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Neither here nor there, but bloody everywhere - 60%

autothrall, November 28th, 2011

I was quite perplexed when the announcement was first made for this compilation of repurposed and repackaged Burzum tracks. I'm sure I am not the only one. Those who follow Vikernes' in interviews will likely recall his statements to the nature of wanting his music to originally sound as bad as possible, with the worst instruments, the worst microphones and the worst amplifier; to really let the talents and the emotions of the individual shine through in the crudest array of musical devices. So it seemed to me a bit 'flip flop' that the early recordings Burzum and Det Som Engang Var would ever retrieve a treatment such as this one. But really, when it comes down to the line, it is Varg's music and his business what he does with the music. If the man wants to record his dishwasher on an endless loop for 80 minutes, then I'm sure there would be an applicable market...

Despite this hesitation, From the Depths of Darkness does not sound all that 'polished' or all that bad. Varg had mentioned he was never happy with particular elements of the original recordings, like the vocals, and thus he's gone on to adjust them without losing most of the music's primal underpinnings in translation. These sorts of releases are rarely much good for me. An artist might come along and blow the original recordings out of the water (like that recent Satan's Host collection); or simply complement the originals with a fresh coat of paint (Destruction's Thrash Anthems) that remains entertaining; or flop along uselessly with some unwelcome new vocalist present on the classics (Exodus' Let There Be Blood). In the case of this record, it's the same man, the same vision, only tweaked with a few components he wanted to hear, but may have muddled up in the original incarnations of the songs.

Now, this is not the entirety of Burzum or Det Som Engang Var, but a selection of tracks affixed with a few ambient intros and interludes. As such, one should not go into it expecting the same play order, and the alternation of the tunes creates a mildly different atmosphere. The guitar tones are more propulsive and brighter in pieces like "Feeble Screams from Forests Unknown" and "Ea, Lord of the Depths", and the screams a bit more brash. If anything, he's updated the level of production to that of his more recent efforts Belus and Fallen: not at all the sort of poppy, studio glamors one might expect, but a solid representation of where he's at today. To be sure, I don't think those original albums could EVER be replaced. Their importance to millions of fans, followers and clones is not in dispute, and part of their charm was their moral distance and the dry, downtrodden architecture of sound. If there is anything noticeably missing from these new versions, it's that same, somnolent spiral of agony.

The ambient pieces here are really just used to extract their ancestors from the originals, and create a separation. The best example is right up front, as the emergency-warning sounds that once inaugurated "Feeble Screams..." have been sliced, and a new intro "The Coming" is given its own, sparse, admittedly worthless existence. Same with the low, cavernous ambient rumbling of "Sassu Wunnu" which is placed before "Ea, Lord of the Depths". "Call of the Siren" is a bit more substantial, with some warped guitar loops and residual ambiance, but it too feels barren even for Burzum. I could have done without all of these, but as far as the more important metallic tracks, I found that some were still pretty exciting despite the facelift. "Key to the Gate" sounds positively thrashing here. "Channeling the Power of Minds into a New God" has a nice buzz to the two droning guitars. "My Journey to the Stars" sounds quite atmospheric and powerful...

To sum it up: Do you love these Burzum tracks so much that you're excited for their marginal mutation into a fresher form, with none of the dreaded onus of studio glitter or overproduction? Then From the Depths of Darkness will not prove a disappointment. Or does your devotion reach so exceedingly far that the very notion of this is of heresy and alienation? Well then, you probably aren't going to derive much amusement from this album. Personally, I'm on the fence. The new recordings were not completely offensive or unwelcome, but I just don't see them as necessary or all that compelling, since they largely follow the originals and only deviate in a few of their underlying details. I'm much more interested in his new ideas and material (I quite liked Fallen), and so I hope he will turn to that fertile territory next, rather than some future splicing and retreading of, say, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com