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Burzum lite - 53%

Brett_Stevens, March 9th, 2010

After a decade of absence, Burzum returns with a poppier, simpler, droning form that loses the sense of transcendence that made earlier Burzum great. It falls short of the past because unlike past albums, this new Burzum is designed to mimick the past successes of Burzum and others, as if the album were a means to an end like profit or notoriety.

Influences from the Slavic black metal scene are immediately apparent; the riffs are radically simplified and the song structures have reverted to a primitive A-B-A pattern. A dominant theme is introduced and then cycles with small changes being added sequentially, then there's a kind of extended bridge, and then we're back where we started. Where previous riffs were arranged melodically, this album is composed harmonically, with progressions set up to suggest a basic chord and then embellishment occurring in the spaces between notes. There's more dynamic energy in the fills than in the riffs themselves.

At least two songs sound like they are pre-Burzum. "Svarddans" could be lifted from Terrorizer's "Fear of Napalm," and seems incomplete, in that a main riff cycle diverts into a strange interlude and then returns as if two songs were pasted together. "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning" is a mishmash of influences from Destruction to Metallica in a big sloppy mess that has been stripped down and cleaned up here. Vikernes is of course at the height of his musical abilities, so he can make anything sound good, but the method of making "anything" sound good doesn't result in great songs -- only great interpretations of dumb songs.

The remaining songs have basic riffs without phrase, meaning that they are a series of chords on a relatively uniform pattern of rhythmic intervals, and between those chords the fills and embellishments give character and depth, then the chord progression periodically shifts its concluding note. Sound like anything you know? Yes, it resembles the "black metal flavored" indie rock of the Pacific Northwest, which combines well with the Drudkh-inspired droning ambient layers. As if to really make a hash of it, the band then injects Swedish melodic death metal touches to adorn the otherwise spare riffs.

Most people will say this is not Burzum's best, but that it would be good for most bands. I'll go further and say that, like "Divine Intervention" or "Slaughter of the Soul," this is a smart band dumbing down their material in order to guarantee a captive audience. It's like Burzum's version of the Metallica black album in that it's designed for a shorter attention span. So although it's better than most black metal, it loses what would make it a keeper for the next few decades, like the earlier Burzum albums were.