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Emerging from the Fog - 88%

Grimmenfrost, March 8th, 2010

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