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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)