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Living Proof that Improvements Come With Time. - 78%

woeoftyrants, January 5th, 2007

There's no denying the legendary status of this album, that's for damn sure. Varg's first full album, as well as the Aske EP, still has an undeniable influence on today's black metal. Both recordings have single-handedly inspired hordes of suicidal/depressive black metal bands who have imitated Varg to no avail, and has been somewhat of a holy grail for "minimalist" BM bands.

But clearly, Varg wasn't necessarily on top of his game with this first album. Some factors can be dismissed, such as the all-too-crude production, which seems to lack that quality of spaciousness and breadth that gave Det Som Engang Var and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss such a wonderful atmosphere. However, there are certain things which come off as an identifiable weakness: Vocal performances that seem forced or uncertain; a surprising lack of full-length songs or songwriting effort, which results in a clusterfuck of essentially useless tracks; (Ex: "The Crying Orc," "Dungeons of Darkness") and an all-around amateur feel to the whole experience. I don't give a fuck how "raw" it is, there's no excuse for this number of drum fuck-ups. I realize Varg was not an experienced drummer, as seen in the playing techniques; but it's not that hard to keep a steady beat without fucking up in one way or another.

But, what this release lacks in the maturity of later releases is made up for with pure, juvenile aggression in tracks like "My Journey to the Stars," "A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit," and "Spell of Destruction." Though Varg's songwriting skills and playing chops would improve with subsequent releases, the song crafting here is at its best with the opener, "Feeble Screams From the Forest Unknown," which twists and turns through a myriad of primitive, rock-ish BM riffs and the agonized wail that Varg has become known for. While definitely not his strongest or best output, the reputation of this release cannot be put down by anyone. It holds its own for sure, but Varg would outdo himself from this block of amateur songs, lyrics, and riffs.

I guess what it comes down to is this: The spacious, wintry atmosphere that made Burzum so great is not present on this release, thus rendering it somewhat inferior in my eyes. This is illustrated with the overtly garage instrument sound and production techniques, and a general lack of emotion seen on later albums.

Pros: Legendary status, long-lived influence, some classic tracks
Cons: Weak songwriting, general uncertainty/lack of organic nature in the music, sub-par production for Burzum.