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Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to mention the name Burzum without the adverse and decisively tactless ideological outlooks of the project’s creator Varg Vikernes becoming the subject of concern and debate. However, before his infamous imprisonment and the following enhancement of his extreme fascist viewpoints, the man more often known as Count Grishnackh was creating some of the most inspired and evocative music ever known in the Black Metal genre. His undeniable creativity, paired with an overriding sense of originality and experimentalism, perhaps reached a pinnacle with the release of “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”, Burzum’s third full-length album.
The epic “Det Som En Gang Var” opens the album, with its strained ambience resonating immediately from both the ghostlike keyboard melody and the considerably subdued, yet harshly distorted, guitar tones. The extensive, although never overly dominant, utilisation of keyboards throughout the album to create a more chilling atmosphere than on previous releases is instantly perceptible. Furthermore, as the drums eventually kick in along with the simplistic but powerful main guitar riff, the true purpose of this album becomes noticeable- to produce a defiantly mid-paced yet wholly unsettling atmosphere within these four lengthy tracks. Vikernes’ vocals are as harsh and unrelenting as on previous Burzum releases but they are this time the accompaniment to music which portrays a far deeper and more intense environment. The virtually minimalist composition of this opening track, lasting over fourteen minutes, draws the listener directly into the album from the onset and the particularly simplistic keyboard melodies seem almost to lead the song through its dark and disconcerting mood.
The subsequent title track wastes no time in continuing this dejected atmosphere, starting with an indefatigable blast beat, but over eight minutes develops more restrained keyboard complements and various guitar tracks blending with one another almost discreetly amidst what becomes a solid mid-paced drum pattern. Again, Vikernes’ fierce vocals are more of an auxiliary function, practically hidden behind this wall of Black Metal sound as if he is trying to convey a sense of confinement and the subsequent desperation which has become a part of his temperament. “Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen” has more of the chaotic nature of earlier Burzum work prevalent throughout, with faster drums and some more simplified guitar riffs, but still manages to break off into elongated passages of despair and sorrow with perhaps the best vocal performances on the album, again emphasising this one man’s apparent struggle to accept humanity and the banality of existence.
Closing track “Tomhet” is a fully instrumental track utilising keyboards and synthesizers, hinting at a more experimental musical path which would be more closely followed and certainly bettered on 1996’s “Filosofem” album but it is nonetheless fitting closure to an album which created one of the most dark and aggressive atmospheres ever experienced within the Black Metal genre.
Ultimately, it is questionable whether anyone will ever be able to improve upon the epic moods portrayed throughout this undeniably fundamental work of art.
Originally written for http://www.blastwave.co.uk