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Notorious And With Good Reason - 85%

brocashelm, April 18th, 2006

And so begins the twisted tale of everyone’s favorite Nordic white supremacist Nazi black metal Viking Satanist Odin-worshipping incarcerated nut-job. Let’s face facts here people. In the years since Christen Vikernes, a.k.a. Varg Vikernes, a.k.a. Count Grishnackh came to public notice in the metal world, this guy has garnered more spilt ink in the music press than he will ever deserve over several lifetimes of misadventures. He murdered one of the black metal scene’s foremost architects (Oyster “Euronymous” Aarseth of Mayhem fame) and gloated about it, then claimed self-defense when on trial for said act, claimed to be a Satanist in his formative days, then claimed to be a Norse pagan, then claimed to embrace national socialism, and ultimately has marginalized himself as a self-obsessed violent narcissist who will serve many more years in a Norwegian prison for committing a very stupid act.

Trying to chart this guy’s guises and poses throughout the years is a frustrating and useless act, as he seems to feel the need to re-invent his persona in order to continue to receive attention every few years or so. But somewhere in that criminally idiotic mind is also the vision of some of black metal’s most authentically bleak and somberly inspired sounds. I really can’t bring myself to dwell to deeply on the man, so I choose to concentrate on the music he made, which some may see as irresponsible, but hey, this site is about MUSIC after all.

After performing with some marginal death metal bands (Old Funeral) in his native Norway, Vikernes became impressed with the vision of black metal foisted by the aforementioned Euronymous. Said vision of dark images, wailing humorless souls, and faces painted in the manner of plague victims flew in the face of current trends and was decidedly provocative. Acting in kind, Vikernes formed his own one-man band Burzum (from a Tolkien inspired word meaning darkness, originally Uruk-Hai) and began recording primitive but effective recordings the evoked sorrow and pain at their most acute. The self-titled debut album issued on the infamous Deathlike Silence label is testament to that vision of anti-human music.

Whatever his personal wackiness, Vikernes is a composer of emotional abandonment like few others. His melancholy riffs and forlorn sounds are almost without equal, the tortured wailings of a truly disturbed soul. It’s rumored that Vikernes screamed himself hoarse before recording the vocals for these songs and I believe it. His shrieks are unsettling indeed, the perfect match for his mournful riffs. “Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown” is a collection of just that, alternated as it is over thrashing and alternately pounding tempos. “War” conjures up perhaps the album’s most obvious antecedent, Bathory, but only in spirit. Remorseful instrumentals dot the affair, most especially in the form of “The Crying Orc” and “Channeling The Power Of Souls Into A New God.” The overall feel is one of bleak despair, and it may very well have been in this state that Vikernes future violent urges sprang. Whatever the truth, Burzum’s debut is an unforgettable experience.

Again, the man behind the music is one to be kept at arm’s length ideologically and clearly one not playing with a complete deck of UNO cards. But at this point, he had what was simply the most personal and foreboding vision of black metal music to date. This counts for something.