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It seemed that after he was released from prison, Mr. Varg Vikernes decided to, in a way, reinvent the black metal style he was producing before his ass was "thrown into tha slamma". "Belus" was his first album to be released in 11 years and marks a return to the black metal style, although whether or not Varg would attest to this is debatable. While it sounds like a black metal album for sure, there are some huge differences between this and anything he put out from 1992 to 1996. Still, it sounds somewhat closer to his self-titled album than it does to "Hvis lyset tar oss" or "Filosofem."
One thing that's instantly noticeable is the complete lack of keyboards. Prior to this, Burzum was incorporating a lot of ambiance into his records, especially the two purely ambient prison-era albums. "Belus" is a completely guitar-drive affair. I'm not sure if this works in favor of the album but it's definitely something interesting considering it bears a Burzum logo. From "Det som engang var" to "Filosofem", Burzum really implemented far more keyboards than before, specifically on the latter two albums. This really added a much more ambient sound to the already atmospheric music. I guess I can understand why Varg would want to make a purely metal album lacking keyboards after not being allowed to use a guitar for so damn long, as his two dark ambient prison albums are evident examples of this.
So no keyboards at all? Correct. This is as guitar-driven as Burzum ever got. I wouldn't say this is the "most black metal" album he ever made, though. There still is ambience on here but instead of keyboards, it comes from the droning, buzzsaw sound of the guitars. Tracks like the melodic, hypnotic, repetitive "Glemselens elv" is a prime example of ambient black metal, without the keyboards. Really the same can be said for any of these songs but this 12-minute monster really exemplifies this. "Belus' død" has a riff that is actually borrowed from the "Dauði Baldrs" album, specifically the title track from that disc. It sounds so much better on a guitar. It's very dark and haunting, although the atmosphere overall of this album seems to be one that radiates light over darkness. The cover art really works well with this because it's almost as if Varg is leaving a dark, shadowy forest and entering a field of sunlight and brightness. "Sverddans" is a track that was apparently written during Varg's death metal days and was finally recorded for this album. It's a faster song that contains an interesting solo, if a bit simple, but definitely has a death metal influence thrown into it.
Varg's vocals on here are somewhat similar to those he was preforming on "Felosofem". It's not a high-pitched shriek anymore but rather a raspy whisper-like scream. He has made far greater use of clean vocals this time around, though not as many as he would implement on the next album "Fallen". "Kaimadalthas' nedstigning" is a great example of this with it's clean, spoken word chorus and an eventual chant-like singing style. This song sounds a bit interesting how it constantly changes from fast-paced black metal to a more melodic song, especially during the breaks. There is also something that resembles a solo in this song although it's highly distorted. Hell, the guitars here are completely distorted and that produces an extremely fuzzy atmosphere that may be a bit hard to digest. Either way, the atmosphere sounds pretty good, if highly droning.
This was a good return to black metal for Varg. Gotta give the guy credit, seeing as he was in prison up until two years before this album's release. It may lack the amazing keyboard ambience and substitutes it for a more guitar-driven ambience, but it's still a solid black metal album from an icon within the genre. He'd improve on the next one, for sure.
Is Varg even trying anymore? Look, I understand the fact that Belus was never meant to be the most energetic, high octane release of all time but I really can’t justify just how oppressively still this music is. I love Burzum’s earliest release, but Belus seems to discard all of the elements that made his past works so great in favor of very long and droning songs that go absolutely nowhere.
Atmosphere has and always will be (at least to me) the most important aspect of black metal. Burzum’s previous albums were some of the most atmospheric pieces of music my ears have heard and thus resulted in albums that could only be aptly described as masterpieces. However, Belus explores atmosphere in a different direction. The music has been drawn out a lot more, there’s far less memorable riffs and a whole lot of repetition. It seems that Varg was moving in a more modern take of atmospheric black metal, one with heavy repetition and minimalistic compositions. But alas, Varg is not Wolves in the Throne Room and his attempts at droning black metal leave a lot to be desired. Previous attempts at long, droning hymns worked wonders for Varg, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem were absolutely incredibly albums that worked well with their minimalistic nature. Belus unfortunately goes absolutely nowhere and spends a whole lot of time getting there. Songs are both meandering yet ridiculously still (yes that can happen.) There are really no solid ideas on Belus, yet Varg spends a heck of a lot of time exploring each simple, trivial element.
Belus is just really languid, almost unbearably so. After the album has finished I’m left scratching my head trying to remember a single riff, or any of the music for that matter. The whole album just passes me by without leaving much of an impression, and I can safely say this is the most boring album of Varg’s I've heard. There’s no real desire to harken back to his heydays, I respect that Varg wants to explore new grounds, but really, Belus is as far removed from early Burzum as one can get. Gone are the powerful battle cries of yore, gone are the effective use of cheesy ambient synthesizers, gone are the riffs that elicited an atmosphere of somber darkness. Heck, this album has none of the elements that made Burzum so great in the first place, and for that reason alone I recommend you skip it.
However, as a comeback album of sorts, one half of me can appreciate what Varg was going for. He wants to leave his black metal past behind and Belus follows a natural evolution of his musical preferences. There’s still plenty of black metal here but not in the traditional sense. It seems that Varg was far more interested in exploring the atmosphere and emotion created from music rather than how it actually sounds, or how it fits into a black metal base plate. The album as a whole sounds rather somber, atmospherically it’s okay, it’s nothing special but there’s a lot of worse stuff out here. Some of the twinkling guitar lines work well and at times, the droning, apathetic direction can occasionally succeed.
There’s certainly an atmosphere, one that’s very dreary and dismal, but they’re pretty low down on the emotional hierarchy in terms of intensity. Yes, it’s atmospheric, but it’s not really interesting. The somber, dreary atmosphere never lets up for the whole album, and whilst some might see this as a plus, I for one need something a little more intense in terms of emotive expression. The vocals don’t help matters easy, with Varg sounding really tired, worn out and willing to collapse at any moment.
In the past, Varg was able to transport me to another realm, whilst here he just leaves me bored and uninterested. The flight is listenable but wholly directionless, the music retains an atmosphere of such dreariness that it borders on the apathetic. At moments, Varg attempts to add life into the music with a couple of more up tempo passages that appear through the album. However, these sections are quickly counteracted by really long and droning music that just doesn't go anywhere. However, this is not a bad album, just average and there’s nothing in the music to get either excited or upset about. It’s just there.
Burzum. A household name within the black metal scene. Regardless of your stance towards the man or the music it is fair to say that there are the good and the bad (and even the ugly) when it comes to ol’ Varg’s material. Long gone is the day of the self-titled glory but here we have come to the so-called comeback. Belus. Would a flopback be more appropriate? I don’t know, but I don’t think that it lives up to the hype that it inspired.
We start off with an introduction track. One, might I say, that is completely unnecessary and frankly quite boring. It does not draw you towards or into anything. Other than wondering what that it is that is making the sound. My guess is catching a small wooden ball in a tin cup. After that nonsense “Belus’ Død” abruptly begins. With a small noodly guitar lead - which is probably the most intricate thing on the entire album – which then shifts to about what I believe to be the only riff in the song. Just about every other song follows in the same suit of the same riff being played over and over again. Sunn O))) has more diversity.
“Glemselens Elv” finds itself to have a better composition. I guess that’s because people would notice something a bit odd with the same riff being played for 11 minutes. The fourth track of the album has an attempt at dissonant riffing at the beginning. While I am a great fan of dissonant progressions I do not feel the same with this. It feels awkward and rushed. There is, however, a punk-ish element within the choruses, and for this reason it is redeeming. It brings something new to the table rather than the old worn out sound of that which did precede.
There is one standout on this album alone, and that would be that which is titled “Sverddans”. A two-minute length song with a strong punk presence and manages to bring some life into this otherwise dull, drab and dragged-out album. “Keliohesten” would manage to also freshen up your listening experience if it actually managed to have some more (yes, you guess it) diversity. With what is left of the album; you might as well be better off going to sleep than want to pay attention.
To finish; while this is in no-way the worst release under the Burzum-moniker. There is definitely more to be desired. But I guess I was not surprised with this as to when most of Burzum’s other works are equally boring. If you are looking for some decent Burzum; do not stop here and go directly back to the self-titled. But boy were I glad when this stopped.
Varg Vikernes, undoubtedly one of the most notorious members of black metal culture, created this album while he was on parole from prison. Due to the fact that Varg now had many more instruments at his disposal than synthesizers, he was back to making black metal. The last black metal album he had made was 1996's Filosofem which was considered by many to be one of the greatest black metal creations of all time. So the question flowing through everyone's head upon Varg's return was "Can he continue writing good music?" In answer to that question, Varg created this album and gave a victorious "Yes!" in response. This is actually the album that got me into Burzum's music, and contains some fantastic black metal.
The opening track starts this album off in a rather odd way. The sound effects appear to be glass bottles dropping onto a cement floor. Despite the peculiar introduction to the album, "Belus' Død" brings out a black metal punch. The song is rather forgettable once you hear the other tracks that the album has to offer, but it's still solid. "Glemselens Elv" is where the album really picks up. The guitars on this song create a beautiful atmosphere and make a sonic wall which is both enjoyable to listen to and excellently crafted. While the song is rather long, it's one of the stand out tracks on the album. The song even has some clean vocal moments which are actually used very well. "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning" has a speedier pace and makes for a nice transition to keep the album moving. "Sverddans", while a short song, has a powerful guitar riff and the vocals add to the dark atmosphere of the track. "Keliohesten" adds some more faster-paced moments to the album and "Morgenrøde" adds more to the album in the form of atmosphere. The album ends in a colossal wall of sound created by guitar layers. It's a completely instrumental track, but is another highlight of the album to me due to how entrancing the song is.
There are plenty of other qualities about this album which made me enjoy listening to it. For instance, I enjoy the guitar tone a lot more on this album than on Filosofem. It's far less droning and not quite as loud. Vocally, Varg sounds a lot more like a typical black metal vocalist. This is also a plus to me because the vocals on Filosofem were another reason I didn't enjoy the 1996 album.
A couple of the song lengths might put off some listeners as well as the repetitive nature of the guitars throughout the album. While I don't mind the repetition due to how atmospheric and well-crafted the guitar-work on this album is, some people will become annoyed with the lack of change. The only faults I find in this album are that the opening track served no real function and there are some moments throughout the songs which can be a bit tedious, even for me. Other than these slight faults, the album is solid and far more enjoyable for me than Varg's 1996 creation. I recommend this album to anyone who wants to get a taste of great black metal.
After a long 11 years Varg is back with Belus. My first impressions of this album were pretty good, sounding almost like a mix of Filosofem and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, which is undoubtedly a good thing. The album starts off with some sort of introduction which sounds like ping pong or something, then shortly after comes Belus' Død. Now this IS a good track no doubt, obviously a metal version of the song Daudi Baldrs with some Jesus Tod thrown in there. Each track stands out in its own way, nothing really sounds the same, and you even get some clean, spoken vocals in some songs such as Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning, Morgenrøde, and Glemselens Elv, which is a nice change.
The production on this album is raw, cold, and exactly what you'd expect from a Burzum release. Nothing is hidden behind anything and you can hear each instrument very well. The guitar is the usual buzzsaw riffing you would expect, the drums sound great, and you can actually hear the bass guitar, and of course, the vocals. They have evolved so much since the self-titled album (obviously). They sound like Filosofem without all that distortion, which is something interesting to hear coming from someone who sounded like a screeching morbid cat on the self-titled (don't get me wrong, I love that album and the vocals on it).
As for the lyrics, I've looked around and I can't seem to find the English lyrics, so I can't really review them, but I do know one thing and that's the more you listen to this album, the more you will learn about it. You probably won't catch everything the first time as there are some very memorable riffs here such as Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning and Sverddans, which sound very thrashy considering what we are use to. These songs are fast, angry, and have some pretty cool riffs. Some songs even have solos (such as Sverddans) which I thought was a pretty nice addition.
I am kind of disappointed that Varg left out some of the ambient tracks that were originally suppose to be included, which he stated in a review on his website, but I am quite happy with the overall length of the album, and depending on how good those tracks were, I cannot judge if they would drag the album out or actually have a purpose. But personally I enjoy ambient stuff, so I am curious.
I gave this an 80 because it's nothing incredible or original, but it's the same old Burzum you would expect, except done very well. If you like black metal or if you would like to get into black metal, this is one of the albums I would recommend. It's easy to get into and fairly accessible.
I am happy with this release and I think it's a nice addition to the Burzum library. Worth checking out.
Highlights: Belus' Død, Glemselens Elv, Sverddans.
After a decade in prison, Varg Vikernes’s return to black metal was an extremely anticipated event. Putting aside the absurd amount of social and political hype that surround Varg’s first post-prison album, there was also a ton of musical pressure. Before being imprisoned, Burzum released a pair of masterworks that defined and redefined the genre of black metal; “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem”. Most of the past decade’s best black metal releases owe a great deal to those albums. Fair or not, Varg was expected to release a similar masterpiece in his first go-round after incarceration. Astonishingly, Varg was up to the challenge, releasing both the heaviest and most diverse album of his career. At the same time, the composition is intricate and the mood is complex, cultivating a dynamic presence that remains throughout the album.
“Belus” packs a punch. Gone are the keyboards, which had always given Burzum’s sound a gentler dimension. However, the increased presence of soft, clean vocals both preserves and transforms Burzum’s softer side. The guitars are big, sharp and heavy. They stand well in the forefront, grasping the listener with forceful moods and emotions. Still, every note of the bass is audible and drums are clear. The vocals—far raspier than on previous recordings—are also easily discernible. The production leaves plenty of open space in which the riffs bounce and echo, making for a full-bodied sound. The result is an album that grabs the listener with the pure force of the sound, and then enraptures them with the interplay of melodies.
And boy is this album enrapturing! As the glorious cover art implies, this is an album of contrasts and tensions. There are two central elements at play on “Belus”. First, there is the somber, reverent and reflective spirit, similar to the songs “Det Som Engang En Var” and “En Ring Til Aa Herske”. Second, there is the dark, attacking spirit, similar to “Jesus Dod” and “War”. The way these sounds come together and split apart over the course of the album is nothing short of brilliant.
For example, “Glemselens Elv” contrasts two folk melodies—a blistering guitar melody and a groovy, Germanic bass line. The two melodies dance around each other, from time to time coming together in a series of solemn bridges before breaking apart again. The contrast of clean and growled vocals further plays off the dark/ light theme.
“Kaimadalthas Nedstigning,” one of the most beautiful Burzum songs to date, plays off the theme in a more direct manner. The verse is sharp, frantic and biting, while the chorus is meditative, delicate and venerable. The precise, militant march of the verse naturally slides into the somber and reverent chorus. The soulful clean vocals and tragic guitar solo make the second half of this song splendorous.
Another landmark is the closing pair of tracks “Morgenroede” and “Tilbakekomst (Konklusjon),” which really feel like a single song. These songs cultivate the same trance inducing mood as the ambient tracks “Tomhet” and “Rundgang um die Transzendentale Säule der Singularität”. However, these tracks do so metallically. The shimmering riffs and pulsating bass entrap the listener amidst webs of repetitive patterns—which through only the slightest bits of variation, build toward profound emotional apexes. Like “Tomhet” and “Rundgang…,” “Morgenroede” and “Tilbakekomst” have a soothing and cleansing effect that stands as the perfect palate cleanser after the emotional intensity that characterizes the rest of the album.
The profundity and originality of these highlights, along with the brilliantly executed light/ dark theme, make “Belus” a classic. As usual, Varg does not settle for the status quo. While countless copy cats have spent the past decade trying to replicate the sounds of “Hvis…” and “Filosofem”, “Belus” shows that Burzum is not stuck in the past. Rather than dampening his artistic impulse, it seems Varg’s time in prison has led him to traverse stunning vistas previously unexplored in black metal.
(Originally written for http://listenwell-nocturnal.blogspot.com)
Finally is it here! The long awaited return of Burzum. The old Burzum records were a brilliant mix of cold, screaming vocals and raw, haunting guitar riffs. Before he started his synth-crap he released three fantastic albums. It seems like this is still a big part of him because Belus reminds me much more about the earlier releases than traditional progression should suggest. This is probably both natural and understandable because of his incarceration, but still a pleasant surprise.
Varg Vikernes has returned to the more guitar-based black metal. On Belus we find both aggressive thrash metal riffing and atmospheric, monotonous passages. Long songs that really sucks you in and creates an amazing atmosphere. Simple, but yet so brilliant. Just the way we like Burzum. The songs are well-written and dynamic, and also contains some spoken lyrics and clean vocals, which I think works great on this album. The bass is louder in the mix than before and the vocals are no longer the depressive black metal vocals that Varg is known for. Instead he uses more standard black metal vocals, which I think is a change for the better.
It`s not much to say about the production. As all the previous non-ambient Burzum albums Belus was recorded in Grieghallen in his hometown Bergen with the legendary Pytten. It doesn’t sound like the most expensive production, but that has never really been a subject when it comes to Burzum. On Belus we find a primitive, naked sound landscape and I think it works great without taking away too much of the overall atmosphere. The production is way better than any of the previous Burzum albums, but is still able to maintain the Burzum sound.
The songs are overall strong, and even though this is without a doubt the most anticipated album since the birth of black metal, it does not disappoint. I am rather surprised that he can deliver an album like this after all these years. Belus grows with each listening and just keeps getting better and better in my opinion. Burzum is definitely back!
Normally I'd engage in some sort of preamble for an album as hyped up and important as Belus, but instead I'll dispense with all the cliche formalities and (unrelated) historical notes and discuss why I found it to be an inconsistent, often frustrating experience with a few gem like nodes gleaming from its barren fields. You see, back in the early through mid 90s, Vikernes' brand of minimalist black metal with forays into ambiance was a novel concept that he and few others were exploring, and with each new record he released, he adopted subtle means of reinvention that articulated a high level of distinction among the masses of extremity obsessed blast mavens and Gothic freaks who were using it to climb new commercial heights. It was refreshing, and inspired countless followers.
Belus does not entirely dispose of such a strategy, but it is rarely compelling in its delivery. The content could be placed somewhere between Filosofem and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss in overall tone, but it lacks in the razor spun atmosphere of the former, or the hypnotic balance of the latter. Once again, Burzum journeys to the well of repetitive, primitive black metal to create a lulling, dark and obscure window into European myth-history, but it feels somehow drier than his past full-lengths. Granted, I was actually pretty happy that he returned to his metallic roots post incarceration, but by this point in time the aesthetics of his 90s work have been beaten to death. Very often this has been the work of monotonous pretenders who embark on their sonic journey with nothing more than a handful of derivative guitar riffs, rasped voice and drum machine, but occasionally the execution has come close to classic Burzum standards of curious antiquity, and I dare say even surpassing them. In short, Belus is not a dishonest effort, but it sounds too humble, too dialed in, almost a follower of itself.
It doesn't help that the album starts off so poorly, with its stark, brief introduction "Leukes Renkespill (The Intrigues of Leuke") which sounds like nothing more than a bottle cap being snapped or rolled about for 30 seconds before the immensely generic "Belus' Død (The Death of Belus)". Varg's fascination with the multi-named European deity life-death-rebirth entity is enduring here (we've already had a 'Death of Baldr', Norse deity associated with the same portfolio of principles), but the music itself is incredibly vapid of memorable notation, its central riff losing all its haunting luster after a mere 20-30 seconds, all too typical of just about anything snagged at random from the 90s pantheon of Norse or Swedish bands. Don't get me wrong, it's the primitive black metal many were praying for, but I found it wholly ineffectual.
"Glemselens Elv (The River of Forgetfulness)" is every bit as repetitive. Considering that it's 12 minutes in length, it had the potential for disaster, but at least for a few minutes it had me lost in its waters, especially the duet of clean and rasped vocals (which Vikernes' will use to greater effect on the next album, Fallen). His heavier vocals are pretty null and indistinct throughout this album, but with the added singing it creates a stronger, ebbing depression in tune with the backing guitar. Unfortunately, 11:35 is just too much of this, and despite a few minor, majestic transitions, its too much of a broken record for even Varg. Then we come upon "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning (The Descent of Kaimadalthas)", a stronger experience with a nice counter chord thrown against the blast riff, and the clean vocal refrain which creates an unusual, percussive calm to the surging environment about it. In my opinion, its probably the best track on the album, but again the central guitar is treacherously dull of its own accord.
"Sverddans (Sword Dance)" is true to its title, a sort of black/thrashing speed metal riff being wound through two patterns before a lead melody, but it disappears almost as quickly as it arrives, and does not leave much of an appropriate stab or slash behind it. "Keliohesten (The Horse of Kelio)" and "Morgenrøde (Dawn)" both have their moments; the former's in the way the roiling charge is offset by the backing guitar melody, the latter for the pomp and swell of the bass in the into and the return to the cleaner, narrative vocals. If the entire album had been at least as interesting as these, then I'd have more cause for concern over it, but then, I wouldn't consider either to number among his better tracks. The conclusion is a 9+ minute instrumental "Belus' Tilbakekomst (The Return of Belus)", not at all the first of such guitar driven pieces to emanate from the gray matter of Varg, but despite some shining heights, it wears out its welcome about as quickly as a Nadja record. Decent background thriving, nothing more.
Belus is not a great record, nor even a good one, because in over 50 minutes of content, there are about 15-20 that are mesmerizing enough to listen through repeatedly, and no singular track is ultimately that convincing when compared to his past material. At the same time, it's not a bad listen, just average. I can understand and forgive a few flakes of rust on the creative joints, seeing that he spent such a long time without access to musical instruments, and at least he'd written something more substantial than Hliðskjálf, which showed only the vaguest hints of effort. But even the cover to this is all too soon forgotten. Thankfully, it would not take Burzum very long to recover, because Fallen channels a number of the ideas here into an appealing, logical succession.
Reflecting on speculations regarding any famous or infamous artist’s up and coming work can get boring after a while, and the atmosphere surrounding the release of one of the more infamous black metal maestros Varg Vikernes is among the more extreme examples. It’s a strange thing how a person’s biography can get so overblown in underground circles that you find yourself not caring yet anymore, and simultaneously the music just keeps roping the listener back in. But whatever the hidden charm is behind the fuzzy guitars and Norwegian dark speak, the creature that is Burzum is among the more addictive of extreme metal creations out there, particularly in low-fi circles.
“Belus” is more a reassertion than a new experiment, a reminder if you will that the dark winds of Mordor still blow is heavy gusts despite being locked away for just under 2 decades. Gone are the days of ambient experimentation with keyboards while in the solitude of prison, and back are the frostbitten tremolo guitar melodies and esoteric ramblings of the paroled poet. And just like the good old days, the songs are long and involved, though the actual content is presented in a minimalist manner, emphasizing repetition with little variation or contrast, and maintaining the meditation music tendencies that have always been present in Varg’s creations.
But as much as this is an album marked by a loyal conservatism, it also shows signs of growth and evolution within its allegedly strict and narrow template. The melodic material seems partially borrowed from older material, and in the case of the “Belus' Død” is an actual quotation of one of Varg’s creations from his ambient days, but it has also been varied and elaborated to the point where it almost comes off as progressive. “Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning” particularly combines a few early 90s blackened thrash ideas with this new melodic, almost post-rock character present here, which is basically a higher fidelity version of the sound that cropped up on “Filosofem”.
The biggest changes in the format, however, are to be found in Varg’s vocal delivery, which has taken on a duality of sadness and viciousness. Gone are the piercing cries of agony with a latent hardcore punk character, and in their place is a multifaceted mixture of orthodox blackened barks that are a bit closer to Nocturno Culto’s death-like wolf growl, alongside a mixture of spoken narrations and a fatalistic baritone chant with a flat, hopeless melodic character. Particularly in the case of the long winded, shimmering musical dream vision “Glemselens Elv”, this clean vocals function almost like the stand-ins for the now absent keyboards, tempering a rough edged ripple of blast beats and nebulous riffs with a soft, sustained counterpoint.
As a whole, this is another classic release from someone who obviously doesn’t qualify for human being of the century, but is good at what he does regardless. It’s a bit less distinctive of a part of Burzum’s history and occasionally listens like an updated version of “Filosofem” with a different production and vocal display, but as an individual album it is a strong offering for a year where black metal seems to be about genre expansionism rather than getting back to basics. It is understandable that based on a formula that is somewhat derivative of the past that a few fans with really high expectations might not consider this an accomplishment, but speaking for myself, it’s about as good as one can expect from a buy whose been out of the game for over 20 years.
So here I am, seven months after the long awaited release of Burzum's 'Belus'. There are two simple reasons that this album was so looked forward to: Burzum, once arguably the biggest black metal band out there, has had a 11-year hiatus, due to Varg Vikernes (that's 'vee-ker-niss') being imprisoned for murder. (Varg Vikernes being the man behind Burzum, who does all the instruments and vocals). The other reason being that, if you haven't noticed, black metal as a genre has taken a turn for the worst. Every great band (Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Darkthrone, Mayhem) has either broken up or allowed their music to turn into garbage. I guess that made Belus the album people hoped would bring back black metal to its underground, unheard of, nitty-gritty glory. And let me say that I am one of the people who was rabid with anticipation. I wasn't there when Varg Vikernes started Burzum. I wasn't there when he released his albums (at least, I wasn't into heavy metal) and now, I was witnessing a comeback that almost nobody thought would happen. And I was ready for a great album.
Eventually, the album came out. It was called Belus, named after the same mythological god that Burzum's ambient albums were based on (nice to know Varg is still obsessed with the same story after 13 years)... With learning this, I figured that Varg would be doing his ambient albums with guitars, drums, and vocals. Then I saw the album artwork, and had another wierd feeling that this album would be dissapointing. To me, every Burzum album before Belus had perfect cover art: it really depicted the atmosphere in each album, and eccentuated the atmosphere. This... I dunno about this. A lush, green photograph of trees? Looks like a picture you would see on the label of a bottle of water... they could call it the 'Spring Quencher'!
As far as the music goes, I guess I would call Belus very similar to Burzum's '96 release, 'Filosofem', mainly because of the production: tinny, hissing guitars, low bass, scratchy vocals... the only major difference is the drums are much more audible... though that isn't saying much. Simply put, the guitars dominate everything, and that's clear from the start. The atmosphere of Belus is what I'd describe as being sleepy, monotone... but with intention. Sure, the album lacks agression, but then again, Varg asserted before the release of Belus that his fans should not expect to hear agressive intensity. This sleepy atmosphere took a LOT of getting used to though. If you've ever heard an album called 'Forgotten Legends' by a band called Drudkh, then you'll know what I mean. This album does vary and have more range than Forgotten Legends, but it does strike the same droning tone. Remember, I heard Belus right when it was released, didn't like it, and now, seven months later, although I'm not in love with it, I can see what Varg was trying to do. Concerning the vocals, I guess I was really anticipating the trademark wails and screams of Varg Vikernes: the dark, foreboding, torturous noises he can make really added a lot of passion and energy to an album... one you got used to them. I heard from quite a few Burzum fans that they too were dissapointed with the retreading of the Filosofem vocals, but I can think of two big reasons that Varg didn't use the regular approach. For one thing, the last time Varg recorded those types of vocals was back in 1992, during the recording of Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, when Varg was just nineteen. He's a thirty-seven year old man now, and his vocals probably ain't what they used to be. Also, this album has a sort of droning, medetative pace to it. It uses monotony as an intended atmosphere, and his softer growl and tremolo picked guitars have a sort of soft, blanketed feel. If Varg had been doing his regular wailing his head off, it would have been harder to sustain the soft, sleepy feeling he was trying to portray. Aside from those Filosofem-esque growls, we also get a bigger taste of Varg's soft, casually sung voice, especially in the song 'Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning', which has more singing than growling.
Belus starts with the closest thing that you'll get to 'synth' in this album: the sound of someone turning an empty can of spray-paint upside down over and over again. Kind of annoying... What it's doing on this album, God knows. It's dissapointing too, because I thought that Burzum's strong point in the albums 'Filosofem' and 'Hvis Lyset Tar Oss' was the use of keyboards to eccentuate (never dominate) the music. Not to mention the odd keyboard driven instrumentals (songs like 'Han Som Rieste' and 'Tomhet') are sorely missed. That makes this Burzum's first album that is completely devoid of keyboards... and how does that fair out? Well... not good. It's not necessarily terrible; in fact it's far from it. It just strips this album of a lot of its potential range.
Another problem a lot of people complain about when referring to Belus is the fact that the riffs are repeated ad-infinitum throughout each song. There's usually an A-B-A-B-A-B-C-A-C-A-C kind of pattern going, although of course that's only in general. The thing that needs attention are the subtleties. There are little subtle changes in the patterns; whether it's a drumming alteration, or the tempo is tweaked a little, or the guitar riffs start differing slightly, and once you start to pick them out (which takes some concentration in the music) it should become easier to sit through the album, and even make the album enjoyable.
In the end, Belus is not a bad album. It's a good album, sure, but for Burzum it is very sub-standard and dissapointing. It goes on for longer than it should, and sometimes the repetition of the riffs doesn't feel justified... But mostly, it just isn't very definitive for Burzum, let alone black metal. Every other black metal Burzum album is great to me, and helped define black metal in some way at the time of its release. The self-titled debut helped establish the black metal style of drumming and tremolo-picked guitar work, Det Som Engang Var set the slower, darker pace with dark interludes, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss set the less-than-eight track listing of drawn out, atmospheric soundscapes and contemplative songwriting, Filosofem established the minimalistic era, with a lot of long ambient stretches and intentionally bad production, and you couldn't find any other album like it at the time of release. For Belus, it just isn't that unique. Wolves in the Throne Room and early Drudkh come to mind when listening to this. I guess that's what hurts this album the most. And referring again to the album art, I still don't like it at all. I tried to come up with a good mental picture that would work with the music from the album and what I got was the image of a crow flying over mountains and forests, eclipsing the sun. Anyway, if you're a fan of Wolves in the Throne Room sort of stuff, you'll really appreciate this album. If you're looking for Varg's masterpiece, if you're a big Burzum fan looking for a great, innovative and daring new album, or a very heavy EXTREME album, you are going to be dissapointed. I don't think Varg's mentality for the album had to do with being HARSH N BROOTAL YO. I think he was going for a sleepier, more melancholy feel, and the production reflects that. All in all, Varg made an album that acheived the atmosphere he wanted. The fuzz in this album relaxes you. Trust in Varg's fuzz.
Most importantly, give it time to grow on you.
originally posted on http://www.spirit-of-metal.com/
Well, here comes the review for the release I've been waiting for since, well, a while now. I refused to download the album, so I waited until I had the opportunity to buy it.
The production quality, as always, isn't quite polished, but its not terrible though. It's perfectly balanced, and it makes each instrument sort of blend together AND stand out in their own unique way. The riffs are great, and the drums are pretty good too. They definitely add to the atmosphere, and thats what Burzum is usually about anyhow. The only problem was that on the older tracks (some of these songs are from 1993!) the bass was inaudible. Now, is bass is inaudible, thats a problem for me, because I love bass as equally, if not more so, than guitar. It truly is the more beautiful instrument. But, I digress. The album is everything I expected. It's long, it's atmospheric, it's wondrous. Only one problem...
It's TOO damned long, and too monotonous in some parts. Belus' Doed is a fairly interesting track, given the creepy funeral like riffs in the background and the drums. Add Varg's wolf-like howls on top, and its a perfect track. The album starts to drag on in Glemselens Elv is 11 and a half minutes long, of almost the same riff over and over again. The song is nice the first time around, by itself, but, with the whole album? No. The stand out song on this album, though, is Sverddans. It's a thrashy song with a double bass in the background and a fast paced tempo. It's quite nice, actually, I think. Kind of a break from the melancholic, droning riffs. The next few songs are the same melancholy though, but they are each unique and interesting in their own way. However, the most epic track on this whole album is Belus' Tilbakekomst (Belus' Resurrection). It's inspiring, and listening to it, you can imagine a great golden god rising from the ashes of death while listening to it. And the album ends.
Overall, the album did drag on, but, for 20 years of absence (well, other than Daudi Baldrs and Hliðskjálf) it's pretty damned good!
Listening to Belus, I discovered two pieces of news. The good: Burzum is still the undisputed vanguard of the second wave black metal sound. This is the best metal album of the decade. The second piece of news is bad only for every other band in the genre: the bar has been raised very high. Until Varg tops Belus with a forthcoming album or someone else does so in the near future, "second wave-ish" black metal ends here with this album. While I will stop just short of calling it a landmark record, Belus is however a unit of measure. A re-magnetized compass dial to re-orientate the genre onwards to the evolution of northern enlightenment after every two bit atmospheric bedroom band from the Cascades to the Balkans claim to shoot an azimuth through unchartered forests when they did little more than forage through a Cabela's showroom for inspiration. It's a vaccine against bands like Dimmu Borgir, Gorgoroth and Satyricon who have made an absolute mockery of Norwegian black metal by aspiring to Daddy Warbucks instead of pondering the Daudi Baldrs. You can call it whatever you want. Belus is a lot of things but more importantly it's a miracle offering.
Belus by Burzum is diurnal black metal. Varg has created an album that correctly dispels the notion that nocturnal grimness, lunar visions and other cliches do not represent his idea of what black metal should be any longer. Obviously, other bands-some worthy- have centered their music on this premise as well so this is not a novel concept altogether. It's in Varg's musical execution of elliptical transcendence with his patented riffs where this album stands out. His Tolkien-ized rendering on the celebration of Baldr(Belus) in a woodland abode after all those years still makes even a most veteran practitioner of forest black metal (like Ildjarn) seem like a babe in the woods by comparison. I also can’t help think that the themes are like the musical equivalent of Walden by Thoreau. The structure, harmonies and progressive feel are of that naturalist spirit. Personality-wise, I’m sure Vikernes and Thoreau would hardly be inclined to sit across from each other for tea but the fervor for transcendence in the respective art forms prevails nonetheless.
A very fascist sounding album this is too. It’s beautiful. Now, what does a stereotypical taco eater from Arizona such as myself know about how “fascist” ambiance sounds like? Though I may not resemble the Elmer Fudd of his entourage to qualify to be Varg’s lawn boy (except to only mow it like a good Mexican), I have a deep respect for this man’s brilliance as a musician and storyteller. Nature is fascist. The fulgent beams of Baldr in his solar incarnation are fascist and burn down accordingly. Mr. Vikernes understands this well. That’s what I hear as depicted when so many of the album’s riffs show up. The structure is mesmerizing. The is repetition is hypnotic. The guitar on Belus Død is strict in its tremolo riff arrangement. Sharp and to the point and there is not much change from Filosofem. When that song concludes, Glemselens Elv takes you on a path of even more relentless flow of nature’s wrath and elongation. The title translates as “The River of Forgetfulness”. Anything that gets caught in the current will succumb to oblivion no matter the season. The blast beats are vague and hidden underneath the low production sound. It reinforces the idea that every fallen man drowns as it moves. I again reiterate, the fascist vibe of this album is that of in the context of nature so in that respect there is an undeniable sadness to it. Burzum may have been the originator of this kind song but it still would not surprise me one bit if he one day heard Seven Tears Are Flowing to the River by Nargaroth and said to himself: “hmm..I’m gonna show this hack who the real McCoy is.” Kaimadalthas Nedstigning scorches you with a raw black metal attack of distorted arpeggios until it breaks into a straddling harmony where Varg repeats clean chants with an almost Orwellian incessancy. I know a lot of people don’t appreciate a more conventional sounding black metal track like Sverddans disrupting the flow but I had no problem with it. I think it gives the album a center to offset a possible perceived excessive “loftiness” to the proceeding. The song reminded me of Black Metal War on Graveland’s Thousand Swords for that very reason.
Have you ever stood in the middle of a quiet forest valley or desert all by yourself and heard the heavy hooves of a large horse scrambling in your direction? That’s the gist of track six but Keliohesten is no ordinary steed. The epic distortion to begin the song is intimidating along with the furious blast beats depicting the hustle of this immortal Norse horse. Baldr has descended into Hel on the title beast of burden. His travel and speed to such a place is furious and ungodly chaotic as the song conveys. His return is The Light.
My perception of the last two songs of Morgenrøde and Belus' Tilbakekomst alludes to more of that fascist feeling but even more intensely than any of the previous songs before. Most people can’t describe what a bright ray of sunlight is actually composed of but they can tell you that it is densely packed and mercilessly oppressive when it is squarely shone directly on the face. Burzum is a band that creates metal to depict such classical images and feelings. These last two songs are conjoined. The riffs feel like the bombardment of rich morning solar rays drowning the face of a maimed warrior slowly dying in the middle of a forest from his wounds; delirium, disillusion but a somehow glorious pain; the constant ringing of the ears from the bombardment of that intense bright light. Take notice of the quivering bass line on Morgenrøde. The main guitar riffs on it depict the radiant rays bathing the forest. It sounds like Baldr coming to life by taking from the mortal. The length of the songs are perfect because they describe what a slow procession this is. Listen for how Varg’s buzzing riffs on Belus' Tilbakekomst tend to fade back a couple points during the song. And then the ultra rich monotony of them reappear twice as loud. Listening to them full blast, the almost physical experience of all those solar particles come through in the medium of sound. As I said before: Diurnal black metal.
Burzum is playing black metal again and the miracle offering is that the project has brought a much needed atmosphere of a bright shining light. Everything is in place. Other than fans of Burzum's own Filosofem record, I highly recommend Belus to those who enjoyed 'n Crugu Bradului, Autumn Aurora, Jahreszeiten or most anything by Hate Forest and Walknut.
Perhaps at the time of Burzum’s conception, the idea was unprecedented – its sincerity and simplicity harbored something unique and truly sole in its existence. Everyone knows fucking Burzum and everyone knows what Burzum sounds like. It was a project that embodied the epitome of music that is atmospheric, dark, misanthropic and distinctive. However, during the long years of Vikernes’s incarceration, black metal almost immediately lost the very important tenet of being yourself, and as a result a whole bunch of unoriginal douchebags created the philosophy of “true nekrogrim black metal” to justify their derivative and bland ripping-off of the forefathers of said metal. Thus, a genre of music that was at a time unique and individualistic turned into unoriginal sheep-like wankery. Among other things, Burzum’s formula of simplistic rawness was copied to no end. Of course, to combat this phenomenon, black metal had to reinvent itself and up the ante from time to time, earning the hatred of purists along the way.
But, Vikernes was locked up during this time period and was probably not very aware (or didn’t give a rat’s ass) of what had transpired outside, and, while black metal evolved, Vikernes didn’t. Belus is far from groundbreaking; it is just what could've been done long ago, it is like that unknown, never-heard before material recorded that graced someone's attic and just now was released, and everyone thinks - "Oh, how ahead of its time this was!" But, the time it would be ahead of is past. Belus is a modern release. It will not be granted that luxury.
As to the songs themselves, they almost always follow the strict pattern of playing repetitive riffing patterns to no end. While the melodies are interesting to say the least, they are just too worn out over the course of the songs and they fail to posit themselves as something extraordinary and unique. They’ve already been done by a shitload of other bands, mostly copying the ideas of Burzum and the like. So, here we have a peculiar case where the freshness of the original has been diminished by its duplicates. I stopped listening to the album several times because the riffs can be so fucking tiresome. I cannot stress this enough – they’re repetitive. They’re so fucking repetitive that they become more uninteresting than whatever new theory Varg has on life, race, the universe and everything. At the same time, it seems Burzum has only evolved in partially doing away with the ambiance of the old records and this does not work well with the monotonous nature of the songs. If they're going to use cyclical songwriting, they should be atmospheric. If they lack atmosphere, they'll just end up being boring. With certain exceptions (Sverddans comes to mind), Belus cannot escape from the severe mid-tempo monotony. The vocal work is alright I guess, the clean parts sometimes making me want to punch Varg in the face, but nothing too unbearable. When it takes a break from being monotonous, the album does shine, but ultimately doesn't make it.
I can see why this release will be well-accepted by Burzum fans and all those “trve” black metallers. It is almost nostalgic and would’ve been revolutionary fifteen fucking years ago. However, that time has long since passed and this sort of black metal has already been killed by over-saturation. This is hardly innovative or new, black metal has far surpassed Belus already. It came too late to be original.
This is an album review, not a history lesson, so I'll do just that, REVIEW THE ALBUM!
Firstly, this album is not some magic, amazing new style pulled out of vargs arse, but it certainly does contain a fresh progression of his style of music. It seems a lot of people have found the tracks Belus Doed and Glemselens Elv to be "old style Burzum" and therefore not worthy. In my opinion, this couldn't be further from the truth. While it is similar to "old style Burzum", this certainly doesn't make it any less worthy. I think they are the best two songs on the album, and not only that, but by a long shot. This is classic Burzum executed brilliantly, and hey, I'm a Burzum fan so why would I be complaining? 15 years is a long time to listen to four quality albums. You find yourself wishing there was more of this, and Belus delivers.
Kaimadalthas Nedstigning is often referred to as the standout track. It is different in style to his previous work definitely, but while the main riff is quite "panicy" and chaotic, it lacks the melancholy and despair of what I believe to be his best stuff. Then it goes into a clean vocal chant over a tremolo picked guitar and a single 1, 2, 3, 4 kick drum beat. I find it incredibly annoying and I always skip this track. It lacks all the emotional quality that I love, and the image of a hideous Ork in a cave making music is gone and it sounds like a guy in a recording studio.
In brief, Sverddans is thrashy, pretty good. Keilohesten is more fast paced black metal, and very good.
Morgenroede is a nice song. Different enough to please the bored, and filled with emotion to please sensitive types like me (for music soothes even the savage beast!). The second half of the song utilizes a quite melancholic quiet riff with an unusual drum machine beat to accompany it. It actually works quite well and, I must say, the diversity it creates for the album is great. The final song, Belus' Tilbakekomst (Konklusjon) is a continuation of Morgenroede, but it's fairly boring and a bit flat, reminding me of the Gebrechlichkeit songs from Filisofem. If you like that style of song you might like it but I don't so ha!
And the Vocals: Vargs vocals aren't his usual unique shrieks that I love so much, and I find they are sorely missed. He instead goes with a more typical style black metal growl, which isn't bad but it's like going back to condoms when you've been doing bareback.
Finally, the production: I don't love it, but I don't hate it. This is his first digital studio album as all his previous releases were analogue. I wish he went with analogue, because Belus is a bit thin and airy. I love a bit of filth to an album and it's needed for the bleak atmosphere of Burzum's music. Belus is still cold as ever though and it isn't by any means a Nuclear Blast style production at all (THANK ODIN!!).
So for the few songs I think are annoying and boring, and the "meh" ok production and vocals, I have deducted points. But for brilliant tracks like the ones I mentioned I definitely think this album is a MUST for Burzum fans. If you don't like old Burzum, then why bother in the first place?
After more than a decade, we now have a real Burzum album for our ears. I could also say that it is "burzumic". As usual, the production is quite poor, but compared to his other recordings, I could say that this has the best production. I could say that Varg did an excellent job on the vocals. It's tighter than ever, and also a little bit deeper, which made me like it. Two thumbs up for that. He also used his clean vocals for the very first time. The vocals have a lot of emotion in it. I think it is because of the lyrics being in Norwegian, his native tongue. The only problem I saw on the production are the drums which is quite soft to be heard and is overshadowed by the guitars.
The songs are still the same: minimalistic and hypnotizing. Parts getting repeated over and over again really puts you in the music. The length of the slow songs made me feel three things: amazement for being majestic, calmness for the sense of tranquility, and at the same time, some boredom for the extensive length. I still believe though, that the album can't be complete without those songs. Those songs gave me the feeling of death and glory. What I really liked here are the fast-paced tracks (tracks 3-6), which showcases the brutality of true Norwegian black metal. Those three tracks made me bang my head like hell. The fourth track, "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning", has something catchy in it, which I like and at the same time, get annoyed at. For short, it amazes me that even after more than a decade of prison, he is still capable of real black metal.
Overall, this is true Norwegian black metal. Although certain not to be an instant classic, it will be over time. Varg just proved in this album that true Norwegian black metal is still alive and well. Take a listen if you want true Norwegian black metal and be amazed!
Originally made for http://mystifymyserie.blogspot.com
Oh boy where to start with this one...since it was announced last year that following his 16-year spell in prison Varg Vikernes was going to be releasing a new album under the Burzum name, and a 'metal' one at that too, I have found myself eagerly anticipating it's arrival, keen to know how someone who has spent so long behind bars will adjust to the vastly different scene to what he was last exposed to. Much like a new release from Slayer or Metallica always does, it is often difficult to see through the hype and speculation with such anticipated releases and "Belus" has been no exception, everyone with a mouth keen to air their views on a man who is by some distance the most controversial man in the history of that most controversial of music genres, metal.
I never did quite 'get' Varg's two fully-synthesised albums, "Dauði Baldrs" and "Hliðskjálf", so the near-immediate introduction of his perennially grim guitar tone in a haze of feedback and darkness in "Belus Død" is a most welcome one. Having read recent interviews with the man in which he declares a complete disinterest in (black) metal, (apparently not listening to a single BM record since 1996), it would've been mighty foolish to expect his sounds to be even the remotest bit modern and as such anyone turned away by the bleakness of classic records "Filosofem" and "Det Som Engag Var" will be just as offended by the mix of "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning", probably the best song on the album. The archetype repetitiveness that was the keystone of Burzum's earlier works is again at the heart of "Belus", with riffs and drum patterns ignoring conventional song structures to plug away seemingly endlessly to form a number of songs that though simple in nature require a few listens to fully become immersed in, before even then still being puzzled as to their effectiveness and worth.
Unlike the old metal Burzum works, which often relied upon glacially slow ambient passages segueing into mid-paced black metal hammering for significant portions of their time, "Belus" does away with the pure ambient and has replaced it with a number of moments that are close to being the fastest Burzum has ever offered us. The 2-and-a-half minute "Sverddans" is effectively a grimly played and produced thrash metal number, replete with dodgy soloing, while "Keliohosten" and "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning" are no slouches either, utilising a more varied vocal performance from Varg, which, sadly, never reaches the unsettling demonic howl which graced the earlier works. Nine-minute closer "Belus' Tilbakekomst (Konklusjon)" is the closest that "Belus" comes to a passage of ambience; more relaxed in nature than any other song it is still however led by guitar and repetitive drum beat in an interesting, if not wholly effective song.
Given Vikernes' separation from the metal world there did exist the small potential for "Belus" to be another classic in waiting, steeped in Norwegian BM history and early 90's aura, but the spark that lit works like "Filosofem" is absent through the less densely constructed songs to be found here. Depending on which way you like at it you'll either be chuffed or disgusted that Varg has recorded an album that sounds like it could be from the glory days of early '90s Norwegian BM, but separating the man from the band is clearly not possible. This is how Varg Vikernes sounds in music, and frankly it's a wonder it's reached this level at all. "Belus" is not perfect but it is certainly worthy of standing amongst the indisputable classics that are often forgotten about when discussing the band known as Burzum.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
I thought giving myself a month to listen to Burzum’s new record, entitled ‘Belus’, would be a smart move and a sufficient amount of time to become accustomed to the new ways of the twisted mind of Varg Vikernes. That is, if he had indeed adopted new techniques with which to pursue his career in the modern day. I was gravely wrong and had misjudged the amount of time that it would take to adjust to the new sound of Burzum. In fact, as time has gone by, I have found it even more difficult to muster any up sort of cohesion or coherence in my opinions in regards to the new material. I’m sure the majority of the metal world knows by now that Varg has been released from prison and has indeed already released a new record to once again garner support for his musical expressions of the darkness that surrounds our daily lives, despair that tears us apart and the mythological interest that seems to have a great bearing on Varg’s personal life, particularly when it comes to his art, both in the form of music and literature.
Having listened to ‘Belus’ almost every day since its release, I must admit that it is definitely what most people refer to as a “grower”. This record leeches off its listener and imbeds its ideas and mesmerising sound into the individuals brain with its longevity. This record definitely serves up a number of qualities which have proved to be a hit for Varg in his earlier discography, particularly with the likes of ‘Hvis Lyset Tar Oss’ and ‘Filosofem’, my two favourites from his career. Having skim read through an interview or two on Varg’s own personal take on his direction with ‘Belus’, I had already expected a record that wouldn’t deviate much from the one’s which established him in the first place and this was a smart move on my part. If I had expected something different from one of black metal’s first and finest sons, then I may have been disappointed, but with my knowledge of what he was aiming to achieve, I have found I have been able to appreciate what he has had to offer with ‘Belus’ more so than I might have if I shied away from the media interest surrounding his character.
He had stated this record would be like the one’s that came before it, but with a few new touches here and there and that is precisely what ‘Belus’ is. For years people have raved about the “Burzumic” style being ripped off by other bands who were doing the same thing only after Varg himself. To me, this seemed like a cry for black metal musicians to do something different, something unique with the genre and to leave the 1990’s where it belonged - firmly in the past. With that in mind, unfortunately, ‘Belus’ doesn’t offer much in the way of a new direction that Varg hasn’t already explored years previous to its release. Parts of the record and songs in particular, especially those like ‘Belus' Doed’ are almost carbon copies of songs he produced many, many years ago on records like the aforementioned two and perhaps some of his earliest records like the self-titled one, ‘Det Som Engang Var’ and perhaps even the ‘Aske’ EP of 1993.
Songs like ‘Belus' Doed’ would fit perfectly onto older records which, to me, sort of makes them redundant in the modern day. I accept that Varg has his techniques and that he likes sticking to them, but when an artist begins to recycle a sound, then I have to wonder whether it’s warranted anymore. I’m leaning towards the conclusion of no, it isn’t. Though songs like this do showcase the main ideas of the record in general, such as an emphasis on entrancing and repetitious music akin to that of the evil 1990’s, a stage which allowed the genre to flourish and fluctuate into what it has become today, but it doesn’t feel necessary when I consider some of the other songs which take precedence over this one, such as the infectious and bass orientated ‘Morgenroede’. However, though the instrumentation itself may point towards a comparison to the olden day material on ‘Filosofem’, in particular, there have been some alterations, as expected.
In an interview with Varg that I had read, he said that he had wanted to change his vocal style, which he mostly certainly has done. His rasps, or shrieks have altered, but not only that, he has taken inventive measures on ‘Belus’ by supplying an unforeseen use of clean, mesmerising vocals which work particularly well against the backdrop of the instrumentation, which is also mesmerising in approach due to the repetitious stylistic methods and dense production. The production is actually an element which seems to have been called into question with numerous people speaking out about their hatred of it. It isn’t as clean, no, but I think it perfectly suit’s the style of the record and the elongated feel of the atmospheres which stretch into infinity, folding over onto itself and taking on a thick formation which gives the overall sound a real feeling of power and prowess. Although the production feels somewhat dirtier than usual, I actually think it sounds oddly more mature than previous, which works well with the vocal change, particularly when it comes to Varg’s new distorted vocals.
Though I consider them somewhat less agreeable than his previous style, they work well given the alterations. If they were placed onto a record like ‘Filosofem’, then they wouldn’t suit the biting style of the distortion and production, but in this environment, they begin to flourish alongside reinvigorated elements like the bass, which is prominent on songs like the expansive ‘Glemselens Elv’. Although there hasn’t been much of a change when it comes to Varg’s song writing, he still has the capabilities to produce some top drawer moments on songs like ‘Glemselens Elv’, which place an emphasis on mind altering riffs and entrancing riffs. Songs like ‘Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning’ instead opt for the same infectious sound through the use of cleanly spoken vocals which, again, shows an increased sense of invention by Varg, who did state that this is precisely how he always wanted to sing, but didn’t know how to go about doing it. Having spotted several positive traits in ‘Belus’, a song like ‘Sverddans’ comes along and once again places a grain of doubt in my mind over Varg’s presence in today’s black metal scene.
Songs like this wouldn’t be out of place of his self-titled work, for example, and given my personal dislike of his earliest material, I wasn’t at all pleased with this songs presence on the record. It gives ‘Belus’ a somewhat dated feel, as if, once again, he’s simply recycling material which didn’t have a place on older records, or demos. However, I can old school fan lapping this up given its conjuration of the early to mid-1990’s emphasis on evil within black metal atmospherics. However, though this song serves only to grate on my nerves, the one’s which follow it do leave me with a generally positive feel, especially ‘Morgenroede’, which reminds me of post-punk epics given the importance of the bass to the song and the instrumentation in general. The production, though it has a muggy feel, doesn’t detract from the good work of the “smaller” elements of Burzum’s style, like the bass and percussion aspects. Though these areas may not project themselves as explosively as the guitars, or distorted vocal range of Varg, they make me sit up and notice them more so than on previous occasions. I would certainly rate ‘Belus’ amongst Varg’s better records, though I feel nothing can topple the mighty ‘Hvis Lyset Tar Oss’, but it certainly whitewashes over his prison works, which were awful, and his earlier records which I have never come to appreciate as classics.
The first song makes it seem like the last 15 years of black metal never happened (if only!)--could be an outtake from his last pre-incarceration album, Filosofem. And that's... ok. But I think we all really don't JUST want Burzum to be a Burzum clone. And the album really does open out to be much more than that. But what does it add up to? We want something game-changing. We waited long enough.
As the album unfolds, it is apparent that it is NOT game-changing... but then you realize, if we "really knew" what it took to be game-changing, then that would just be an exercise of will. To set out to reinvent everything about music--lots of artists try this, and the history of metal especially is strewn with the failures (Into the Pandemonium) that result. There are very few successes: Bathory's Hammerheart comes to mind as one the great mid-career paradigm shift.
Belus is not so drastically different from earlier Burzum... but it is RADICALLY, shockingly different from the black metal of the last 15 years. The album screams, "You guys got it all wrong!"--and I am completely persuaded. Xasthur, Leviathan, Krieg, Velvet Cocoon, Nachtmystium, Wolves in the Throne Room, and legions of more obscure one-man "Burzum-influenced" bands--- all of this seems completely beside the point now.
However, this would not be the case if Belus JUST sounded like Filosofem. It is better than that album, which was limited by its high concept. Belus is, in a way, the definitive Burzum album---but to understand that statement is not to limit Burzum to a mere style. What makes this record is what makes any record: a great number of "neat parts" and compelling riffs. But what makes this album "journalistically" interesting is that it has *zero* attachment to black metal's trappings... and yet... sounds completely like Burzum. Seemingly we missed the point the first go-round.
Black metal since Burzum's last album has consistently tried to "cheat" and produce the style and dubious "kvlt" attitude of a perceived original scene. The most successful bands were the most eccentric--Vlad Tepes, Sacramentary Abolishment, later Graveland, Bone Awl--and eventually not a single person living will care about most of the last decade's basement black metal. But what we learn here is that Burzum maybe ought never to have had ANYTHING to do with all that in the first place.
There is a lot of beautiful music here to lose yourself in.
Best songs: "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning," "Sverddans," "Keliohesten," "Morgenroede." (tracks #4-7)
Burzum is a band I’ve been a fan of since 1992, and for true black metal music Varg Vikernes is one of the absolute founders of the Norwegian scene, despite many opinions to the contrary. His line of music is one that has seen many changes, both radical and subtle, and all of them have garnered him many fans and criticisms. Some true black metal fans don’t like the progression from Hyis Lyset tar Oss to Filosofem, thinking the more culturally-inspired work not “kult” enough. I suppose, in essence, you either get Burzum or you don’t, and some people cannot adapt to change.
Belus is the first full-length Burzum release in 11-years, and while the elements of black metal are still intertwined within the music, the cultural aspect is richer than ever. Where once you could put on the Aske EP and drive through a snowstorm at night and try hard to imagine yourself on the frozen roads of a Norwegian hillside, this album digs deeper into the roots of Vikernes’ Norwegian heritage. Originally titled “White God,” the album centers around the mythology of Belus, the deity of light, and while all of the lyrics are in Vikernes’ native tongue, the music surely transcends the limitations therein.
As opposed to a typical fanboy espousing the merits and wonders of Burzum, I’d rather cast a very neutral light on what I’m hearing in this CD after one initial listen. I’d say the CD might resonate longer after a second or third hearing, but it is certainly interesting. I’ve managed to stay away from most of the initial banter abound on the ‘net about the album, but one or two blurbs I did catch noted disappointment at it not being another Det som Engang Var, which is inherently silly. Vikernes was still a kid when those albums were made, and while those albums are still viable and very good, he is a man nearing 40 and is more concerned these days with his Scandinavian topics as opposed to the satanic. As for the actual vocals on this CD, I must say they are a pleasant surprise. The vocals of his earlier releases were more in tune with someone stepping on tacks and attempting to sing. I can muster through them, but they are a tough go for me some 18-years later. These vocals are a raspy, very “typical” delivery, but a step in the right direction. I’m sure many people might also feel that the change to the typical vocalization of most black metal bands is conforming rather than separating from the masses, but the music and vocals are a nice partnership.
Vikernes managed all of the instruments on this release as he has with all of the others (save for Samoth’s contribution on the Aske EP), and he is a firm believer in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage. Overall, I think he’s more than competent in the musician area, without question. The Belus music is good metal music, but far from perfect or original. It’s a very nice compliment to the Burzum mythos, albeit a rather obvious one.
I can listen to this CD again and enjoy it, possibly more than the first go-round, but if you’re anticipating a follow-up to 1993 you might well be disappointed. Fans of Filosofem and Hliðskjálf will really enjoy this release. Fans of the atmospheric metal will also certainly get into this. While not too far from the black metal beginnings, the Belus offering is a audible trip to one man’s tribute to the light.
(Originally written for http://www.metalpsalter.com)
Introducing the most anticipated Black Metal release of the millennium. Imprisoned for murdering Mayhem guitarist Euronymous, Varg "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes is now free to take his infamous musical legacy to magnificent new heights. With a back catalogue widely regarded as the best albums in Black Metal, "Belus" proves that Varg's talents as a songwriter never faded after all these years.
As for the controversy, it's best to treat Burzum and Varg's crimes and writings as separate. He himself assured that the band stands only for music and not the right-wing extremism of his published views. A recent interview states, "if those who are not like me are able to enjoy my music that is all fine by me. Be a Christian-born black gay feminist converted to Judaism for all I care, or worse, a Muslim. Just stay off my lawn."
"Belus" is an all-Norwegian concept album centered on its eponymous solar deity, whose familiar manifestations include Baldr and Apollo. The introductory track "Leukes Renkespill" chimes in with the hammer and anvil of the Loki, a.k.a. Hephaistos, stressing the common ancestry of Indo-European mythologies.
The first real song, "Belus' Død," is a sinister march into the past, right back to early 90's Norway. In fact it would fit perfectly on his second album "Det Som Engang Var," though with tremolo harmonies that bring "Filosofem" to mind. On the one hand this is classic Burzum, with simple drumbeats and signature melodies. On the other hand, it‚s immediately evident that Varg's prowess as a guitarist has not only survived prison, but has also taken a quantum leap.
Vocal-wise, Varg's still got it, though his trademark screams have matured into an echoing shriek that suits the warmer, but still raw-as-hell production, likely due to the use of digital and no longer analog equipment. At parts, he seems in dialogue with himself with clean-sung chants and an incredibly effective use of spoken word verses, which often introduce new themes within songs. For example, "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning" oscillates between an angry blast-beat riff and a chanted refrain before launching into perhaps the most majestic moment on the album, where Varg's guitar work shines brightest.
"Glemselens Elv" may be the most beautiful Burzum song ever written, with a melody guaranteed to make you sway to and fro in a meditative trance. All the while tremolo riffs float above the rhythm in perfect harmony. It clocks in at eleven minutes, one for every year since we've gotten a release from this stellar songwriter.
This mastery should be noted in the album's perfect structure, which with each song increases the tempo, peaks at "Sverddans" (featuring an old school guitar solo), then decreases till by the final song the drums have simply melted away.
A key feature of the early 90's albums was the presence of ambient tracks, here absent. This is well forgiven by the fact that his prison term gave us two full electronic albums in the form of "Daudi Baldrs" and "Hlildskjálf."
In short, this is not your typical comeback album. This is the product of a decade-and-a-half of refinement and meditation, and we all knew it would come one day. So here it is, a landmark release that should set the standard for extreme metal in the new decade.
Burzum's "Belus" album shocked more than a few, some expected a dismal album of uninspired music from a former musician, who had created a specialized style of black metal that was based on lingering, ringing chords, punk riffing, and ethereal melodies. Other, I assume, would expect the album that would change their lives, the power of the music overtaking them--they had waited so long for the return of Burzum.
Predictably, this album doesn't really pacify either category, the naysayer nor the sycophant. After a strange intro that sounds like a paint can being shaken before use, we are offered the return of Varg Vikernes via the track "Belus' Doed." In an interesting gesture from the black metal star, we are introduced to a return to form, executed with intent. The intent? To recapture early glories, of course! The track more than resembles the track "Jesus' Tod" from Filosofem, but with a mature and more polished studio sound. Be sure of one thing, the old man's riffing hand is more precise than ever.
Recorded in Grieghallen Studios, the sound is professional and studied, yet the production is tame. There are no unexpected elements for the most part, which is a rather large detriment to this release. The album moves along with nice sounding greyscale black metal. It's not too raw, it's not fragile in any way, nor does it wield a fury. However, the songwriting in Buzum maintains the touchstone melody and thought provoking chord progressions and meditative aspects. That being said, there isn't any poor tracks on this release, and yet there are no exceptional creations either. The signature repetition is there, along with a nicely added pagan "sung" vocal addition on some tracks ("Glemselens Elv").
One facet of this release which does not cheapen it, that also would have been very easy and timely to co-opt, is the complete lack of "atmospheric" black metal ponderousness. This is the style of black metal cheapened, used, and abused by pot-smoking Californian black metal fan-boys like Xasthur and Wolves in the Throne Room. It was heartening to hear a more aggressive and speedy take on black metal riffing, a no frills and no delay effects approach. As the essential innovator behind that more ethereal, ghostly and epic ballad style of metal, this Burzum release could just have just as easily tried to "cash in" on the success of this trend.
Instead, this Buzum album goes along well with the current batch of songs churned out by the re-vitalized Gorgoroth, lead once again by Infernus. "Sverddans" displays a thrash metal fetish that must still be buried in the mind and flowing in the blood of the creator. Nearing the end of the album, "Keliohesten" is another subtle, minimal, quietly raging track of trance-like repetitiveness with some "call to arms" riffing that eludes to the charge at the onset of battle.
Much of this album is status quo for a Burzum release, but there are a few mild surprises. There are a few interesting twists added on this release. Earlier in the album there is a repeated sample employed during "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning" which lends the track a gothic, 80's appeal. Interesting sounding, and yet kind of funny, the track "Morgenroede" features verse music that employs what I could only refer to as an 80's 808 bass beat groove similar to those employed in explicit miami bass rap music. Considering that this is Buzum, once you consider this the track is kind of hilarious. Despite this, the track succeeds, as the bass flourish is, lke the album as a whole, under-stated. In the end I believe that the album works because everything is understated, it's a minor flaw, but if the ideas were presented in a more gratuitous or overwhelming manner, the album could have failed under that additional weight.
Overall, this is a very listenable, albeit uneventful Buzum album which proves that Vikernes still has strong songwriting skills, mastery of his chosen instrument, and, now, a lot of money as well. He has aged gracefully.
After over a decade when Varg Vikernes was in jail and released just two all-synthesiser albums under the Burzum name as part of an intended trilogy and which attracted poor reviews and much criticism, I confess my expectations for "Belus" were not high. I was prepared to give Burzum another chance since the earlier recordings that I know have been good. Fortunately "Belus" turns out to fall into that category too: it's not up to the level of "Filosofem" and "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" in originality and emotional intensity but it's nowhere near as ghastly as "Hlidskjalf", one of the all-synth albums in the failed trilogy. All the same, "Belus" is inconsistent musically over eight songs and unless listeners know something of the lyrical theme that binds the whole album together, they are likely to be confused as to what Vikernes wants to be or is trying to achieve with his songs. (Astute MA readers will notice I didn't mention the "Daudi Baldrs" album but at this time of writing I had not heard the album. Being the kind of curious dumbo that I am, it's perhaps a wonder that I've not heard it yet. I understand I may not be missing anything much.)
The early songs in "Belus" sound very like part 2 of "Filosofem" in their repetitive minimal structures and their dominant guitar melodies and riffs. These have the same flowing quality and could almost be variations of the tunes on "Filosofem". What's different about these is their sound - it's a lot deeper and stronger, not so thin, and perhaps this is the sound Burzum was seeking for "Filosofem" before jail-time came between him and the album. The vocals are upfront and much more confident, and on quite a few songs on "Belus", black metal vocals and clean-toned vocals, spoken and sung, alternate as though Vikernes was engaged in a dialogue with himself or an imagined second person. The vocals often carry anger or some other emotion like resignation or indifference while more intense and complex emotions are carried by the guitar riffs and the drum rhythms - check out the half-happy / half-bitter ambience of the guitar passage in "Kaimadalthas Nedstigning". But apart from the technical details of Burzum's updated sound, there isn't much new or different from previous Burzum work in the first half of the album.
There is a short phase (tracks 5 and 6) of tight punchy aggressive melodic metal in the middle of "Belus" which is sure to go down well with a lot of listeners. The drumming rhythms are tight and fast and are like death metal rhythms. Vikernes scrabbles a lot with the fast guitar melodies but the structure of the songs being limited to repeated riffs, neither of them really goes anywhere, there's no climax or resolution to the quick build-up of tension and anger, and the songs end as suddenly as they begin.
The last two tracks are something completely different: they're very noisy and loose, they have a melancholic and definite black metal feel, and they verge on experimentation with sound, mood and energy. The guitars are so bleedingly raw in their tones that they acquire a hellish sound though embedded within is an electric sparkle. The constant repetition ends up reverberating in your head. In the very last track, drums fall away so it is all just ongoing relentless repetition of trilling guitar notes surging onwards and never seeming to end. The guitar seems to acquire a life-force that is all sheer energy.
The themes of isolation, dread and melancholy that were present on "Hvis Lyset ..." and "Filosofem" and which made those albums very intense emotionally haven't carried over to "Belus". Instead we have a theme of a god who descends to the underworld and comes back to ours though what the god returns with and how the experience makes the god a better or worse ... um, entity, I suppose, isn't revealed. Even if the god learns no useful lessons or has no new understanding and insights into his character, he could have had some effect on the underworld and the interaction between the two might have made for an interesting experience involving some emotional intensity: the god could have met an underworld friend but this being might not be able to leave the place or can leave only if the god meets certain conditions which he fails to do. I can see the parallel between this theme of descent into the underworld and rebirth - it's a theme that appears in ancient Germanic and Slavic religions - and Vikernes's recent personal history so there was plenty of opportunity and potential to personalise that myth of descent / ascent and to bring out the emotions inherent in that myth: the sense of struggle, coping with failure and despair, wondering what's happening in the outside world, will the rules change and I'm stuck here forever, the mixed feelings that come when you're on the rise (will I keep going up and up? am I being set up? if I get out, how will I cope?) and the exhilaration that comes when finally you're back out in the sunlight. Somehow though in the early half of "Belus", we get little sense of the despair and hopelessness that Vikernes might have experienced when he first went to prison. In tracks 5 and 6, the anger and determination start coming through but if fear and hope had been mixed through these emotions as well, the intensity that could have resulted might have made the songs more interesting.
In some tracks there is potential for the music to go off in a different direction or undergo a change or variation that might lift it in style or mood, and Vikernes is capable of throwing pleasant surprises as in the song "Kaimadalthas Nedstigning" where he struck out at a tangent in the instrumental section so why he didn't do the same for other songs, especially in tracks 5 and 6 which need a tension release to represent death or the end of struggle, is a puzzle. I can understand tracks 7 and 8 being loose and almost experimental in the context of the theme as they represent the god acquiring on new life. So there isn't a lot in "Belus" that will hold listeners spellbound all the way through. It's likely that parts of the album will appeal to some people and other parts to others but there may not be many who will like everything equally.
As he wasn't all that active musically while he was in jail, I'm inclined to look kindly on Vikernes for backtracking to where he left off and to carry over the better aspects of the Burzum project as it was in the late 1990s but I'm disappointed that his music hasn't changed much in style, structure or themes during the time he spent in prison, and even with what he has, he doesn't extend his range to the utmost. I'm aware he spent most of his jail-time on self-education and other non-musical activities which might be assumed to have influenced his music. It seems Vikernes's experience of prison - I hear it was fairly benign - didn't have much positive effect on his musical development which may be kind of ironic for those MA readers in countries where being in prison means being tortured physically, mentally and spiritually, and never having a hope of ever being released or seeing your loved ones ever again.
After a decade of absence, Burzum returns with a poppier, simpler, droning form that loses the sense of transcendence that made earlier Burzum great. It falls short of the past because unlike past albums, this new Burzum is designed to mimick the past successes of Burzum and others, as if the album were a means to an end like profit or notoriety.
Influences from the Slavic black metal scene are immediately apparent; the riffs are radically simplified and the song structures have reverted to a primitive A-B-A pattern. A dominant theme is introduced and then cycles with small changes being added sequentially, then there's a kind of extended bridge, and then we're back where we started. Where previous riffs were arranged melodically, this album is composed harmonically, with progressions set up to suggest a basic chord and then embellishment occurring in the spaces between notes. There's more dynamic energy in the fills than in the riffs themselves.
At least two songs sound like they are pre-Burzum. "Svarddans" could be lifted from Terrorizer's "Fear of Napalm," and seems incomplete, in that a main riff cycle diverts into a strange interlude and then returns as if two songs were pasted together. "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning" is a mishmash of influences from Destruction to Metallica in a big sloppy mess that has been stripped down and cleaned up here. Vikernes is of course at the height of his musical abilities, so he can make anything sound good, but the method of making "anything" sound good doesn't result in great songs -- only great interpretations of dumb songs.
The remaining songs have basic riffs without phrase, meaning that they are a series of chords on a relatively uniform pattern of rhythmic intervals, and between those chords the fills and embellishments give character and depth, then the chord progression periodically shifts its concluding note. Sound like anything you know? Yes, it resembles the "black metal flavored" indie rock of the Pacific Northwest, which combines well with the Drudkh-inspired droning ambient layers. As if to really make a hash of it, the band then injects Swedish melodic death metal touches to adorn the otherwise spare riffs.
Most people will say this is not Burzum's best, but that it would be good for most bands. I'll go further and say that, like "Divine Intervention" or "Slaughter of the Soul," this is a smart band dumbing down their material in order to guarantee a captive audience. It's like Burzum's version of the Metallica black album in that it's designed for a shorter attention span. So although it's better than most black metal, it loses what would make it a keeper for the next few decades, like the earlier Burzum albums were.
Fourteen long and cold winters have passed since Burzum's last black metal masterpiece Filosofem haunted the dark underground in Norway and influenced many people before and after it to attempt to write an album that could skim the surface of its legacy. After Varg Vikerne's renowned murder of Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth , media began to catch on to the Norwegian black metal scene and its following around the globe. Not only were other black metal bands getting exposure in various countries, but ironically enough the mainstream media would help furthermore boost Burzum's reputation as one of the best black metal acts there is, there was and there ever will be. Both Vikernes and Burzum were very important catalysts of a new influential wave of music for anyone who could connect with the themes of such a dark genre. Burzum's newest album Belus is, undoubtedly, the most anticipated record of the year and in metal, for it has already proven to be a masterpiece that shows utter ignorance towards black metal made after '96. Varg walks the lonesome path he has journeyed in the past and takes us back to a time before the scene's commercialization, stereotypes, and fan base of leisurely listeners oblivious of the meaning within the chaos.
After an odd but fitting intro, the attack of true Norwegian black metal begins in the second track 'Belus' Doed.' The song is appropriately reminiscent of the popular 'Jesus' Dod' both in riffs and in meaning. The production is what you'd expect: grainy, muted yet listenable goodness that only a pioneer of the aesthetic could capture. The musicianship is better than ever; structures have been mixed up, catchy finger-moving riffs have been added, bass and drums are highlighted in a few parts, and spoken word from Vikernes has been respawned in a few songs such as 'Belus' Doed,' 'Morgenroede,' and 'Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning.' Those who enjoy Burzum's ambient work more than metal work (very rare) will be a bit disappointed when they are deprived of any in Belus. The shortest of the songs, 'Sverddans' (2:23), is an artistic piece which takes place of any ambient "intermission" and accurately depicts a sword dance with it's musical motifs and finger-moving riffs talked about previously that have been rare to Burzum until now.
The album is scattered and does not follow a linear path to it's conclusion which is ultimately Belus's return. It has been explained on Burzum.org that Belus is Vikerne's nickname for the god of light and beauty Baldr and not a symbolic translation for any racist viewpoints. The myth "The Death of Baldr" tells the tale of a feared assistant of the gods Loki and his act to kill Baldr. Loki, jealous of the affection the gods give to Baldr, magically alters a mistletoe that was said to be too weak to harm Baldr. After giving the mistletoe to the blind god and Bladr's brother Hodur, he shoots the god of light and beauty and kills him. Hermod (Kaimadalthas in the album) is sent down to Hel with Odin's horse Sleipnir to rescue Baldr and return light and beauty back to the gods. Some could argue that the story has parallels to the silent feud between Aarseth and Vikernes hence the concept all together. Nevertheless, the music portrays the story perfectly in a lot of the songs: The opening tremolos in 'Belus' Doed' depicting grief and hopelessness of the gods while reflecting Loki's wickedness in the slower darker chords of the verse; the fast paced riffs in 'Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning' depicting Hermod's ride into the depths of Hel; and the slow, emerging sound depicting Belus' triumphant return to Asgard. The symbolism can be found anywhere.
I'm still finding it hard to believe that this album was just written and recorded in the past two years. Whether or not Varg recorded this before prison and hid it away somewhere to release it once he was finally free, Belus is a very special album; a masterpiece so great that we forget about the latest metal records and get lost within the world of Burzum. Needless to say, anyone truly appreciative of meaningful, majestic music should look no further than Belus.
Originally written for Lunar Hypnosis
What can be said about one of the most legendary people the black metal scene has produced? Probably nothing new, since pretty much everyone knows the entire history of it all, Varg’s part in it and the reasons behind the 16-year incarceration. Therefore, I’ll try to concentrate on the music itself as much as possible.
This is a masterpiece. I’m sorry for blurting out the conclusion straight away, but I simply had to – I’ve been wondering what this album would sound like for years, especially having in mind that it was preceded by bona-fide genre classics Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem. And not only did it not disappoint, it exceeded my expectations. The first thing that becomes obvious is that the years passed had zero influence on the way Burzum sounds – it all sounds raw, unpolished and sincere as ever (unsurprisingly so, since Varg stated in his latest interview that he used almost the same equipment as during the nineties). Secondly, Varg’s vocals sound much deeper and more mature now, both in terms of age and feel. I’m not sure whether his old vocal style would complement the music better, but I certainly don’t consider this new style a drawback; clean vocals are also present more than ever, but utilised in a chanting way, adding to the hypnotic feel of the album, which is a definite plus. Now, onto the real treat here – the guitar riffs themselves. Herein is a culmination of everything that made Burzum that damn good back at the day. Long, hypnotic riffs of “Det Som En Gang Var” or “Jesu Død”, the beautiful melancholy of “Decrepitude”, the wall of sound of “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”, the harshness of “War” – it’s all thrown in for good measure, and not only thrown in, but masterfully blended into a coherent juggernaut of an album, while keeping that infamous atmosphere only Burzum is known for unscathed.
From the intro track and riffs straight off Dauði Baldrs, which the first real track is composed off exclusively (this time played on guitar, the way they’ve always been intended to be played), to the end of the album, you’re bound to enjoy every second of it. Not only are the riffs contagious like the Black Death itself, they are actually developed into different variations throughout the song, bringing complexity to the otherwise rather singular tracks; imagine “Jesu Død” on steroids and you get the picture of “Glemselens Elv”, the epitome of this album and everything that is Burzum in general. That’s the Manichaeic aspect of this album – the spectrum created between simplicity and countless variations, layers and aspects every repeating riff takes throughout each song. Simple drum beats, ordinary bass playing, simplicity of the riffs themselves, all those are completely irrelevant once the album takes you upon the journey it tries to depict. The only thing lacking here in comparison to the older output is keyboard ambience – Varg relied on string instruments exclusively this time around, and although I consider “Channeling The Power Of Souls Into A New God” or “Svarte Troner” fantastic tracks, I cannot say that the album suffers because such tracks were excluded this time around.
I seriously can’t imagine any Burzum fan not worshipping this album. Its intricate details, abundance of elements, ingenious songwriting and the unique, unchanged atmosphere that adorns and valorizes every note of what may seem raw and primitive in hands of others – that’s what places this album head and shoulders over anything else Burzum has released so far. It’s nothing shockingly original or groundbreaking, but it’s nevertheless much-appreciated polish on the legacy of one of black metal’s cornerstones – something that other ones lack in certain regards. It’s as interesting as it is singular, as archaic as it is fresh. Time shall tell whether this album will become a classic of the genre, but it’s definitely become a jewel in its crown.
(originally written for http://www.metal-sound.net)
Well, it’s been 16 years and finally mister Kristian Vikernes is out of jail. Sure, since he’s been locked up there has been metal Burzum material released, but it was all pre-recorded before he went to prison so it was all from the same stream of ideas. Then we had the atrociously cheesy, MIDI, Daudi Baulders and then the somewhat decent ambient album Hilksojef. I will save you some time and say, no, it’s not AS good as Filsofem or Hvis, but this is still a great, great album and will be a classic in the future.
There was a growing fear amongst many people fear amongst fans that Burzum would never release more metal material whatsoever, (I remember reading a rumour that said he planned to release a House music album when he got out. I died a little inside when I read that) probably from some skewed, confusing interviews he did, and that metal Burzum was dead. But I am glad to tell you all that he has hardly abandoned black metal. In fact, this album is more metal then ambient in every way. In fact, it isn’t the general style of ambient black metal at all.
If I were to best describe Belus, it would be that it is Burzums ambient work, but without the ambient synths. There is barely any synth work in here whatsoever, but the riffs are far more similar to that of Hvis lyst tar os and Filosofem, but there is some reverting to the Burzum/Aske album here as well. The album starts off with an opener that will remind anyone whose seen The Warriors of the famous bottle clanking seen, "Warriors, come out to play,” and then it’s off to the first track, Belus' Død. The track instantly reminds you of Filsofem and you soon anticipate the synths, but they never come. You listen track by track, getting the same crackled, mellow drummed, haunting Burzum you always remembered, yet different.
Vargs idea with this album was to tell the old legend of the death of the “White God” who may refer to many European deities such as Apollo, Belus, Baldr, Bragi and many more. It goes through his murder by another deity (in this particular case, Belus is killed by the god Leuke), his journey in the underworld and finally his rebirth. Fuck, if he didn’t shank Oystein twenty-five times with a knife, you’d think Varg was a harmless nerd...
Anyway, so this is where the lyrical concept lies. Vargs lyrics have always been simple yet very poetic, generally not writing more than 20 lines, yet having the affect of 100 in terms of artistic value. This time, he has written full on narratives story for this album, making it a concept album. Now, I can’t read Norwegian and there aren’t any good translators online so I’m going to go with a guess that they are probably pretty interesting.
As I said, this album holds more torches to DSEV/HLTO/Filo more than anything else, but there are a few tracks (such as 4 and 5) which feel a lot more like the chaotic, violent black metal that Burzum/Aske was; Blast beated, violent drumming with some thrash to the riffs bringing a first wave BM feel to Burzum that hasn’t been felt since the latter mentioned album. Other than that, it’s the mellow drummed, eerie, cold riffed work of ambient Burzum we all know and love as well.
Something that I will note as a HUGE improvement: the vocals. Now, I loved all of Burzums metal work, but I don’t think there is a person out there who doesn’t think Vargs vocals on those albums are some of the most god-awful, pain inducing sounds that one can’t possibly fathom being produced by an animal of Earth. Sure, Filosofem saw him just putting distortion into his voice, but that’s cheating. On Belus, it’s apparent Varg has been practicing to improve himself because instead of sounding like a nails on a chalk board he sounds like a normal black metal vocalist. Some may say he’s losing his indivuality, I say it’s him not sounding like shit. Honestly, the dude should re-do his vocal tracks for ALL of his albums with his current vocal style.
The production style hasn’t changed much. I think it’s a little cleaner, but that may be due to the fact that it is way easier to do professional home recordings now a days and that you have to try in order to sound kvlt (which, admittedly he did do on filsofem by using a fuzz pedal and a TV as an amp and a head set as a mic). Another factor is that I think Varg was trying to make this a more mature album then previously, and was more focused on telling a musical story then being bad ass
Even though he has left out his synths for this “ambient” black metal album, it still very much feels like a Burzum album in all aspects. His work is something that has been copied but never truly cloned, and this is a testament to his style. This a much more mature album and I think one could truly admire the album considering he made it as soon as he got out of prison. Most people visit their families, or explore the country and see how it is changed, but no, Varg did none of this, instead he came back, moved to Bø (home to Norway’s biggest water park!) and started doing what he loved most: making some kvlt-ass black metal.