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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)