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Burzum's early output is excellent, that's hard to deny. The early Burzum albums are raw, angry master pieces with just enough experimentation to keep them sounding different from your average black metal band. This demo also stands apart from the rest of the black metal scene, but for all the wrong reasons.
I have no issue with harsh recordings. This isn't just a demo, but a black metal demo, it comes with the genre. While not at this point black metal, the early Darkthrone tapes used simple, distinct riffs and creative use of distortion WITH the harshness of the recording to make a choking blanket of white noise. Same story with Mayhem, Marduk, Bolt Thrower, Gut and every other extreme metal act. All bands releasing demos for sale use the low production value to their advantage in some way. Here however, the production quality works AGAINST the songs. The bass is inaudible, the guitars sound like wet farts and the drums are a distorted mess. It's as if Varg purchased all his equipment with food stamps and recorded the entire thing in a different room. The quality is at best listenable and at worst absolutely hilariously awful. There's also problems with the audio levels, where songs will suddenly become inaudibly quiet or way louder then normal. The demo might actually be a great listen for audio engineers, just to see what it sounds like when you do everything wrong.
On top of this, the songs really aren't that great either. Not a single riff sticks out in my mind as being salvageable, it's all just lazy mid-tempo trash, which is odd because Varg can write some really great guitar parts (See "The Crying Orc" or "Jesu Tod"). The early days of Burzum are constantly pestered with average-at-best drum skills, and while the simple rhythms are usually made up for by large amounts of charm and ingenuity, here the drums are just barely keeping the beat of the slow songs. The lack of any vocals here strikes me as just plain odd. It feels like part of the music is missing, as if Varg forgot to record them or he gave up. Neither would surprise me.
All and all, this is an awful demo, 3 boring songs done by someone with no idea how to play or record them. Skip this demo and go straight for the first album, it's a much better introduction.
One might think that a band like Burzum would have some amazing demos. Heck, his early albums are raw enough as it is and the production is so minimal that some would argue that they aren’t far from demo quality to begin with. The primitive style of early Burzum works so well with a raw atmosphere that it seems as if it could sound really powerful in an even rawer form. Well, that all works better in theory then it does it practice. Burzum’s first demo is a complete and utter disaster; a god-awful performance and comically bad recording that renders several classic tracks intolerable.
The recording quality is just awful and not in a “raw” or “necro” way, but rather in a “this guy had no idea what he was doing when he recorded this,” way. The sound quality is horrendous. The music constantly fades in and out, increasing and decreasing in volume, sometimes to such a degree that music almost goes silent. There is also a ton of hiss and other interference. Furthermore, the guitars just sound awful. They lack punch and are overly jittery as if the battery on the amp was about to run out of electricity. Furthermore, the demo is totally instrumental, which means there are no vocals to distract us from the abdominal performance. While these are excellent compositions, without Varg's ravaging screams they lack a center point.
The ambient track “Channeling…” fares no better than its metal brethren. There is a highly irritating and constant clicking noise in the background; it’s as if a metronome was accidentally left on while Varg recorded the track. There is also a random burst of distortion that washes out the sound. The keyboard itself doesn’t sound awful, but it is fairly one-dimensional and lacks the girth Burzum's later keyboard recordings have.
There is really no benefit to this demo. The execution is awful and the production is horrendous. This does not create a dark or evil atmosphere or anything of the sort. Time would be better spent listening to the studio versions for a hundredth time than listening to this demo even once.
(Originally written for http://deinos-logos.blogspot.com)
The start of Burzum. The infamous Burzum, arguably one of the most influential and infamous black metal bands...and what a way to start.
This demo is breathtaking. The absolutely horrible sound quality of early 90's Norwegian black metal demos is present and it adds so much to this demo it is unbelievable. At least half of the atmosphere is created by the sound quality because it just feels so dark and destructive and hopeless. I don't understand why people complain about how bad black metal demos' sound quality is because it adds so much to the music.
Now to the music itself. It's pure genius. Varg is a mastermind at creating this type of ambient black metal. His use of minor scales and tempo changes are insane, especially if you take into account how young he was when he released this. Love him or hate him, you cannot help but respect his musical capabilities. The riffs are executed at a very slow pace and somewhat melodically, although they do suffer a bit from buzzing. The drums are also played slowly. There isn't anything special going on in the drums or the bass as well, but that's fine by me because they would ruin the atmosphere of dread that this demo has. Okay, maybe a little bit more bass would have helped, but still. Every track is unique and has breathtaking riffs. This demo is instrumental as you probably already knew, which adds even more to the overall affect.
This demo creates a great atmosphere and has some ingenious work, however it is far from perfect. The bass and drums are lacking, and even though each song is unique, they do stay at around the same tempo. This demo is still well worthy of the name Burzum. If you see this on Ebay or something, I would definitely get it. It's a piece of black metal history and is awesome music as well.
Burzum... Varg Vikernes... one of the most famous (or infamous) metal musicians ever. Burning churches, murdering people, you know the deal. However, I have never listened to his first demo, until today. Believe me folks, this is true evil black metal at its finest. No blast beats, no fast drum patterns, no vocals (huh? yeah, it's true), just eerie, highly distorted, low quality produced music. Extremely harsh and ear raping (good for me, bad for many), this is something a true black metal fan (or weird music altogether) should definitely not miss, for you shall not be dissapointed.
The atmosphere is just brilliant, like something you would hear in your nightmares; truly evil. Maybe gothic people claim they're evil and dark, but they're not close to this. Gothic music makes you think of darkness, only with a light. Like there's some sort of hope. You stand in the darkest place, but you can still see the light. While the song ''channeling the power of souls into a new god'', for example, brings you to a place where there's absolute darkness, ghastly sounds and no hope.
Black metal demos are usually like this. Raw, harsh and really agressive. And this is certainly not the exception. So, if you want to hear the soundtrack for pure darkness, this is the perfect choice.
Burzum Demo I. is the most raw release of Burzum ever. The rythm is slower than on later tracks and sometimes the parts are strangley mixed, but its still Varg and this is still Burzum - and that makes it great. Vikernes put soul and heart in it and rawness makes it just better.
"Lost Wisdom" - The guitars do get kinda annoying sometimes on this track, because of bad mixing, but its raw and thrashy - just as it should be. Vikernes is a great composer and drums mix with the melody perfectly.
The fact that this album was produced so poorly, makes it really just better. The drums on "Spell of Destruction" are 1000 times better than on later productions. They sometimes sound like smashing some wood with drum sticks, and its extremly fantastic.
"Channeling The Power Of Souls Into a New God" - Wow, amazing, reminds me of old Mortiis' stuff, its pure ambient and beautiful. Varg is a genius composer, as I said before, and that fused with his feelings, creates togethere great ambient music and thats why Burzum didn't stop losing fans even after he switched to ambient.
I give 50 % for great composition and the other 50 % for extreme production, which I love so much. Hails!
I actually didn't mind this at all. Old obscure black metal demos usually sound like crap, especially extremely low quality rehearsals. This is one of those cases. As the first few seconds of Lost Wisdom started, a track I'm already well familiar with and adore, I started to think, "Man, I'm going to hate this so much." The volume is extremely quiet, production is terrible, no vocals, inaudible drums (if there even are any I can't tell), and an awful guitar tone. Sounds like absolute rancid asshole overall. I let it play on anyway.
As Lost Wisdom went on, I sort of listened to the music in a different way than I would its finalized black metal version that appeared on Det Som Engang Var. It definitely doesn't feel as dark as his studio work. The guitar tone, after accepting that it just sounds the way it sounds, starts to remind me of an old SNES game or and old independent RPG. This is because the notation commonly used in black metal is here, but the way the production makes the instruments sound is totally reminiscent of Zelda or Castlevania. Sounds weird, I know, but it's true. Same goes for the last two tracks.
To put it briefly, even though the production is crap and the songs bear vague resemblance to their final products, there is some quality to be found here. It's still a surprisingly pleasant and even fun listen that I would recommend to anybody.
The first, and most noticable quality of Burzum's first demo, is the terrible sound quality. Depending on the release media you happen to listen to, this can range from nearly inaudible drums to a hiss that is equal in volume to the guitar. In addition, the volume levels do fluctuate throughout the release, even within a single track, at times.
In some ways, the production of this demo adds to its charm and mood. In "Channeling the Power of Souls", the keyboards have an ethereal quality, expanding out of the background hiss and then retreating, once more, back into nothingness.
There is a fantasy element to this music, an epic quality. Eschewing complexity for emotional resonance, each piece defines its own space and terms. Ascending guitar slides in "Spell of Destruction" not only mark a shift in phrase, but accentuate a philosophical point.
This is the nascent artist finding his voice. It is emotionally complex, compositionally interesting, and difficult in its language. It is "orchestral" music played on primitive instruments. In every way, this first release from Burzum defines everything that is good about black metal, and sets out a trajectory for the new genre to follow.
Hearing this now, over fifteen years later, I am still amazed, and moved.
These 3 rehearsal songs are Varg's earliest compositions under the moniker of Burzum. The songs presented here are Lost Wisdom, Spell of Destruction, Channeling the Power of Souls, and an unlisted outro. These are some of Varg's most primitive recordings aside from Old Funeral, and the demo itself is more or less an extremely important aspect of the genre because of it's impact on Norwegian black metal and the future of the style alike.
The music itself is considerably darker than the re-recorded versions that most people have heard. There are no vocals present, and production fades in and out, for the most part sounding terrible, but not to the extent of making the individual instruments incomprehensible. The songs tend to seem much longer than their later versions because of the vocal absence, and obviously, the production. The overall feeling of this demo is very grim and dark, and the music here highlights the sound and feeling of Vikernes' music and soon-to-be style of the Norwegian second wave. I would honestly rather listen to this demo over the versions of the songs on the debut. It captures the essence of black metal and the meaning of Burzum so much more…
Attaining the actual demo would be about as hard as trying to acquire a winning lottery ticket. In other words, it probably just won't happen. Apparently the material here is subjected to a ton of bootlegging, so obtaining the music in some format should not be extremely hard, provided you actually look hard enough. This demo is one of the most important releases in the history of black metal, and listening to the music therein should remind you of that. The score I have given it is out of sheer significance to the genre and from the fact that is represents a true darkness which has seemingly only been captured by Vikernes himself.
Varg Vikernes' project, Burzum, was formed after the departure of Old Funeral. The Youth's musical passion hadn't died, and the spirit lives on as the first demo was released, simply titled Demo I. Demo I has 3 songs that have been a major target by bootleggers, Lost Wisdom, Spell of Destruction, and Channeling the Power of Souls.
The demo was recorded what sounds similar to the production quality of Mayhem's famous Pure Fucking Armageddon demo. With it's noticable "taking low end too far" production that makes your ears scream in pain due to it's harshness the release is one that is so cryptic to hear what's going on in the background, which is usually a few chords here, and there. Like most demos by early black metal bands it was limited, very primitive music for the sake of being extreme, far before any idealogical concepts were concieved through the art of black metal.
Also it seems there are no vocals on this original demo, which makes the minutes seem like hours as each of the 3 songs drag on 4 to 5 minutes with 2 riffs consisting of a couple chords played in very raw, low end be-all-end-all muddy production. The overall music itself is pretty dark, and moody like much of Varg's work has been throughout the years.
A powerful demo if you can stand listening to it once, and even so it merits that much. A must listen to for any serious burzum fan, just to experience this release one time is a fascinating treat. The dark, yet primitive aesthetics of this release give the music a lot of character despite it's poor production quality.
I know that my rating is a bit high for a demo that only has guitars and drums, but this recording is something really special that caught my attention from the first time. The quality you can imagine is not the best you can find. But in those days you did not have a lot of money to pay for studio time. Grishnack recorded this in (what it seems to be, I don't really know) some rehearsal place with a regular radio-cassette system so I've heard. Since Grishnack only could have handled one instrument I've wondered who the drummer is. Could he be Olivier Lancelot (Ulver, among others) who is sometimes credited as beeing a part of Burzum? Nevertheless I've just thought of that just for the sake of it.
Lost Wisdom - One of the best Burzum tracks, re-recorded later for the "Det Som Engang Var" album shows what Burzum is really about. Minimalistic composition, but still energic in mid-tempo. The drums are also primitive and not that extranvagant as some people demand nowadays.
Spell of Destruction - A track that stinks of intelligence. I haven'r really said this about any track before, but this composition is really one of the smartest and intelligent ones. Grishnack used as with the previous track minor scales. The drums are more energic on this track than the previous, hiting the tomes also, not just the hi-hat, bas, snare and crash as the previous one. The rythm shifts between slow and fast on different parts of the song.
Channeling... - Performed on keyboards and I think guitar or bass (or both). The keyboard pretty much plays everything over and over again, a melody that is filled with melancholy and loneliness. The guitar or a distorted bass is filling in with great tunes that concorde excellent with the keyboard. No drums on this track, which is fine, since drums would have been a terrible misstake on this song.
Outro - The ending of the demo, this outro is unlisted. Keyboards and what seems a guitar are performing something indistinguishable. The quality is too poor to make a proper description of this. But the track however made me fantasize about exploring a dark cave with only a torch in my hands.
In the end I would like to say that it doesn't really matter how bad the quality is of a recording if it has feeling and that is exactly what Burzum's first demo has. This is one classic recording that will never die.