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Whether one views him as an intentional genius, an idiot savant or even a media whore, it is hard to deny the creative legacy of Varg Vikernes and his artistic outlet, Burzum. Like a looming mountain range, shrouded in mist and legend, he has cast a dark and forboding shadow across the face, not only of black metal, but all subsequent extreme music. And, among those mountains, "Hvis lyset tar oss" stands as Everest, towering above all that came before it and dwarfing all that has passed since.
Metal, as a genre, has excelled beyond all modern forms of music in its passion for transcendence and its embrace of the epic spirit of the glorious past. But where most metal found the epic in grandiose gestures, pomp and circumstance, "Hvis lyset tar oss" wraps itself in the mystery of the Void, becoming metal's most sublime expression by reaching inward, into dream and memory, to find both eternal sorrow and joy in that which has been lost.
"Hvis lyset tar oss" is the suspension of time set to music. It is that simple. It is that complex. The infinite past is reimagined as the eternal future; the future is the endless present that never was. Nothing is hurried, nothing is forced. Four songs are stretched across 44 minutes, and while none lingers too long, all echo through the imagination long after they are finished, each unfolding naturally, in its own time. This is an album that entrances with through sheer grace; driven by deceptively simple, but gloriously beautiful melodies and harmonies whose motion is the purest of elegance, themes evolving so subtly that even the attentive listener is quickly enveloped without ever discovering quite why.
But the magic of "Hvis lyset tar oss" is as much about the space between sound as sound itself. The album opens with the dreamspace echoes of the intro to "Det som engang var," perhaps the greatest single masterpiece of metal ever produced, a song built of the controlled but explosive energy of longing and the almost unbearable weight of eternity condensed into its many contemplative pauses. It closes with the fading heartbeat and forlorn keyboard melody of "Tomhet," a prayer offered up to the darkness within, the very essence of its sound hinting at the crushing silence of the void without. In between, the title track and "Inn i slottet fra drømmen" seethe with rage against a world that has turned away from the beauty of its past and burn with hope for a rebirth of ancient wisdom.
Always, "Hvis lyset tar oss" is locked in struggle. Between silence and sound, despair and hope, defeat and victory. Struggles that do not and cannot end, but form the very basis of any life worth living or universe worth living in. This is its genius, and its curse, to pose the questions and wrestle with answers that never quite come.