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Transphilvanian, February 23rd, 2010

This is one of the five black metal recorded pre-jail for Varg Vikernes and, despite its shorter length, it lives up to the other releases without any questions asked.

This is probably, bar some of his electronic affairs, one of Varg's most minimal and ambient records, despite being the only one to feature 100% guitar orientated tracks. As has been widely documented, the beauty of Varg's music has never been technicality but here he especially relies on brilliant songwriting, all encompassing production and vocal lines that make you feel his anguish to communicate an atmosphere that is, for me, unmatched by any other artist past or present.

As I mentioned before, the riffs on this release are somewhat simple chords that develop and grow through the tracks, incorperating layers of melody that drift in and out creating a wash of sound that, once fully devop and progress throughout the tracks, can take you to another world in your very own head. Bass guitar generally contributes as accompaniment only but is very audible and sometimes takes a different direction, slowly taking another road only to be slowly brought back to the main melody with seamless ease. Drums are not fast, not technical and not even stand out but serve another purpose which is simply to accompany the journey. Mostly adverse to the standard in rock music, the drums are used more in common with the traits of classical music, in the sense that they take a back seat to keep concentration on the song development at hand or even, at some points, are just completely left out. Don't get me wrong though, when the melodies and construction of these tracks are as good as some of these, you are thankful for it.

I'm trying hard to avoid talking about single tracks as it's more of an all encompassing listen, however I will have to be forgiven for saying a couple of words on what is one of my favourite Burzum tracks, "Dominus Sathanus". This song really, even almost 20 years down the line, gives me hope that it is possible to write small symphonies lacking percussion yet still assign it to part of the metal genre. The gentle build up of almost confused and bewildered notation at the beginning of the track only develops into a haunting and eerie middle section before building up and by the end creating an almost folky and epic outro which creates an atmosphere which makes a 3 minute track feel like I have been lost in for hours.

Both first and last tracks take similar form although the latter being longer and the pacing slightly more abrupt, being perfectly used to conclude the album. There is also more of the percussive techniques mentioned using a combination of very fast and minimal drumming akin to Fenriz on "Transilvanian Hunger" and at points creating such a slow down and appreciation for tempo change that percussion is left out entirely. It is this sense and concentration on song development found here that really creates such a rewarding listen and brings metal to another level of artistic integrity.

Overall this is one of my favourites as you may have gathered and the reason it misses out on perfect for me is the completely unexplained abrupt ending of the first track, which as much as I try to think about, just confuses me. It just seems far too random to be on purpose. Either way this is essential listening for Burzum fans, black metal fans and metal fans alike and I cannot praise it highly enough, as well as all of Burzum's other early work. With his new opus on the horizon I worry that it will not live up to what once was, however we can all live in the knowledge that whatever is released from here on in there will always be the unmatcheable atmosphere and beauty of a bizarre intellectual visionary's early 90's output.