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Classic Burzum Moving On - 90%

SRX, March 11th, 2010

Is there even any point in talking about the story here? This album Belus is easily one of the most anticipated metal albums ever since Varg got out of Jail. There were plenty of optimistic fans eager to get their ears against some new Burzum material. But then there were some who were afraid Varg lost his edge over the last decade and this album was going to be a complete disaster. I personally had no idea and I was basically open for anything.

Stylistically and structure wise, this is old school Burzum at its core. This I am certain of, so if you were afraid he might do some weird folk polka ambient thing, at least be at peace about this. But when you look deeply at the song writing, complications arise. It has been said that most of the actual material was written long ago back in the Uruk-Hai days, but the arrangements are much more different. There is some maturity in these songs, and at some points the evidence of Varg willing to show some true creativity.

After the odd intro, where a musique concrete percussive sound repeats itself in a moderate pace, Belus Doed shows the first example of the black metal Burzum we all know. Wait is this actually Jesus' Tod? It seems to borrow a bunch of riffs from it in Belus Doed. The production seems to have gotten a lot of flak but I think its fine. The buried interments set for a cold cryptic atmosphere and the vocals roar out in a chilling force. People also claimed that the drums were a drum machine. They definitely are lo-fi but they don't feel too fake. I don't really notice the drums as much as it plays a really subtle role in the rhythm in all the songs.

Burzum as I have mentioned, has grown a bit in creativity. Glemselens Elv is this epic hypnotic journey through pure bliss. It makes sense since this is about the rivers of lethe. The guitars and drums are blazing around this swirling tremolo riff while the bass is played, loud in the mix (which is something you don't hear much in black metal), at a half paced strumming line. This slight rhythmic feel is something rather different in this type of genre which seems to generally have the bass follow the guitars to the letter. The theme drones on keeping you in the classic Burzum trance throughout this monstrously long track, occasionally dwelling on a more harmonic change that slightly deviates from the main melody and melds well. Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning is a contrasting piece, starting on a furious thrashy section and periodically dropping out to this break leaving a soft arpeggio pattern to the side and some minimalistic drum pattern. Varg comes with this spoken word line that keeps repeating under a soft hymn like chant that fits in with that soft beat. The jumps are fast but are done very well keeping the listener intrigue throughout the song.

It isn't all good though. The later part of the middle of the album stars to drop in quality. Sverddans is this two and half minute type trash rocker but it sounds so lame when heard amongst some serious epic tracks. It breaks the flow real bad but thankfully its short so its not too bad. Keliohesten is sort of a basic black metal Burzum songs, going through the long intros and the general screech verses that come and go. It goes into a thrasher feel later which is pretty cool throughout. Overall and O.K song but not amazing.

The last portion of the album is a tremendous epic. This album is actually a loose concept album based off the death of Belus, his trip to the land of the death, and return. The song Morgenroede (meaning dawn) is a glorious piece, starting with a tense melody, and Varg gives some harsh verses of chilling proportions. Later it opens up to this majestic drone section, that echos out in a force so powerful. It reminds me of the album cover, hearing the fantastic anthem while witnessing the glorious sunrise. Its feel is pretty surprising given Burzum's usual choice of grim and frostbitten songs. Belus' Tilbakekomst is the final piece, being a really drawn out drone outré. It dwells on this crucial tensions, of one sustained chord buzzing underneath the the spaciously executed chord strum, adding that tense feel yet holding you in to that trance. It slowly fades out, making the album concluded but opens up this question of whether the story is really over due to no real resolve in the music.

The album already has had much mixed views. Some are hailing this as the return of Burzum based off the old school black metal sound, but others are disappointed saying Burzum can never be as good as Hvis Lyset Tar Oss or Filosofem. This isn't his best but its definitely close to being a classic. This is a Burzum album that instantly clicked with me the moment is listened to it for the first time. It's strong narrative really grabs you in and gets you to follow along all the throughout the album. It isn't perfect but the flaws are few and short. The production is really fine, and fits well with Varg's transition into the new world of metal and his more resolved interpretation of the black metal genre.

Hopefully Varg will work out the kinks and pulls out a really true masterpiece for the next album. Belus is nearly there but needed a few things ironed out. To be fair, Varg has had limited access to intruments so its expected he will need some warming up to do first. Even so, this album is a worthy addition the Burzum discography and shows Varg's ability to bring amazing black metal even after all this time.