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Hymns To Church Burning. - 99%

OfHateAndWinter, November 3rd, 2004

Perhaps the epitome of the Norwegian Black Metal movement of the early to mid 1990's, these hymns are the creation of a visionary. Recorded and released at a time when new ground was being broken musically and ideologically, 'Aske' is not so much a 3 track mini-CD as it is a statement. The front cover alone (a photograph of the scorched remains of the Fantoft stave church, which also serves as a little reminder of the Count's extra-curricular activities) is enough to give you an indication of the ideas Grishnackh was purporting at the time.

Somewhat of a rarity here, this incarnation of Burzum is not solely Varg. Emperor's Samoth lent his bass-playing talents to 2 of the 3 tracks (namely tracks 1 and 3), though it's hard to notice, honesty. The production is rough and raw, but the guitars and drums, and vocals are clearly audible, and overall the production suits the music perfectly.

The 3 tracks on offer are all excellent. "Stemmen Fra Taarnet" is a grim, Bathory-esque headbanger of a song. Beginning with a simplistic first-wave-sounding BM riff and developing slowly into an epic yet subtle piece, the feeling prevalent is one of soaring Norwegian landscapes by the sea, of water, and of fjords. Atmospheric is an understatement. The song ends very abruptly, strangely enough, leaving the listener momentarily off balance.

Before given time to recover, "Dominus Sathanas" begins with an evil as fuck riff. Layered guitars provide harmonies and melodies that are equally menacing and sorrowful. Early on, Varg whispers something then lets out an acidic scream around 30 seconds into the track. Although short and somewhat repetitive, this effort serves as a good intermezzo between the 2 behemoths either side of it.

"A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit" is a fucking masterpiece of ashen, hateful, "depressing" (before that term became stale and meaningless) black metal, which is hard to describe musically, because the level it works best on is spiritually. This is another grand, epic firestarter, bringing to mind the image of a Norwegian standing in front of a blazing church in the black of night, gazing with pride upon what he has just created. Again, the pace is slow to moderate for most of the song, at times sounding like the kind of thing Nortt might do nowadays, though not as well.

The Count's burning screams embody perfectly the prevailing mood and spirit of this mCD. The sound of one man struggling against Christianity, single-handedly fighting to rid his proud, noble country of the pathetic Christian plague, and attempting to, with music and fire as his weapons, bring back "what once was". Close your eyes, and be taken to another place. A place where the strong prevail. Where the spirits of old are alive once more.

An interesting footnote: some copies came with a Burzum zippo (though apparently Varg had nothing to do with this).