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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.