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I'm amazed at the quality of this album. Very few modern black metal albums reach this level of quality. Belus was an excellent release, and Burzum's best in years, but it is not as good as it's follow up, Fallen.
The music on Fallen is beautiful sounding, and, while it has the aggression of black metal, It features extensive use of clean vocals, with the melodicrity of power metal. All of the choruses easily to remember, and they flow really well. Varg does just as good of a job at clean vocals as he does with rasped ones. The vocals on 'Jeg Faller' really stand out, with half of the song featuring well-defined clean vocals. These are actually sung, unlike earlier Burzum clean vocals, which were talked. Varg must have lost a lot of rasp from not singing during his time in prison, as it is unbelievable that this is the same guy who screams his head off with a howled sound. Fallen definitely has its share of rasped vocals as well, with the rasps being far more intense than on Belus, and they also have a slightly howled sound, like early Burzum. 'Vanvidd' has the harshest vocals, with some terrifying shrieks in the middle of the song. It's amazing how flexible his voice is.
The production is excellent, and people who say it's untrue are wrong. The album's production is fitting. A more melodic sound needs cleaner production. Varg himself said that a lot of time was spent on mastering the album. The production is much better than Belus, which, in my opinion, has the worst production of any Burzum album. It's very warm and thick, and everything sounds a bit muffled on that album. The production here is well finished, and it has great sharpness too it, but not to the point where it spoils the album by making it too light. The guitar tone here is also great, being very balanced, and it's not fuzzed or anything. You can hear a lot of what he is playing, but not all, as there are some very intricate overturned riffs as well. Multitracked guitars are a major part of Fallen, and the second, sometimes third guitar adds extra dimension to the album, and it makes everything sound fuller.
In the Burzum tradition, there has to be an ambient song. The ambient song on Fallen is the excellent 'Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen'. This is a more experimental than ambient piece, actually, but it still manages to carry great ambiance. Some of Burzum's earlier ambient pieces, such as 'Rundgang um die transzendentale Saule der Singularitat' do a great job at creating a dark atmosphere, but they drag on for a little too long. 'Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen' is shorter, and it still is good. There is also an ambient intro, but it isn't really a full song. It's just noise and whispering, rather than an actual composition. Nothing against it though. I find it very enjoyable.
Fallen is an excellent black metal that goes above and beyond with production and composition. I highly recommend that any heavy metal fan buy it.
As we all know, Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes was arrested in 1994 for the arson of several churches in Norway, as well as the murder of once associate and guitarist, Euronymous. He was sentenced to the maximum penalty of 21 years, however, was released in 2009 after serving almost 16 years of his sentence. Under the Burzum name, Varg released his first studio album in ten years, "Belus". This was a return to the harsh black metal sound of old, and after only a year or so, Burzum came back with "Fallen" in 2011. Musically, this album is fairly similar to "Belus", yet its production is far more refined and the structure is a bit different. This is Burzum's most well-produced release to my ears and in my opinion, is the best album he has released since "Filosofem".
This album is the logical sequel to "Belus". There are no keyboards to be heard on this album, and the guitar is the main area of focus. These riffs range from being fast and in-your-face to beautifully and elegantly melodic. After an ambient intro made up of basically whispering, "Jeg Faller" begins with a fast black metal tremolo riff. Followed by blast beats, this song probably has the most elegant chorus on the entire album. This riff is guaranteed to be stuck in your head for a long time. I always find myself humming along to it. I do not intend to go track by track on this review, but a lot of these songs work in similar ways with the melodic riffs, and certain ones must be addressed. Track three, "Valen", also contains a beautiful chorus riff and the intro to this song is almost "bouncy" and up beat. There are some very dark songs on this album, such as the almost evil sounding " Enhver til sitt", but for the most part, these songs are all sound much lighter than dark. Some of the fastest riffing on the album can be heard in "Vanvidd", also contains about two minutes of straight blast beats.
The drumming on this album is standard Burzum. It goes from mid-paced, such as "Valen" which contains no blast beats, and the aforementioned "Vanvidd", which contains an amplified amount of them. The drumming does sound quite similar throughout some of these songs. "Valen" and "Jeg faller" in particular have practically the same drum lines, minus the blasts in "Jeg faller". Like I said earlier in the review, the production is very clean compared to "Belus" and actually anything else Varg has put out in his career. There is still enough fuzz and the guitars still sound tinny enough to create that classic Burzum atmosphere, but the clarity on all the instruments is amplified by quite a bit. According to Varg himself, he "produced this album as one would produce classical music". I assume by this, he was referring to how organic this record sounds. It certainly does sound organic, but with a nice studio sheen over it. This really ups the quality of the atmosphere and makes the album sound huge and epic. This also attributes to the album's bright sound. Albums like "Det som engang var" and "Hvis lyset tar oss" would sound better if listened to while sitting around a fire in the midnight forest. "Fallen" would sound much better if listened to walking through the forest on a brisk summer morning. Burzum may translate to "darkness", but this is some of the most light, up beat black metal I have ever heard.
Something that really stuck out upon first listen is the increased use of clean vocals. Varg still uses harsh vocals on all of the metal tracks on the album, but he uses clean vocals on every track as well. He has done this on albums in the past, notably the song "Dunkelheit" from the album "Filosofem" and some of the tracks on "Belus", however' they are used in much greater quantity on this album. "Jeg faller" probably contains the greatest amount vocals and only two sections of the song contain screaming. Whether it's clean singing or spoken word, there are plenty of cleans on here and they all sound very good. Varg's vocal ability certainly hasn't decreased over the years.
Yes, Varg Vikernes might be a bit of a "nut" in a lot of people's eyes, and I don't agree with everything he says, but I don't give a damn what his political views are. The guy creates amazing music, be it ambient, folk, or the classic black metal he has always been known for creating. This is definitely Burzum's greatest release since "Filosofem", and while his ambient albums are great in my opinion, they will never touch this album. Unfortunately, Varg has decided to stop playing metal, and 2012's "Umskiptar" remains the last metal album by Burzum. Whether you're a fan of Burzum or black metal in general, I'm sure you'll enjoy this record.
I can almost see him grinning wickedly through his thick beard. He never was like most of the people and he never will be. In his mind utter nonsense struggles with utter brilliance, with the latter fortunately conquering over his musical aspirations. Just a year after releasing the acclaimed “Belus”, Varg Vikernes is back with yet another blackmetal monument, ready to re-establish himself for good in today’s musical events.
Only this time, the enthusiasm of “Belus” has given way to the warmth of Burzum’s new record “Fallen”. Although presenting a harsher sound than its predecessor, the feeling of the opening riff from “Jeg Faller” is the feeling of knocking the door of an old acquaintance where, no matter how long it’s been since last time, you just know it’s a place you’ll always feel comfortable. With “Valen” things get a bit more heavy metal, its epic tunes repeating themselves till they get stuck in your mind; this is emotional uplift, THIS is norse blackmetal.
There really isn’t anything new here, it’s just production that helps Varg’s sometimes chanting, other times whispering vocals come to surface and accompany the distorted ones. And the marching drums can now be heard and give depth to the soundscapes like those encountered during the journey of “Budstikken”. And if at some points he becomes predictable as in “Enhver Til Sin” or the ambient outro track, it’s OK, because only the fact that he’s still here, still sharing some of his musical genius with us, is invaluable by itself.
Varg was on his own back then and still is on his own right now. A sole mind that will never fit in. He knows it. And his music is a resort for him as well as for some of us who also think from time to time that we might not fit in. Wow, and I think I just found the word that could describe the wholeness of “Fallen”. A resort…
Originally written for:
"Come on, Varg. Seriously? We don't hear from you for 11 years and now you're popping out two albums within 12 months? You're smothering us, man. At least the intro this time doesn't sound like Charlie Sheen's breakfast table."
So we have another Burzum album, humorously titled Fallen. Its a black metal album, no getting around it, but it's highly questionable whether it's really a Burzum album. A lot of hardcore fans think there hasn't been a real Burzum album since '96, and as much as I'd like to believe they're wrong, Varg isn't exactly disproving them here. Rumors that the once-great Count Grishnackh has gone soft are flitting about everywhere and yet the man continues to take steps away from his glory days. Question is: Are these steps a forward march? Or is Fallen just an ironically-titled rung on the church burner's ladder downward into irrelevance?
The latter will seem most likely at first. Disappointment will most likely set in within the first few listens. The album isn't horrific, but it's not exceptional either, and it's difficult to accept that from such a high-expectations name as Burzum.
Fallen is an extremely light album in comparison with the dismal gray of classic Burzum. It's less coldly desolate and more wooden, gnarled. On his website Varg commented that he'd produce this album as one would produce classical music, which is an interesting concept…but also completely contrary to the basic concepts of black metal (shoddy production is a must if you wanna be kvlt). This particular recording method makes everything sound crystal-clear, which in the case of the genre is A BIG NO-NO. It's not the poppy gloss of Abigail Williams, but the riffs lose a lot of their misty distortion and become more bright than bleak. The vocals have for once called shotgun and are near the forefront of the mix, which unsurprisingly shatters their former ethereal quality. Varg exponentially increases his use of chanting and clean singing, and he sings quite often. Yeah, we're talking about the guy who howled his black lungs out on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. Hearing it without that signature fogginess, Burzum's music as a whole loses a lot of its old krieg persona. It's not pretty, but it's not ugly either. So what happened? Something about the murder conviction and prison (probably the wife and kids, too) has aged Varg, and dealt a severe blow to his angst. The man's no less capable, just far less intense. Its apparent the grim 20-something Varg is gone. In his passing he left behind several pivotal black metal albums, an infamous legacy, and the vaunted name of Burzum. An older Varg is now picking up the pieces, middle finger nonchalantly raised.
Fallen is definitely not the Burzum of old. It's a shame that this means the loss of the unholy shrieks and the cold fury of albums like Hvis Lyset, but it also adds a sort of subtle folkiness to Varg that manages to stay well away from cheesy "cascadian" bullshit. There's still a bit of that old tinny feel to the guitars, and raspy screams are far from absent, but the songwriting comes off as almost catchy, as if it's not meant to rape your soul. The motifs Varg uses are melodic, forming segments almost like choruses, most noticeably in the V tracks, "Valen" and "Vanvidd". The hypnotic repetition is nostalgic rather than depressive, and the closer "Til Hel og tilbake igjen" is a valiant attempt at tribal ambient. Varg is no longer a pissed-off youth hefting a mace in front of a mirror. He's become black metal's Dylan or Springsteen, swearing a solemn but unspoken oath to practice his craft till he keels over. This is Varg nearing 40, recording in his cabin rather than his basement, playing to dark folk tales and a fireplace instead of to Satanic seances and a burning church. This is black metal given unapologetically from a jaded Norwegian mountain man to his unsuspecting audience.
-originally written for www.sputnikmusic.com
I find it odd that several prominent (I use the term loosely) metal websites decided to ban coverage of Burzum in response to a recent online rant by Varg Vikernes regarding the shootings and bombing carried out by Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik. Isn’t this ban coming about seventeen years too late? A self-righteous denouncement of Vikernes this point in the game is basically the same as saying “Murder and arson are okay, but hey, we draw the line at hateful remarks!” Of course, I realize that these sites weren’t around back when Vikernes was actually committing crimes, but if they truly found him to be so deplorable, shouldn’t they have banned coverage from the outset based on his actions and not some ineffectual hate-mongering that no one would have paid attention to in the first place had they not drawn attention to it with their sanctimonious grandstanding?
But I digress. I do not wallow in the cesspool of imagined ethical superiority, and therefore have no problem discussing Varg Vikernes’ music. Contrary to what the metal morality police attempt to shove down our throats, it is entirely possible to separate Burzum from its creator’s dodgy politics/beliefs. With that out of the way, it pleases me to say that Varg Vikernes the musician has solidified his “comeback” and proven once and for all that his trailblazing brand of black metal is indeed timeless with Fallen, his second album since being released from prison in 2009.
But what is it that makes Burzum timeless? For me, it’s Vikernes’ guitar playing. His note choices and sense of composition have a hypnotic effect, the very definition of the infamous black metal “trance-out”, a web of spindly, treble-soaked riffage that’s all too easy to get hopelessly lost in. Whenever I listen to Fallen I think of enormous trees, with gnarled, twisted, tangled roots burrowing deep into the soil; it probably has something to do with the earthy, slightly raw guitar tone Vikernes employs here. It gives the album a naturalistic quality that makes the compositions feel as much like folk music as black metal, but without ever degenerating into the silliness that “folk metal” typically implies (perhaps more akin to neofolk?). Of course, black metal at its core has always been a form of folk music, and there are few better suited to uphold that tradition than an outlaw/pariah such as Vikernes, who also happens to be one of the genre’s architects (okay, so maybe you can’t separate the man from the music 100%, oh well).
Speaking of tradition, Fallen was recorded at Grieghallen with production and mixing assistance from Pytten. This studio/producer combination has been responsible for nearly every landmark album in the Norwegian black metal canon (De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, In the Nightside Eclipse, etc) and although only time will tell if Fallen will ever reach the same level of acclaim as those classic recordings, the album does manage to capture a similar vibe without sounding forced or self-consciously retro. This is how black metal is supposed to sound; uninhibited, mesmerizing and totally free from the trappings of modernity.
In addition to showcasing Vikernes’s six-string mastery and benefitting from a strong production scheme, Fallen also represents Burzum at its most compelling from a compositional perspective. If anything, the album comes off as a refinement of the ideas that Vikernes began to explore on Filosofem; the spellbinding repetition, hazy, quasi-psychedelic atmospheres and unique vocal approach have been honed to a fine point. Whereas Filosofem sounded like a collection of experiments (albeit very successful and interesting ones), Fallen sounds like a collection of songs. In this respect, Fallen brings the more experimental qualities of Filosofem together with the sharp yet expansive songwriting style Vikernes brought to the fore on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. Indeed, the more I listen to Fallen, the more I tend to view 2010′s Belus as a “warm-up” album.
Regardless of what you think of Varg Vikernes the person, it is difficult to deny the significance of Varg Vikernes the musician, especially when he continues to craft such intriguing, vital and relevant work. Fallen just might be the most fully realized Burzum album to date, an elegy for what once was, and a glimmer of hope for the future of the black metal tradition.
originally written for http://thatshowkidsdie.com
I must admit I was very disappointed with Belus. I thought that it needed more polish, better production, and some more effort put into it. For almost a year I thought, "I wonder what Belus would sound like if it was more polished, better produced, etc.". My answer came in March 2011. Fallen is, to me, is a cross between Filosofem, the better parts of Belus, and Det Som Engang Var, which is a great thing.
The album opens up with "Fra Verdenstreet" (From the World Tree). It is the worst song on the album, providing little more than background noise. It is boring. The same can be said for the outro, "Til Hel og TIlbake Igjen (To Hell and Back Again)". I mean, c'mon. These two songs have no emotion attached to them, no atmosphere, and subpar playing for all instruments on these two pieces. These two songs make "Dauoi Baldrs" look like Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
That aside, this record improves drastically with "Jeg Faller (I'm Falling)", a testament to Varg's sheer songwriting prowess. When listening, a huge smile spread across my face. It was recognizably Burzum, but at the same time different. One of the first things I noticed about the new album is the production. While it is still rough, it is a lot cleaner than "Belus." The guitars were longer a good 90% of the track and the drums and bass were heard clearly. Varg adopted the vocal technique he used in Filosofem, but makes it deeper and with that a lot more threatening.
Perhaps the biggest change on this record than his previous works is real legitimate singing. Varg decided to have about half of his lines be cleanly choral (almost Viking) sounding singing, which reminded me of folk metal band like Korpiklaani. It's not just that there are clean vocals, it's that they are extremely well executed. They are powerful and harmonize well.
After the awesomeness that is "Jeg Faller" comes "Valen." It starts out with a basic guitar riff, then comes the drums and a very catchy background riff that slowly becomes dominant and a meaty bass track. The verses are sung in a raspy growl while the chorus is sung with clean vocals, but they retain some of the harshness of the growl employed in the verses. The result is really fun to listen to while the steady layering of instruments creates a surreal atmosphere.
"Vanvidd (Madness)" is another solid tune, but the raspy vocals don't really work in this song while the clean vocals seem weak. The first two minutes of the song is solid blastbeating which does get tiring, but the guitars and the last five minutes of the song redeem the travesty that is the vocals. The song sounds similar to "Jesus' Død" and there is an interesting layering of vocals that sound like someone puking, howling, fighting a bear, and having his arms removed from his body slowly while the drums change to a fast groove.
"Ehnver til Sitt (Each Man to his Own)" starts off sounding like the first twenty seconds of "Sweating Bullets" by Megadeth, but very soon becomes its own song. The harshness of the vocals (both growled and clean) coupled with the melancholy tones of the guitars creates a haunting atmosphere and has evil written all over it.
"Budstikken (The Message)" is the best song on the record by far. It starts out with a minute-long intro before diving head first into a rapid tremolo-picked riff with the bass and drums adding meat onto its bones. The vocals compliment the song nicely as the raspy and choral style of vocals mix together nicely. The song changes tempos frequently from the mid-tempo intro to the fast verses and slow choruses. They change effortlessly as well. While the verses are great, the song truly shines during the slower parts. The guitars (note the "s") harmonize well as each plays its own melody while borrowing off one another while the twangy bass sets a dark atmosphere. Where the slow sections really stand out are Varg's clean vocals. It sounds like a choir of warlords. I find it hard to believe that it came from just one guy. It's incredible.
The album overall is a masterpiece, up at the top with legendary black metal albums "Transylvanian Hunger", "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas", and "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss." The songs are well structured, the songwriting is phenomenal, and the songs separating tracks are dubbed over so nicely, you would think there are four to six Varg Virkenes playing in the studio at the same time.
The only beef I have with this record is its shortness. Other than the forgettable intro/outro, there are only FIVE tracks. I came away from this wanting more because what is here is truly great. If Varg continues to expand on this release on his next record, I will support him 1000% as this is an amazing piece of work.
+ great songwriting
+ varied songs
+ clean vocals
- too short
Whatever your opinion of Burzum or Varg Varkines may be, there is no denying that Burzum albums never settle for the status quo. In spite of the success and praise each of his pre-prison albums received (not to mention the herds of copy cats), Varg continued to explore new song structures, production techniques and vocalizations, displaying a fearlessness of the new. Varg also gets a nod for being one of the few black metal musicians to consistently accomplish masterworks in and out. Each of his (non-keyboard) albums has achieved a degree of greatness. “Fallen,” the 8th full length Burzum album, continues former trend—experimenting with crystal clear production and significant increase in clean vocals. However, the experimentation does not come together in the astounding way previous releases have. While “Fallen” contains five good songs (the intro and outro fail to impress), moments of profound inspiration or brilliance are scarce and the overall work fails to reach the heights of its predecessors.
The primary reason the songs on “Fallen” never reach such heights is the production. “Fallen” is a victim of the “loudness wars.” The sound is extremely clean and excessively condensed. On the positive side every riff is bright, clear and sharp. The bass and drums are also fully audible. The flip side is that the production has no depth, no room for substance or resonance. Consequently, “Fallen” sometimes feels like Burzum without the soul—very good melodies and songwriting, but simply not enough presence. The best example would be “Vanvidd”, an aggressive track, which like “Black Spell of Destruction,” from Burzum's debut, builds toward a crescendo of piercing growls and screams. However, the production takes the edge off the screams. What could have been a spine tingling passage ends up sounding flat. There simply isn’t enough sonic space in the recording to allow the layers of vocals to consume the listener in the way they should.
The other major change is the heavy presence of clean vocals. The first Burzum song to display prevalent clean vocals was the stunning “Kaimadalthas Nedstining” on 2010’s “Belus”. The soft and somber clean vocals posed a powerful counterpoint to biting growls. Obviously Varg was satisfied with the results, using clean vocals on all five metal tracks of “Fallen.” While none of the tracks on “Fallen” match the compositional eloquence of “Kaimadalthas Nedstining” the integration of clean vocals into Burzum is a success. The transitions between clean vocals and growls given “Fallen” a dynamic, theatric sensibility. Varg does a very good job selecting appropriate riffs for the clean and growled passages. There are also a number of spoken and whispered passages, which further add to the albums dynamism.
On the whole the songwriting is solid. There are plenty of good melodies and dramatic shifts, keeping the listener engaged. The highlight is “Valen,” which contains beautiful clean passages, a blistering guitar crescendo and layers of rippling tremolo in the background, which give the song depth that the other tracks lack. The low point the obnoxious outro, composed of dull percussion passages and mindless noodling on acoustic guitar. The rest of the songs are good, but not great additions to the Burzum cannon.
“Fallen” may turn out to be transition album for Burzum. I certainly see potential in the addition to clean vocals to the Burzum sound and enjoy the mood shifts it adds to the sound. There is plenty left for Varg to explore in this domain. I feel less confident that the new production techniques will consistently work with Burzum’s sound, though “Valen” shows that with enough layers, it can work. However, while “Fallen” may foreshadow better things to come, in itself it does not stand up to the other Burzum (non-keyboard) albums. “Fallen” is a solid release, but ultimately a hill amongst mountains within the Burzum landscape.
Originally written for http://listenwell-nocturnal.blogspot.com/
Only a year after releasing Belus, Varg returns to release his second album after being released from prison. This album does not deviate too far from the Burzum formula but there are many experimental moments that pay off. Although many people know of Burzum only because of Varg's connections with murder and church burning, he proves once again that he has artistic merit and that Burzum is much deeper than mere shock value.
Much like Belus, Fallen starts with a short experimental intro. This one is very ambient and features eerie whispers and deep rumbling. It conjures up haunting images of gargoyles overlooking a dark cathedral. As the black metal comes into play, the first thing that is apparent is the production. Varg has said that this album has been produced in the same way as classical music. It is hard to know if this is true or not, but the new approach to recording has certainly paid off. The guitar is dense and heavily distorted, yet still easy to make out. There is very clear production on the drums, which are simple but highly effective. Many metal bands drown their songs in relentless and monotonous blast beats, but this is not the case with Fallen. The bass plays a very important role in the atmosphere of this album. There is one point in "Jeg Feller" where all the instruments but the bass drop out and Varg half speaks and half whispers in a very creepy way. It is experimentation like this that makes the album so interesting. It would be a good idea to listen to this album on high quality headphones, as there are subtle elements that are crucial to the album, such as the bass lines, that might not be audible on cheap earbuds.
There is not a bad song to be found on Fallen. "Jeg Feller" showcases Varg's surprisingly melodic clean vocals. Varg's clean vocals have gotten very good on this release. His rasps are powerful, without being over the top. The riff on "Valen" is one of Burzum's best riffs. It is simple, repetitive and highly effective. In fact, much of the album is like this. It is in no way complicated, but the repetition is hypnotic rather than tedious. "Enhver til sitt" features slow melodic sections that are almost reminiscent of doom metal. Like most black metal albums, there is no shortage of tremolo riffs. "Til Hel og tilbake igjen" is a very interesting outro. There is a slow hypnotic drum playing for most of the track. The instrumentation has a vaguely Eastern vibe to it. Varg's willingness to try new things has payed off on this album. This album has an old-world European feel to it. When compared to much of the stale black metal that seems to be spreading like a plague, this is very authentic sounding and a breath of fresh air.
While many people accuse Burzum of playing boring, typical black metal, that is not very fair or accurate. Its not Varg's fault that so many mediocre bands have ripped off his sound. That said, it is true that there have been bands that have successfully added to Burzum's style and incorporated new influences. Without Burzum, black metal as we know it would not exist. With Fallen, Varg shows no signs of slowing down. This is a very welcome addition to Burzum's discography. With so many black metal bands happy with playing mediocre music, Varg deviates from the trend, continuing to write original and interesting music.
With "Fallen", the second Burzum album recorded and released since he left jail, Varg Vikernes signals he's not just back in the business of churning out melodic folk-tinged black metal but is seriously carving out his particular minimalist niche within it. Apart from the two instrumental tracks that open and close the album, "Fallen" sounds like a continuation of the melodic first half of the previous comeback "Belus" album which itself was a continuation of the "Filosofem" album, way back in 1996: the songs usually have simple structures based on repeating guitar riff loops laid over equally repetive percussion loops, topped with lyrics that are sung, chanted, spoken or whispered. At least Vikernes has retained a knack for creating distinctive and catchy melodies that capture and hold a variety of moods, often in the same song: melancholy, anger, despair and utter hopelessness can follow each other in the same song just through the repetition of one riff over and over, with only changes in vocal style from grim-voiced aggression to clean-toned indifference indicating any direction and tension build-up; this knack is the music's saving grace.
The album relies heavily on Vikernes's vocals and lyrics for variety, direction and unity. The vocal work is good but not varied with the singing bouncing between a lead vocal of grim throaty hoarseness and a chorus of clean singing that usually lacks emotion. A case could be put forward for having synthesised voice choirs or an additional singer on this album and future Burzum albums if Vikernes persists in his particular musical style and direction. Not knowing any Norwegian - I remain grimly monolingual in spite of having reviewed music from nearly every corner of the planet - I can only guess from the CD booklet illustrations and some words that the lyrics deal with a personal descent into darkness of some kind. If taken literally, the illustrations suggest the descent of Odin from Asgard to Earth and Hel. (When I first wrote this review, I was unaware that the album actually deals with descent into madness.) Overall the songs are quite good and consistent in their playing and emotional expressiveness, and technically they may be more complex than they might appear to non-musicians like myself, but with the exception of "Vanvidd" which features an episode of screaming and werewolf howling, the songs individually are not very outstanding and could be considered as parts of one work.
The real gem on this album is the outro track "Til Hel og tilbake igjen": it's completely left-field in its amateurish, neo-primitive, almost shamanic nature, just a drum thumped rhythmically by hand and a stringed instrument that sounds like a wire strung between two tin can being strummed or plucked while a ghost mouths barely audible whispers. The whole set-up sounds like a half-hearted after-thought to the rest of the album and in the context of the album's theme, that most likely is the intention. I'm surprised the last track isn't more chaotic than it is, it actually sounds quite orderly and well-mannered, but I shouldn't presume that if a mind has descended completely into madness that it should be full of "noise" and "chaos" in the way such concepts are conventionally interpreted in music. A mad mind can still generate "order", just not in the way we understand "order". The track is proof that Vikernes, if he wants to, can pull out something original and still be a force to be reckoned with.
Not a great Burzum release but there is potential there for Vikernes to grow into a more folk-oriented and refined melodic style of music and away from black metal pop.
An album with a most fitting and prophetic title. After last year’s brilliant comeback in form of “Belus”, Varg Vikernes has decided to treat us with another album in under a year, something that doesn’t come across as too surprising having in mind the prolific discography that he’s managed to put out in his pre-incarceration period. However, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to hear.
As the first seconds of the album begin, the first thing that you’re going to think is: “Wow, he’s really improved on the guitar tone”. And the positive remarks end there. The next thought that will go through your head is: “Hmm, this song really has a strangely high amount of clean vocals for a Burzum song”. And so on, surprise after surprise after surprise, except that it isn’t in a positive context this time around. Yes, the material does feel like the most progressive and varied thing Varg has ever done, but that fact alone can’t overshadow the fact that this is – and what follows is the key description of this album in its entirety – a collection of “Belus” B-sides. Literally every song feels like leftovers from the sheer brilliance displayed last year; you could draw lines between individual tracks on this release that have been inspired by superior versions that found their place on “Belus”; in fact, you can even tell why they weren’t included there. Although I’m fairly certain that this wasn’t what the creative process behind “Fallen” looked like, that’s just how it feels. Forget the promises of “Burzum”- and “Det Som Engang Var”-era songwriting. The guitar riffs aren’t as captivating as they were known to be on those albums (or any other), and that’s the main problem plaguing this release. Varg’s rough vocals have also noticeably worsened, while the mix is just wrong – you’ll struggle to hear the actual riffs. Knowing that the same man stands behind “Belus”, the release is obviously not abysmal – there are excellent ideas flowing about here and there, but insufficiently so to keep your attention for the duration of the entire album. To rub your suffering in, the album’s outro seems like an error on the part of the pressing factory, as the material featured there is nothing like a typical Burzum outro and sounds more like a Peruvian flute band. I don’t know what effect Varg was trying to achieve with this piece.
How Varg has managed to shoot himself in the foot in such an all-encompassing way is beyond me. Truth be told, the album isn’t all that bad if you’re encountering Burzum for the first time, but less than a year after what I personally consider Burzum’s best, this is just disappointing in every way. I was hoping for at least a somewhat worthy successor to “Belus”, and what I got sounds like a third-grade Ukrainian folk metal band with a sudden urge to record a Burzum-inspired album. If anyone else than Burzum released this album, not only would it not get the praise it seems to be getting, it would have gone completely unnoticed and maybe even mocked. Varg Vikernes has cast a very dark shadow of doubt on anything else he may want to release in the future. Not quite the band’s “Cold Lake”, but parched with thirst and dying Mr Vikernes definitely is.
(originally written for http://www.metal-sound.net)
Burzum's at it again. When Burzum's newest release, Fallen, came in the mail, I checked the inner artwork and found something saying that this album was completed in recording November 2010. That means that this album was fully recorded 4 months before Belus (the previous album) was even released. So yeah, Varg's doing it again. Recording things at a pedal-to-the-metal speed, blasting out music and releasing it periodically over the years. (Before his jail sentence he recorded 4 albums and an EP in 18 months).
Anyway, when I heard Fallen was coming, I wasn't sure it was real. The Times New Roman font on the front, the English album title, the fact that it was released with almost no mention anywhere (magazines, forums, etc)... it all seemed highly suspicious. But nope, Fallen is totally real... and now I own one of the limited vinyl copies. Yay.
So, Fallen picks up where Belus left off: tinny, yet glossy production, technical guitars, casually sung melodic vocals... but being that Burzum never makes the same album twice, drastic changes are present.
Let's start by talking about the tone. Unlike the Warm, sleepy, fuzzy feeling of Belus, this one goes for a much more bombastic approach that we caught a glimpse of in songs like Keliohesten on Belus. It's heavier and more in your face, but it doesn't totally abandon soft winding sections. There's a lot more moments that are pounding and heavy, moments that make you bang your head. In this way, the album does bear similarity to Burzum's '92 debut. There's also a lot of melody this time around. I'd say that this may well be Burzum's most melodic album yet. There're tons of melodic passages and riffs on songs like Valen and Budstikken, but at no point does it feel wishy-washy or watered down. Yup, the Burzum spirit is still alive and well here. I do have a gripe though. This comes from the production. The guitars are distorted as you'd expect, and they sound thin and tinny, which is okay, but I feel that and the rest of the production sort of confines and restricts the atmosphere's full potential. I found that there was a grandeur tone in the drums and guitars in earlier Burzum albums like Hvis Lyset Tar Oss where the atmosphere seemed to expand before you into an epic soundscape that seemed to have a life of its own. I wish Varg had tried that here, because I think that it would have fit nicely. Don't get me wrong, the atmosphere isn't totally impeded, but I think it has dwindled. I would like to hear a different production than on Belus. But anyway, let's talk about what atmosphere there is.
The album also has a primitive feeling, though it isn't a bad way. It's sort of a tribal feeling, and although it serves as a small underline for most of the time, it becomes highly prevalent in the outro of the album, Til Hel og Tilbake Igjen. The album doesn't haven that wide-open foresty/mountain range feeling that prior albums had. Instead, it seems to be more confined, like the album's taking place inside a room where rituals are performed (like I said, the album sounds quite tribal). I think most of this comes from the sound of the drums. While they're low in production, they do have a resonance to them that seems like something new. Also, the riffs have this sort of native flair of renaissance (as much of that as there could be from electric guitar, mind you). The other thing that adds to the tribal tone would be the vocals.
Varg's used melodic vocals in the past, but never this much. I know this bothers a ton of 'tr00' Burzum fans, but I really find it interesting, and it brings a lot of progression to the table, which is something I highly value in any band. Unlike on Belus though, the soft vocals are utilized much more tastefully, and are no longer sung casually. There seems to be a flair of style growing in Varg's clean voice, and I like it. It really fits with the melodiousness of the album. And then you have your harsh vocals. Unfortunately, Varg once shies away from using the harsh wails that made him so distinguishable in his first 3 albums. I'll repeat what I said in my Belus review: he probably either thought those vocals would be too much for the tone of the album to handle without sounding akWard, or he's getting too old. If it's the former, I think a wail or two would work at various parts of the album. He does do something in the middle of Vanvidd that someone resembles these vocals, but he never quite touches back on them completely. Instead of using those wails though, he does what he was doing in Belus: a hoarse growl similar to Darkthrone. He's been going for this style since Filosofem, and while I found it a little weak or even boring in Belus, I think he's getting the hang of it. There's a lot more power in those growls now, and I'm starting to recognize them as 'Varg's growl's', whereas before they seemed a little unoriginal.
The album varies itself with a good amount of interludes that utilize instrumental layering; there are lone guitar moments, lone drum moments, lone bass moments.... and the way the music all comes together is very satisfying. There's plenty of diffrence with the feelings of songs (Enhver til Sitt, Budstikken, and Jeg Faller all have a different emotional tone), but I'm happy to say that there are no out of place tracks on this release, like War on Burzum's debut or Sverddans on Belus. All the songs here fit the album well. While this album still does suffer from the problem Belus had with repitition on a couple songs, it isn't quite as blatant or tiring, nor does it last as long. There are moments where I feel like the song is dragging into the dirt a bit (Vanvidd didn't hold my attention all the way through), but it isn't as evident as it was on Belus and the album never becomes irritating.
I'd say that Varg Vikernes is defenitely in the process of transitioning out of black metal. The grooving riffs and soft sung vocals are highly remeniscent of viking and folk metal. The black metal is still there in that there are plently of tremolo-picked riffs that cut and slice, plenty of Darkthrone-esque growling, and a sparse tone. I think that this progression for the moment may be slightly clunky, but it isn't akward. Fallen gave me the sense of Varg trying t ovind another groove for himself to dwell in for a while.
The intro and outro both work well in the album's favour, deepening the atmosphere and hightening aticipation/bringing you back down to earth. While keyboards are still nowhere to be seen (or should I say, heard), Varg makes up for it with a highly unorthodox ambient outro, done with drums, acoustic guitar, and an old renaissance string instrument (I can't recall the name of it) that gives the end of the album a nice wide-open vibe. It starts creepy and otherworldy, but it eventually segways into a soft relaxing outro on another string instrument that sounds like it might be a short excerpt from one of the songs on Hliðskjálf. Really nice outro.
So for the most part, I'm quite impressed with this. I haven't had enough time to let it fully grow on me, so I can't saw right now whether or not this is better than Belus, but It's defenitely good. Varg still hasn't ran out of ideas as far as I'm concerned, despite the similar production tone to Belus. Burzum has stayed on my favorite band's list after I heard this album, because Varg's shown us that he can still take his new music to new places and show us new things. More original than Belus was, more action-packed than Belus was... the only thing that doesn't come through as clearly is the atmosphere. I recommend this to Burzum fans, especially those who were turned off by Belus. This may just bring them racing back to Burzum's music. It still doesn't hold a candle to the original four Burzum black metal albums, but in my mind those are all untouchable masterpieces. The point is that this album satisfies. Give it a spin.
Out of the whole album, I definitely recommend the song Budstikken. This song showcases pretty much all of the album's elements and has a lot of great action-packed riffs and beats. A song to bang your head to, like My Journey to the Stars, but also a winding epic track, like Jesu Dod. If you want one song off the album to get an idea for what's here, go for Budstikken.
Originally posted on http://www.spirit-of-metal.com/
Fallen is the eighth studio album from the legendary Norwegian Black Metal band, Burzum. Recorded and mixed during two weeks at Grieghallen Studios, it comes just a year after Belus and continues the sound that was established on that album. Varg Vikernes returned to his old ways of being very productive, and it should be no surprise to those familiar with the classic Burzum albums since they were all recorded in a short span of time. In the press release, it was stated that the new record would have more influence from the debut album and Det Som Engang Var, though the reality of the situation is that this is not as overt as many might have hoped. Of course, a similar thing happened with the last release.
It was in a 2005 interview where Varg made the announcement that he would record more music and that Filosofem was the album that most resembled the new material that he had in mind. This was mistaken to mean that his next effort would possess this same sound, which was neither what he said nor (probably) what he would want anyway, since that album had already been ripped off an infinite amount of times and the sound was no longer unique to Burzum. What seemed to happen, with the passage of a decade, was that the music still managed to develop and elements of the classic releases were mixed with the strange atmosphere of Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf, along with some new darkness that was now hanging above. While not exactly the same, it was clearly Burzum.
Belus was Varg's first release in eleven years, and it was the first proper Black Metal album released under the Burzum name since 1996's Filosofem. Expectations were extremely high, from the long-time fans to the legions who had discovered Varg's music during his incarceration. Whether they wanted to enjoy his music or to simply have more fuel for the constant criticisms of his character, Mr. Vikernes found himself the subject of quite a lot of scrutiny. Belus had a heavy task, as there was a lot of pressure to deliver something that would not only introduce the band to a new generation of listeners, but to somehow retain the old fans as well. Those who did not get what they expected with the last record have likely already wandered on to something else, and a great deal of the media hype has long since faded with the many months of silence in the Burzum camp. With the ice broken, Varg had more freedom and less pressure as he worked on the new material.
Fallen follows the path that was taken on the previous album, maintaining a similar feel and yet pushing the boundaries of experimentation. That is not to say that there is really anything present that would not seem normal or natural for a Burzum release, just that there is more of it. While there are a decent amount of similarities to the band's classic period, Varg has truly entered a new phase of his musical career and must be respected for his efforts. He could have been lazy and just made Metal versions of all of the tracks from the two ambient albums, before working on new songs. Instead, he used a few ideas and then moved on into new territory, keeping true to his roots while expanding the Burzum sound.
The album begins with "Fra Verdenstreet", which is a brief intro that hearkens back to the old days. It is not particularly useful, but does not detract from the proceedings and adds to the atmosphere of the album in its own way.
"Jeg Faller" is the first proper song, and it begins with the cold tremolo riffs that one would expect from Burzum. In a way, the long period of inactivity has allowed Varg to serve as a window to the past, being somewhat more pure than most of his peers that continued making music for the last two decades. Upon first listen, this song is slightly disappointing, as it is at this point where the realization hits that any similarities to Det Som Engang Var would not include the vocals. The tortured shrieks of the past are truly gone and shall never resurface, it appears. The use of clean vocals has increased and this takes a couple listens to get used to, for some. In particular, the strange spoken word sections seem to interrupt the flow of the song, at first. After a few listens, this feeling passes and it sounds more natural. The music begins with a faster pace, before transitioning to something a little slower. The track is rather dynamic, never sticking to one riff for too long and including a variety of ideas. The faster parts, at the beginning and end, seem to stand out the most.
The next song is "Valen", which seems to stand out as the most memorable of the whole record. It is more mid-paced and melancholic that the previous track. The riffs are haunting and epic as well, though never quite reaching the same disturbing levels of misery that were found on Belus. Once the new vocal approach has been accepted, one can really enjoy the performance given on this piece, as a lot of feeling is conveyed and a dark atmosphere created by the utilization of clean and harsh vocals. While unable to compare to the performances of "Black Spell of Destruction" or "En Ring Til Aa Herske", there are some truly miserable sounds emitted from the man once known as Count Grishnackh. The riffs are rather simple and repetitive, but technicality was never a key ingredient to Burzum's music, nor should it be. This is all about atmosphere, and that is something that this Norwegian band is well known for. The hypnotic melodies are enough to carry one to the dark realm where life is traded, willingly, for glorious death.
Døden var her først
Glemselen seirer til slutt
The next song is "Vanvidd", which is another one that features a strange use of clean vocals. The pace is much faster and the razor-thin tremolo riffs slice into your weakened flesh with ease, as the drums pound your skull into dust. After a couple minutes, the song slows down to the standard mid-paced Burzum death march that most longtime fans are used to. This lulls the listener into a a trance, preparing them to be mercilessly assault by the horrible screams that soon follow. This has a chilling effect and soon restores all faith in Varg's abilities as a vocalist, despite his development since the early 90s. Over the course of the song, even the clean singing seems less unnatural, though certain parts would still benefit with only the freezing cold riffs to command all of the attention.
"Enhver Til Sitt" begins with a brilliant doom-laden riff, with mid-paced drumming and spine-tingling vocals that soon accompany the miserable feeling of depression and melancholia. Hopeless tremolo riffs join the sorrowful bass lines in creating an aura of despair and all-consuming dread. The title translates to something along the lines of "each man gets what he deserves" and, in this case, mankind deserves horror and death. The lyrics are very poignant and thought-provoking, as well. Again, one has to be amazed how the Burzum sound seems to expand, subtly, while still remaining pure.
Jeg fryser ikke mer
Jeg varmes av månelyset
The final song is "Budstikken". which begins with somewhat of an epic build-up, with the mournful tremolo riffs accompanied by thunderous drums, before the song truly breaks free and moves forward at a faster pace. Somehow, this is slightly reminiscent of "My Journey to the Stars", and it is at this point where one can really feel the connection between new and old. The bass, which has been rather audible throughout the entire record, seems to stand out the most on this track, adding a layer of misery to the atmosphere. Strangely, this song is sorrowful while also being the most upbeat of the whole album. The clean vocals bring things back to a somber place, as the guitar riffs shift back to something darker and more life-draining. In a sense, the music gives the feeling of going off to war, to fight in a battle that you know will be lost, yet one that you must fight anyway. However, by the end, you simply wish for a cold grave to swallow your lifeless body and to be forgotten for eternity. The old ways are gone and the world is crumbling. All that we possess are fading memories of a dead age and the knowledge that what once was is forever lost. The roots of Irminsûl are rotten and dead. Existence is pointless and life itself seen as a curse.
Fallen ends with "Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen", which is an instrumental piece that, at first, seems quite useless. When it was mentioned that the album would feature some ambient tracks, this was not what most fans had in mind. The first few minutes are more annoying than anything else, but the final moments make it worthwhile as a simple, yet effective, acoustic guitar passage manages to tear your spirit right out of the body and to slowly smother it into nonexistence.
In the end, Fallen is a worthy follow-up to Belus. It is a little more dynamic, in that the atmosphere includes more highs and lows, rather than the soul-shattering misery of the previous record. The use of clean vocals seems to be slightly overdone, but this may continue to grow on me as time passes. This is a solid album, worthy of the Burzum name, and there is no reason to doubt Varg's musical abilities at this stage in his career. His passion and creativity are as evident as ever, something all Burzum fans should be grateful for.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Only one year after the highly regarded Belus welcomed back the Norwegian killer Varg Vikernes into the metal scene, the American branch of Candlelight Records is releasing its follow up and the one man band’s first official release in American shores, Fallen. Fallen signifies Vikernes’ second attempt at playing metal after his stint in jail during which Varg developed a moronic neo nazi ideology, an allergy to anything that’s not white and kept himself at bay from rock music because of its roots in black culture.
Unlike the first phase of Burzum during which each album signified a sizeable step forward, Fallen is more of a step to the side, giving us results that are both unsurprising and surprising. Unsurprising because Fallen looks and sounds like the logical continuation of Belus. Where Burzum’s classic releases made history with their monochromatic and amateurish artwork, now we are introduced to its not so black metal sound via classic images intended to portray the timeless Euro-centric beauty of nature (Belus) and of its ancestry (Fallen). In this occasion Elegy by French turn of century painter Adolphe-William Bouguereau graces the work of Vikergnes.
Long gone are also the days of true aural grimness and sheer hate. Even better, long gone are the days of self-sabotaging one-finger-at-a-time Casio keyboard playing. Now, Burzum boasts melodic and jagged heavy metal guitars, frequent mid tempos, not so menacing BM vocals alongside spoken parts and catchy yet linear song arrangements.
On the other hand, Fallen is surprising because it is the softest metal release by Burzum to date. Was Vikernes to continue down this path he will end up recording for Napalm Records and playing pirate fests in Finland. Regardless of what the Count may say to the press via e-mail, he must be consuming lots of folk metal. Tracks like “Jeg Faller” are only momentarily aggressive and sporadically metallic. At their core, these songs are tender, traditionally European and folksy, with choruses full of melody and longing for the tenderness of a white nipple.
Where Belus was dynamic and fast paced and included a couple of clearly outstanding tracks (namely “Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning”) Fallen lacks aggression and does not present a clear winner at first listen. It is also full of hooks and hence, it is ready for mass consumption because its quotient of extreme metal is rather limited. Of the seven numbers included here only five (to some this may make Fallen an EP) are metal songs and these are flanked by a mediocre intro titled “Fra Verdenstreet” and by an excruciatingly long (at less than six minutes it feels like it drags for twenty) and clumsy tribal oriental-sounding outro named “Til Hel og Tilbake Igjen”. I kid you not, its first half sounds like Chinese opera.
But those who loved the meat of Belus will find something to enjoy in Fallen. Melody reigns the metal songs and their core is all melancholy. In the fast part of “Jeg Faller” Vikernes voice sounds spent and raspy, as if the man had aged a decade in the span of twelve months. So he speaks, sings minimally and vocalizes quietly longer passages just like he did in limited fashion in the previous record. If this approach is a sign of age, it is also reflected in his guitar playing. “Valen”, like much of Fallen, is mid tempo. No frills or fills on the drums, multiple identity vocals and the repetitive and entrancing fingerwork of Vikernes. To a degree, these idiosyncratic and stylistic states are all trivialities; after all, the audience for Burzum has already been divided. And if you are still with him after that shoeless pic was printed on Terrorizer, you will probably also get a woody with Fallen.
Written for www.deafsparrow.com
Last year's Belus was a welcome return for Burzum. It was a fairly decent record, but it lacked something. I found myself listening to Belus only once in a while. Still, it wasn't bad and i was eager to see where Varg Vikernes would go from there. As Vikernes has always done(when he's not been in jail), he has put out another album in the space of exactly 1 year. After multiple listens of the album, I have concluded that this is a much more whole album than Belus. I thought Belus was a collection of old and new riffs Varg had written. It didn't flow together as an album very well. This is where Fallen succeeds.
The album opens with "Fra Verdenstreet", a creepy and short introduction. Then comes "Jeg Faller", one of my favourites on Fallen. The riffs on this song are very catchy, and the chorus showcases Varg's vocal ability. His clean vocals on Fallen were a pleasant surprise. He uses them more often than ever before, and they work well with the music. The chanted chorus to Vanvidd is another good example of this.
On the older Burzum albums, Varg opted for simple but effective riffs. As he's gotten older, i think his playing skills have improved. The guitar tone is distorted and tremolo riffs are abundant. The production as a whole is cleaner than on Belus. The drums, which as always was the case with Burzum, compliment the music well enough and are not overly technical. They are also much more audible than they were on Belus. Some of the basslines on Fallen are pretty decent. The 10 minute long "Budstikken" in particular shines in this aspect.
"Enhver Til Sitt" features a doom-ish melody in the chorus with some harsh spoken vocals over it. In the press release for Fallen, we found out that there was going to be an ambient track on the album. "Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen" is the ambient conclusion; it is different from the ambient tracks on the likes of Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem, and I was hoping for something like "Tomhet"(off of Hvis Lyset Tar Oss). However, this is very different. Pounding drums, noise, and incoherent whispered vocals are to be found on "Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen" for the first 5 minutes. Then, everything fades away as we are hit by some beautiful guitar notes. Perhaps a bit drawn out, but the conclusion fits the mood of the album and ends it on a sad, sorrowful note.
With Fallen, i think the "new" Burzum style which started from Belus, has reached its peak. Fallen is a more thought-out and finished product than Belus. It will be interesting to see where Vikernes goes from here though. He has long abandoned the black metal that he helped create, but I for one am hoping his next release will step away from the styles of Belus and Fallen and be more unique, as Filosofem was. Perhaps this apparent re-recording of older tracks will get Vikernes in touch with the side of him that produced masterpieces like Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem.
Where Burzum is concerned, it is very difficult to separate the musical content of an album from the aura of controversy surrounding the name. Perhaps the only people who are gifted with not being swept away totally by the mystique of early 2nd wave history are indifferent individuals like myself who can’t be bothered with the nationalistic/political causes tied in with a particular scene. Even when most adherents tend to say that black metal can not be separated from the message, I say otherwise, and it is often to Varg’s eccentric concoctions that I turn to as an example of how my own side interest in minimalist music and Norse legends is sufficient to enjoy the music created by a man known affectionately as the Charles Manson of Norway.
From a historical standpoint, “Fallen” doesn’t really stand out as having a particular tie to anything in Burzum’s past, though the post-rock sounding guitar tone is heavily reminiscent of “Filosofem”. This is more a collection of narratives than an excursion into atmospheric depths as was the case with “Det Som Engang Var” or his widely heralded masterwork “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”. Repetition is a key factor, but there is a layering of contrasting guitar parts that simulates the waves of an ocean as they toss a boat to and fro. But in spite of a very dense collage of minimalist guitar melodies and broken up chords, the feel of this is very straight-lined. Though there is a charm in this strict consistency in that it plays into the general trance character that Varg has continually kept with him since his ambient releases and was a definite factor on “Belus”, which I regard as a somewhat lesser yet still powerful work.
Perhaps the biggest point of contrast at work here is the highly prominent clean vocals, which do much to shape the narrative character of the album. Through much of the full length compositions that occur between the opening and closing ambient works, there is the feel of introspective thought that is articulated through spoken and grunted verses, but they always seem to come back to this notion of a latent liturgical chant. This is particularly the case on “Jeg Faller”, where the hypnotic restatement of a melodic fragment in a thoughtful and somber baritone almost mimics an ancient Gregorian chant sound. Other longer passages of melodic yet minimal singing phase in and out of the mesmerizing epic “Budstikken”, which is unto itself a dreamy mix of shimmering tremolo melodies that function almost like a 10 minute lullaby into the waiting arms of an inevitable grave.
While this doesn’t really reach the caliber level of the pre-prison era of Burzum, it is very clear that Varg has a consistent and worthy approach to continuing his musical vision, and it is something that can be appreciated by most fans of the older material. Aside from a little venture into a mishmash of tribal and avant-garde music on the closing instrumental, this is a very conservative compilation of musical elements that acknowledge, though don’t attempt to relive the past. It is slightly more enticing than “Belus”, but largely follows the same general format, and while surprises tend to be few here, the quality of the consistency at work here is enough to send notions of compulsory innovation literally “To Hel And Back Again”.
Burzum is a nostalgic name for me. I remember being in high school wearing my black metal patches and listening to Aske and Deathcrush (Mayhem). I was one of the few kids in the scene that never really got involved in the Burzum v. Mayhem thing. So Euronymous got stabbed by Varg…big deal. They were both kids and both were idiots. It’s just two people. Besides, Euronymous only wrote one good full length and one good EP. For a while, it was hard to expect Varg Vikernes to make any new music (other than his shitty ambient) since he was in jail, but it happened. In 2010, he graced us with Belus, a Filosofem revival sound. It was mediocre compared to Filosofem, however, but still decent enough to listen to. Not even a year later, and Varg released Fallen…and it’s amazing.
The first thing I noticed is that it is seriously exactly like Filosofem, unlike Belus, which only drew influence from that album. Most of the songs have the same exact rythem, length, meter and tone as Filosofem. Hell, even some of the lyrics are the same. This is both a bad thing and a good one.
Bad for the fact that he didn’t really try too terribly hard to find a new sound…but hey, it’s black metal, what do you expect? Progression?
It’s good though, because Filosofem was amazing, and probably my favorite Burzum album following Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, which was by far his best album.
I was impressed with the overall sound though. It felt really atmospheric and shoegazy. That’s the type of Burzum I like…not the one when his singing is huh…wow (all you true Burzum fans will get the joke). Varg really changed his screaming - even since the last album. It’s more focused, less about being polarizing, more about being true to his beliefs, emotions, thoughts and music. I really liked his melodic vocals and spoken word parts in most every song. The first time I heard him sing, I was so glad, I think I cried a little.
There’s never much to say about the instrumentals for Burzum (guitar, bass and drums usually focus on the same structure - Power chords or tremolo picking, simplistic open note chords for bass, blast beats or eighth note drums), though one stands out. The end track, “Til Hel og Tilbake Igjen”. This song was so un-Burzum. It was basically just drums, but it was amazing. It was almost drone (a genre I am very in love with). It reminded me of much of the Dronevil album (Boris, 2005).
All in all, it’s better than Belus, about on par with Filosofem, but still didn’t come close to Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, and I don’t think anything of his ever will. If anything, get the album to hear his new sound. Download it if you have to, but I know that I’ll shell out the 15 bucks to get this album when I have the money.
Bands never really make full comebacks when they go bad, a metalhead knows this better than anyone. But in retrospect, Varg never really did lose his musical touch, he was just unable to utilize it when stuck in a jailcell with nothing but a keyboard. To say the least, I was very pleasantly surpised with this album, having my expectations set down by the underwhelming Belus. I can understand taking an album or two to get back on your feet after a decade of inactivity, and Varg does this gracefully with Fallen.
The guitar tone is sharp and buzzy as you'd come to expect from Burzum, reminicent of Filosofem but much more in the spectrum of a "normal" guitar tone. It fits perfectly with the feel of this album, piercing you with a cold treble rather than bassy warmth. Just what every black metal album needs.
The drums are well-played and perfectly audible whether it be blast beats or normal rhythms, a large improvement over the muffled sound of Belus. Given, they are more repetitive than other drumming jobs you might hear, but that's always been Vargs style. the drums don't always need to overshadow everything, they just need to work well with the song. This also holds true for the bass. The guitars are really the center of this album, and the bass compliments them well without being overbearing or underwhelming.
The only thing I would change about this album is Varg's vocals. while I do like the new "evil goblin" style vocals, I would prefer the tortured cries of old Burzum any day. Maybe Varg can't do his old vocal style after being in prison for over a decade, who knows. I just know that Varg has plenty of vocal talent he could build upon. Speaking of which, the clean vocals on this album are a welcome addition. they are pretty frequent on this album, so it's a good thing that he does them well. they really make this album feel authentically Norwegian, as opposed to many bands where you don't care because they all sound the same.
It's good to see that one of the former kings of Norwegian black metal is back on his throne. I hope that there will be many more Burzum albums in the future, judging by the current direction he is headed. I would definitely recommend Fallen to anyone with an interest in Burzum
I have been listening to Burzum for about 12 years. I know all of the albums inside and out (I’m not counting the keyboard albums). I enjoy all of the albums and I don’t think it is important to say what album I think is best because anyone reading this is probably a fan of Burzum and has their own favorite for their own reasons. But, I can say the Fallen is my least favorite album to be released by Varg thus far (again, excluding the keyboard albums… they don’t really count in my opinion).
Yes, I did enjoy Belus. I was pleasantly surprised by the album, even though some songs sounded too familiar, but that was better than straying from the old Burzum sound and style. And, I do enjoy Fallen as well, but if I had to throw away one album this would be the one.
Here is my take on the last 2 albums. If Fallen was released first, I would like say I like it more than Belus. I find both albums have a similar sound and feel, although Fallen does have more clean vocals (too much, maybe?). My overall problem with the last 2 releases is the drums. Varg’s drums are way too boring in many of the songs. The tracks with straight 4/4 timing are fine. The songs with blast beats don’t bore me either. But, the other songs… he plays the exact same drums beat. I mean, really? That’s the best you can do? I don’t expect anything great, but play a fill every once in a while, or at least change up the beat a little. Just a little…
Some people are going to say “You just don’t get it… It is meant to be minimal… etc. etc. etc.” Yeah that is true, but is it meant to be boring?
Not going to list the song titles but part of track 2, all of track 3, most of track 5 uses the ‘boring’ beat I am talking about. The songs don’t feel like they are 'pushing' enough.
And while I'm complaining about this track 3 of Belus uses that beat as well and it’s my favorite track on the album.
So, for me the album is not bad. I still enjoy it. The vocals are decent even if a little too many clean vocals are present. The guitar is typical Burzum. And the bass... Well, who cares about the bass, but it is there and can be heard and adds to the song, especially Budstikken.
Fallen is an album that fans of Burzum will listen to and enjoy. But it may be the album you end up listening to the least after the ‘newness’ of it wears thin. Another fairly solid release from Varg Vikernes, even if the drums are starting to bore me to death.
About the only characteristic not in dispute of Burzum's 2010 album Belus was the vast amount of curious anticipation that it incited in not only those who had been following Varg's music since the 90s, but the wider range of hangers on and the irony crowd that his work sadly draws like hipsters to a keffiyeh vendor. A circus of mock admirers drawn to a controversial history. As for the actual content of that album, I was quite disappointed, as I found very few of the guitar passages to inspire me. In retrospect, I believe it is the very worst album of the entire Burzum lexicon: not innately terrible by any means, and nearly capturing the raw fervor and intensity of a Det Som Engang Var or Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, but falling well short in the dust.
I was thus pleasantly surprised that Vikernes has followed that act with Fallen, an appropriately mesmeric experience that has exceeded my expectations for his post-incarceration material, reducing Belus to a mere warm-up towards a heightened, creative expression. You will recognize the staples of his past here: tortured and direct rasped vocals with almost no filtration, long passages of repetitious guitars, and a rare ability to entrance you with a musical subtext. But there are a few new tricks here, like the numbing and soothing vocals that add a new layer of unexpected accessibility to the material, or the curving, delicious bass grooves that hover off to the edge of the guitar rhythms, content with the slightly strained perception that the listener will require to absorb them. As for the guitars themselves, they're delivered in a caustic, glittering range of higher pitched notes that simply leap out of the recording as if you were catching them on your own set of strings, your own shining amplification.
Nearly the entirety of Fallen provides an absorbing experience, but in particular I was enamored with "Vanvidd" for its somber, sullen clean vocals that contrast the razor thin tremolo picking; "Jeg faller" for mutation a fairly standard onslaught of black metal notation into a fabric of bright pain, with bass/spoken word vocal segues, a hypnotic curve to the bass and a strangely catchy, if predictable chorus; or "Budstikken", the longest track at over 10 minutes, which wonderfully carries a number of riffs through a thick bass line and gentle spikes of variation and torture, like watching a frost settle over quivering, muted water color hills. "Enhver til sitt" also borders on stunning, with cautious, eerie guitars delivered in haunting simplicity, and vocals that range from a forced whisper to an outburst of agony. Perhaps the one central track I'm not fully feeling is "Valen", though the vocals are again worthwhile and there's a decent, descending melody in the guitar line that does affix the ear. I think in the end I just didn't feel like it filled out its 9+ minutes to contentment.
The album is book ended by a pair of ambient tracks, "Fra verdenstreet" involving a ritual-like repetition of whispers over rising dissonance and dripping; the much longer "Til hel og tillbake igjen" a skilled and sparse balance of traditional percussion and strings that proves Vikernes is still on top of his experimentation. Neither distracts, not interrupts the steady flow of the core metal compositions. Then there's the partial use of Bouguereau's classic painting 'Elegy' on the cover, which only too well suits the music within. Fallen is likely to distance those who would probably have enjoyed a more abrupt return to the harsher environments of Vikerne's past works, or even those who think with longing on the pure ambient, glorious tones of the late 90s synthesizer albums. But to these ears, it's ultimately a finely wrought fabric of melodic indulgence through which the knives of dissent and isolation still stab out.