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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.