that was remotely catchy or upbeat has been completely neutralized and rendered even more cold and lifeless than before. This really gives the songs a darker vibe and unleashes the untapped potential that some of them had, long ago. While immersing yourself in something so abysmal and unforgiving, those lighter moments almost make it seem a little more safe. This time around, there is no sanctuary from the utter black that is set to consume your very soul. This is most evident on "Spell of Destruction". Predominantly, the playing is a little tighter, which is really neither good nor bad, as the previous approach suited the music just as well as this does. In other words, the somewhat sloppy feeling that was on the first couple of records, at times, worked just fine within the context of the album just as much as the tight sound benefits the newer versions. Everything is really crisp and precise, leaving no room for errors. That said, the music still has a lot of feeling and has not been drained of all emotion. Regarding actual changes, they are so minor and infrequent that it is not much of a concern, except in the case of "My Journey to the Stars". This track is butchered, to an extent, due to a handful of alterations that seem to make no sense. While the overall structure endures, there are enough small differences to kill the spirit of the song. There are times, especially during "Key to the Gate", where you can hear how much the old stuff inspired Varg as he was writing the material for Fallen. Actually, it was during the process of creating that record that he took a break and entered the studio to record these songs. Overall, the music stays true to the spirit of the originals, from the intense opening riffs of "Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown" to the hypnotic and mournful atmosphere that is present as "Snu Mikrokosmos' Tegn" reaches its conclusion.

Contrary to what many would expect, the production is not as plastic and modern as some seem to imagine. Obviously, it possesses a bit of an improved sound, compared to the originals, but it is not overdone in any way. The guitar tone is still frigid and morose, carrying the listener off to another world. In fact, the mix is slightly more appropriate in that the drums are buried a bit more and thus allow the guitars to remain the primary focus. This is how Metal should be, anyway, but especially in this case.

One of the most glaring differences is found in the vocal department. To the grief and despair of many fans of the early Burzum records, Varg's voice is nowhere near what it was back then. Any hopes that he would return to the anguished screams and tormented shrieks of the past were shattered from the very beginning, though this should not have come as a surprise to anyone. Varg's voice is quite similar to what is heard on later albums, such as Belus and Fallen, and it is a shame that he has no fondness for his previous vocal style. It added so much more to the overall atmosphere and was one of the truly unique things about Burzum, in the first place. Perhaps, it also came from him no longer being able to get such a sound to emanate from within and choosing to change instead of offering up some pathetic attempt at recreating that sound. On the old albums, he sounded as if he was dying in agony, whereas his current voice sounds like it has been dead and bereft of life for quite some time.

A lot of fans will be disappointed in From the Depths of Darkness, since most people despise change and Metal fans are usually even worse about this. Though the changes are minimal, with the exception of the vocals, the truth is that the original spirit of the songs has been honoured and there are even some points where the alterations of timing or pace actually improve upon the old versions. While the majority will still prefer the originals (myself included), this is a fascinating release and offers a unique re-interpretation of these songs that have meant so much to so many for such a long time. For those that disapprove, there is always the option of ignoring the existence of this compilation and continuing to listen to the old records. However, if you have even the slightest bit of an open mind, it is quite likely that you will find something enjoyable about these new versions. Out of all of the musicians that came from the Norwegian Black Metal scene, as much as he would like to distance himself from it, Varg Vikernes has remained true to his roots much more than the rest.
 
(25 Nov. 2011)

 
 

Released in May 2012, Umskiptar is the ninth full-length album from Burzum. This record is somewhat unique within the discography of Varg Vikernes, and it is something that may take a little time for some to fully digest. Surely, this has very little connection to the realm of Black Metal that initially gave birth to this musical project. With that said, there is a clear line of evolution from the old to the new, as Umskiptar picks up from where Fallen left off and continues to develop further away from the old sound. All the while, the everything contained on this album is unquestionably identifiable as Burzum.

This album has been described by its creator as "Skaldic Metal", and the lyrics were taken from the Völuspá. Due to the nature of the lyrical content, it would be easy to assume that this represents sort of a loss of the personal touch that previously existed, but of course that discounts that it was still Varg who chose what elements of this poem to focus on. Musically, what we have here is a rather stripped-down record of down-tempo pieces that imbue the listener with feelings of sorrow and loss. There has always been a melancholic element found on Burzum albums and Umskiptar is no exception, though the approach is rather different. Though there are a handful of fast-picked riffs, that actual tempo as dictated by the percussion goes from mid-paced to a doom-like crawl. "Jóln" is probably the most active and dynamic track on here, despite being rather subdued by previous standards. There is nothing in the vein of "Feeble Screams from Forests Unknown", "Snu Mikrokosmos Tegn" or even "Keliohesten" on this record. In fact, as the album goes along, it seems to get slower and slower, with the guitar playing a less prominent role and fading into the background. The trio of "Alfadanz", "Hit helga Tré" and "Æra" represents the strongest and most conventional segment of the album and are comprised of moody and sombre guitar melodies that would not have been out of place on the last couple of releases. "Hit helga Tré", in particular, is built on primitive riffs with strong doom tendencies, featuring a haunting tremolo melody that flows throughout as Varg's almost corpse-like voice is infiltrated by moments of humanity. This may be the most memorable song on here. The experimentation continues, as later songs feature no harsh vocals at all, for the first time ever. Some of these are hit-and-miss. The vocals, especially, seem somewhat disconnected from the music. At some points, it feels like the music is just background noise for some spoken-word pieces."Heiðr" is a good example of this. That is not to say that all of the clean vocals are done in this manner. "Galgviðr" actually utilizes clean singing, not just speaking, throughout its entirety. Still, there are moments when one may wish for one of the trademark instrumental tracks from Burzum's past. "Surtr Sunnan", for one, sounds very reminiscent of the older material and would have been more enjoyable without any lyrics. Regardless of whatever complaints I may have with some elements of the album, everything still flows together very well and Umskiptar is rather cohesive and solid. The whole thing comes together, very well, in dragging the listener into another world. By the time "Gullaldr" arrives, you get the feeling that the life is slowly draining out of you. Unlike in the past, there is hardly any sense of suffering or anguish here. It almost puts you in a dreamlike state and the main feeling is one of relief, as the cold winds of death carry you away.

The production suits the music. Nothing about this sounds modern, really. The guitar is rather dominant in the mix, at least during the tracks that really highlight it as the most important instrument. Later in the album, it seems to fade a bit, though this is likely due to the nature of the compositions. Everything is rather clear, allowing for the various melodies to stand out and to be easily recognizable. The sound is certainly cleaner that even the previous album, which was not all that harsh by any stretch. One complaint would be that the vocals are a little too clear, at times, as even the moisture on Varg's tongue can be heard. This is quite distracting.

Umskiptar is certainly a unique album and it is one that many, myself included, may not immediately be able to wrap their head around. That would seem to directly contradict the claims of some that Varg only resurrected Burzum to cash in on its name value (if so, why would he stray from the tried and true formula of past albums to experiment so much, if not for artistic purposes?). For those that are interested in music on a deeper level, rather than seeking only instant gratification, this is surely worth the time to explore. Whether you want to consider this some sort of Black, Folk or Skaldic Metal (or something outside of Metal, completely), one cannot argue that this is very genuine and atmospheric music that speaks to something inside of us in a way that words often fail to do. Though I would say "Hit helga Tré" and "Gullaldr" are the best songs on here, it is best for you to just immerse yourself into the whole album and see where it takes you.
 
(17 Mar. 2013)

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