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How NOT to do Dungeon Synth - 30%

Slater922, June 8th, 2020
Written based on this version: 1997, CD, Misanthropy Records (Digipak)

It's the year 1997. Varg Vikernes is doing his time for all the crimes he committed, including the murder of Euronymous. However, Varg still had a desire to release more music. The problem is, the prison he was staying in only allowed him to have a synthesizer. In Varg's case, however, it isn't really a problem, because he has done ambient music before. Plus, by releasing atmospheric albums, he can expand his fanbase by introducing them to dungeon synth. And it all started here with the album "Dauði Baldrs".

Now I don't have a problem with ambient black metal/dungeon synth. In fact, if it's done well, it can sound fantastic. Burzum has created good ambient music before with the song "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" from the "Filosofem" album. While the song is lengthy, the high quality synths and the space-like atmosphere works excellent for background music. In this album, however, it all sounds like a watered-down version of previous ambient songs. Later on, Varg would release "Hliðskjálf", and the overall quality of that album is far superior. I would argue that "Dauði Baldrs" is more of a trial and error album, while "Hliðskjálf" is the more finished version.

Now let's talk about the synths. The synths themselves are in an amateur quality. Now I understand that the prison didn't allow Varg to have the most prestigious musical equipment, but even then, he could've gotten a better synth. They sound like they come from a lost Nintendo 64 game, so there are cheap sounds of trumpets, generic sounds of echos, and even a hideous-sounding drum that has a lack of reverb and loudness. I didn't think I would find a Burzum album that has horrible production besides the early demos, but this one takes the cake in the worst instruments in Burzum's discography.

Even without the amateur instruments, the albums still reeks of obsessive repetition. While "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" does include its fair share of repetition, the high quality production makes up for it. Here, the horrible instruments don't do it any favors. The cheap sounds only make the repetition worse. One of the worst cases of this in the album is "Illa tiðandi". Most of the song is just a simple piano tune followed by generic echos. What makes this even more annoying is the fact that it goes on for 10 minutes. The poor production ends up making the song feel a lot longer than 10 minutes. Had it been cut down to say 5 minutes, it would've been more tolerable.

However, it's not all bad in this album. "Hermoðr á Helferð" is one of the only good songs off the album. While it does feature repetition, it isn't that bad since the song is only 2 minutes and 40 seconds long. Also, the quality of the synths is slightly better, though they still have that cheap sound, and they give off a sweet sound that can relax the listener. Another decent song is "Í heimr Heljar". It still has the generic-sounding drums, but this one is also short at 2 minutes. Plus, it does execute the epic sounds better than most of the other songs.

I can see the direction Varg was going for in this album, as he wanted to create a dungeon synth album that have medieval influences. However, that idea is executed poorly with the cheap production and excessive repetition. While there were some okay songs on the album, it's not something I'd want to listen to on a daily basis.

Misunderstood? Probably Not. - 85%

blacksabbath1968, March 6th, 2018

What can be said about "Dauði Baldrs" that hasn't already been said? Most people hate it, and considering Varg used MIDI only on this release in 1994/1995, that alone is pretty damning for most listeners. It doesn't help that every track is in the same droning, atmospheric style Burzum is known for, which was cemented in the previous album, "Filosofem". So why am I giving this album an 85, despite it's flaws? Because I love it. This album, along with his previous ambient works, are what got me into dungeon synth/darkwave/whatever you want to call it in the first place.

I've heard complaints that the MIDI sound font used on the album takes away any and all atmosphere that Varg was trying to achieve, and while it's probably not what he had in mind, I disagree. Yes, most of the tracks do drone on, but back to the previous album for a minute. Is there any reason why "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" should be 25 minutes long when it has seemingly one or two changes over the course of the track? Over the years, I've warmed up to it, but I feel that the atmosphere created in the tracks on "Dauði Baldrs" come across better. As I'm listening to it right now, I almost feel like I'm in a medieval castle myself listening to a court musician play dirges...OK, maybe nothing that pretentious.

The album's concept is supposed to be about the story of Balder, but none of the tracks have lyrics. Instead, descriptions of "what the atmosphere of each track should be" are old Norse. Yeah, alright Varg, you're very kvlt, we get it. I see that there are translations in English, however. I don't really care about the concept too much. I'm also not familiar with the story of Balder, but it seems like an interesting enough subject to look into. However, I don't agree with having to describe what each track is supposed to "feel like", but if that's the only way to stick to the concept, so be it.

I've heard this album be described as "video game music", among other things. Plinking piano, orchestral and choir samples fill the album's 40 minute running time. As someone that appreciates game soundtracks, I can appreciate it on that level as well. If Varg had access to proper synth at the time, this album might of been a classic in the eyes of Burzum fans, it might of been worse, who knows. It's an ambient album made with MIDI, and it's great. Not for everyone, even dungeon synth/dark ambient fans.

Dauði Baldrs - 45%

EvilAllen, September 20th, 2017

Hate to have this sound harsh but here goes. What the hell was Varg thinking when he created this buffoon music? I understand he was in prison during this time in his life, but still. No noteworthy effort was put into the release. This isn't black metal at all. I wouldn't even contemplate this being any form of ambience either. Judging by the album artwork, one could assume the music within would be admirable, but it's not, not at all. In fact, quite straightforwardly, it's the absolute reverse. The simplicity is almost illusory. In no way, would I even attempt to abuse the mentally-disabled with the unvarying simplicity of this terrifying record.

This record is created using some form of computerized synths. However, the prison allowing Varg to have access to this sort of creativity is beyond me. It's discouraging knowing this record even exists. I guess if you're already dead and want this played at your funeral, it would probably be suitable. At least you wouldn't hear it since you'd be dead. But why depress the visitors paying their respects to you even more by forcing this catastrophe upon them? You know it's wrong! If I have to say anything positive about this release, it would be the production of the audio. It's undoubtedly cleaner and more crisp than what Burzum tends to release. The sound of the instruments themselves aren't all that bad, but that persistent trumpet loop on the first track, which is self-titled with the same name as the album "Dauði Baldrs", is completely and utterly annoying. It must repeat itself about four times in those nine minutes at least. In fact, all the tracks on here are dragged on like this. It's just awful. If Varg would have taken this a lot more seriously, Dauði Baldrs could have been one of his better establishments. You would expect hearing this unspeakable foundation on an Nintendo 64 video game cartridge. Hell, even classic video game music sounds better than this pandemonium.

I've listened to this record three times. And each time, I could feel a little part of myself dying because of it. Even in a form of ambience (which I wouldn't literally suggest it as being so), it fails beyond belief, on every possible level. The primary reason this shameless album is unforgettable is because of the unadulterated recurrence it displays. I mean, who the hell thinks, in their right mind, that this is a magnum opus? The damn tracks are too fucking long for the amount of repeated loops featured in each individual song. Varg would create a tiny section of (dreadful) music and copy and paste it, one-by-one, each time. A surgeon probably should have had X-rays done on Varg's head before he released this abhorrent piece of shit. Maybe he was mentally ill or something? Because no one with a good head on their shoulders would have made this disaster. Why did he have to prolong the tracks for as long as he did? It wouldn't have been so bad if each track would have shown a deep sense of depth. Not like, four instruments being featured on each track, constantly repeating themselves within seconds apart. This would be expected out of something in The Legend of Zelda, if the Zelda series sucked entirely.

My favourite part of the album surely isn't the fucking music, if that's what you would want to attempt at calling this agony. No, my favourite part of the album would be the artwork. At least Varg had that going for Burzum. That was well-detailed, why couldn't the music have been, too? The state of mind displayed in the album in general would be on the lazy side. I would never spend my own money on purchasing this godawful fragment of goat snot. Firstly, if anyone suggested this nightmare to someone else, the person suggesting it needs help. This creation is utterly absurd. There's no maturation, development or interest put into this whatsoever. Not to mention, no imagination. The atmosphere is completely dull, like pencil squeaking on lined-paper in school because you're too lazy to get up and sharpen it beside the teacher's desk. Varg's lacking abilities and music compositions are completely unacceptable and unnecessary here. Would have been better off not making music until being released from prison, then continue onward.

It matters not how you put this, the entire forty-minute record doesn't provide much adventure and is completely and shamelessly boring. It never progressed, it just remained the same during the whole time. What a thoroughgoing waste of my, other listeners and Varg's time especially. If you're going to listen to anything created by Burzum, for your own sanity, listen to something else, not this goddamn mistake.

Fizzles - 35%

Grumpy Cat, June 7th, 2017

In the list of the many releases I find myself wanting to review and then actually reviewing Daudi Baldrs holds a bit of a special spot, because unlike many others this review was written purely on a Warhammer Fantasy based desire to cover something that sounds like fantasy. Enter Daudi Baldrs, an odd album to come to my mind given that I have more or less a non existent knowledge of dungeon synth and an equally existent care for Burzum in general.

Putting my personal thoughts aside though, this probably could be put up with Megadeth's Risk, Celtic Frost's Prototype and Cold Lake or even St. Anger and Lulu from Metallica for biggest "what were you guys even thinking" albums in metal. Though the popular consensus would also state that unlike the aforementioned albums Daudi Baldrs retains artistic integrity due to the circumstances and vision that played into its creation. I honestly am not going to pretend like I know what Varg was thinking when he created this and after 4 or 5 episodes of the Thulean Perspective on YouTube it hits me pretty heavily trying to understand Varg would be a pretty futile task for me since we have two very different ways of thinking and see the world in two very different ways. So if there were to be something I fundamentally have to get to enjoy this album then I'd be a quick hop away from never enjoying this album.

All that being said, this is not the terrible and awful release its often made out to be, or at least not fully, the potential is here and most of these same ideas can and would be put together again to craft the follow up which I did enjoy. While most complaints on this album boil down to "it's too basic" or "it's not black metal" my issue is the repetition. I'm not all that concerned that this album could easily be the soundtrack for an 8 bit fantasy game or that the melodies are basic, to the contrary, I quite love that. Doing that same synth melody for 8 minutes straight though like on the very opening track, or all of them, that's where I find myself putting my foot down. At about the 2 minute mark it goes from being moderately enjoyable and quickly devolves into just waiting for the track to end, trying to find something to keep myself occupied rather than just skipping the track altogether because I need to be damn sure the track doesn't pick up halfway through before I write my review. There are two tracks here that can be comfortably sat through for their entirety, go ahead, guess which two, hint, they're the shortest two. And while I do like the melody for Illa Tidandi particularly, it's both pretty and creates a nice sad and tragic atmosphere, but it still suffers from the issue that it's not exactly worth showcasing for an entire 10 minutes. Nothing here needs to be or should be dragged out for as long as it is.

Unfortunately loses its charm - 28%

BlackMetal213, June 5th, 2016

"Dauði Baldrs" was Burzum's first album after Varg Vikernes was imprisoned for the arson of multiple churches and the murder of fellow musician Euronymous. Because he was only allowed limited access to a synth while in jail, he recorded two dark ambient albums, this being the first released in 1997 and the other being "Hliðskjálf" released in 1999. This was actually one of the first albums of Burzum I ever listened to many years ago. Upon my many listens to this album, I really enjoyed it at first. Unfortunately, this has ended up being my least favorite Burzum album and it lost its charm to my ears. There is some good buried in here but its overshadowed by the mediocrity and overall boring and lackluster music.

So this is a purely dark ambient album. There are no guitars, drums, or vocals. This record is completely instrumental. I don't have an issue with instrumental music at all and I even have my own dark ambient/noise music project. In fact, I prefer my ambient music to be instrumental. The issue I have with this is, ironically, how repetitive the music gets. I also enjoy repetitive ambient music, and black metal for that matter. But when you take one single keyboard note and play it over and over for 10 and a half minutes, it tends to get very old very fast and loses its charm. This is exactly the case with "Illa tiðandi". Thing is, the note is actually quite beautiful and sad, if quite simplistic and primitive. Varg would have been able to save the song had he changed it up a few times at least but unfortunately, he does not, and it fades into oblivion. The title track also follows the same exact structure throughout its nearly 9-minute runtime. It's not a bad sound and the notes sound really eerie and dark but they definitely overstay their welcome. The same can be said about "Bálferð Baldrs" which actually takes its main key segment from one of the riffs in "Jesus' Tod" from the "Filosofem" album. Great song but here, it just doesn't work favorably.

I really can't say much more about this album aside from the fact that it really serves no purpose, whatsoever. Sure, it has an interesting musical concept dealing with the story of the Norse god Baldr, acting as a sort of instrumental scripture, but the concept is all it really has going for itself. The music is just bland and uninspired and to this day, I still try to listen to it for the feeling I used to get. I used to really enjoy this but now, I'm sorry to say this record has been spun one time too many. Thankfully, Varg's next album "Hliðskjálf" is quite better and an overall solid ambient album.

Enthralling...for a little while - 45%

Valfars Ghost, April 12th, 2016

Almost as infamous as Varg Vikernes' murder of Euronymous, Dauði Baldrs has been a polarizing album since its 1997 release. Abandoning (or being forced to abandon, rather) the raging electric guitars and the thundering drums he'd used earlier in his career, Varg dives headfirst into the atmospheric ambitions the last 30 minutes of Burzum's previous album, Filosofem first introduced listeners to. People love to argue about whether this is a masterfully atmospheric journey or a repetitive borefest. I find myself in the latter camp, though I can't outright decry this album. It may be tiresome in its repetition, but there's still some inspired songcraft to be found in certain parts of this journey.

Varg is owed quite a bit of credit for certain aspects of this album that turned out far better than detractors would like to admit. The main thing that is beautifully communicated through most of this album is the emotional tone from each part of the story told in the liner notes. Usually people go into this album expecting it to sound horrible because it was played on a cheap synthesizer but Varg squeezes a lot of value out of the machine's limited capabilities. Sure, the low quality of its tone can be a bit distracting but music is more about the skill of the writers and performers than the instruments they use. With that in mind, slipping into the mythic world that inspired this album, with the narrative liner notes to guide you, is surprisingly easy. Varg crafted some truly evocative melodies that, at least for a time, make you forget that they're being played on a crummy instrument. Some of these numbers sound like menu music from a Super Nintendo-era RPG but a few of them deliver timeless medieval melodies that transport you to Varg's fantasy world. For this reason, the best way to listen to this album is while reading the story. When you do this, the notes and chord progressions take on new meaning. The title track becomes enthralling with its doom-foretelling main motif and 'Hermoðr á Helferð', with its folk-derived ditty conveying a hopeful optimism, is a great audio companion to the retelling of the ride Hermoðr takes to Hel in an attempt to bring Baldr back. Every song here, at the very least, does something to tonally create a mood that fits with the story.

With some genuinely deft, if minimalistic, writing at the heart of Dauði Baldrs, what went so horribly wrong? Well, the minimalism that was welcome as far as composing rhythms was concerned slipped its way into Varg's method of structuring the album. Each song only has a maximum of three ideas, which, when half of these numbers exceed the eight-minute mark, isn't enough. Worse, the songs don't have an interesting way of presenting these ideas. They just places them in a revolving door without allowing one to build or flow naturally into the next. First there's Melody 1, then Melody 2, then maybe Melody 3. Then the cycle starts again. 'Illa tiðandi' isn't even kind enough to give us that. This piece is just one extremely basic pattern played over and over again for 10 minutes, sometimes accompanied by a synth effect that sounds like a mournful choir, sometimes not. Even the title track, the only lengthy number here that satisfies, is just an endless cycle of the same few motifs, wearing out its welcome a couple minutes before it's over.

If the Internet is to be believed, a lot of people don't understand this album, which I assume means they just don't appreciate atmospheric music, especially coming from a black metal innovator like the Vargster. The idea of someone failing to comprehend these songs on their own terms is baffling because, with all the parts on Dauði Baldrs that are practically copied and pasted ad nauseum, I understand it too easily. Without buildup or nuanced interactions between the different elements at play, there's not much to discover. The best albums, regardless of genre, contain elements that are well thought-out and meaningful but not necessarily obvious at first glace. Finding them during a third or fourth listen lends them depth that make them better. This album has little of that. Varg's always been one of the more repititious of the Norwegian black metal composers but his stuff before this had some spark. Here, he sounds bored (which he probably was because he was in prison). While some initial inspiration can be heard in some of this album's stronger and more emotive melodies, that ambition sadly didn't carry over to the way everything was laid out, allowing almost every song to devolve into a bland and lifeless journey through an endlessly repeating hallway in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

A Lot of Input, A Little Output - 80%

Iron Wizard, December 28th, 2015

With a one man band like Burzum, the only member ending up in prison for murder would make one think that the band would be over, but miraculously, this was not the case with Burzum. Varg was able to release two full albums over the course of his sixteen years of imprisonment. The two albums he produced were this album (Daudi Baldrs), and Hiloskjalf. They both consist of only synthetic material.

While Hiloskjalf would be the textbook definition of dark ambient, Daudi Baldrs actually consists of what one could call "synthetic black metal". Compositionally, the music here is black metal. The only difference is that it is synthetic, meaning it is purely synthesizer based.

The opening track, "Daudi Baldrs" is a suspenseful composition. It is fairly well written, and has no real compositional flaws other than a dragging feeling that actually isn't too bad. The use of a cheap horn sound in the place of a rhythm guitar is what makes this song feel a bit off. But Varg was in prison during the recording of this, so he really didn't have access to an extensive array of equipment.

Most of the music on Daudi Baldrs is string based, using horn like sounds to create a dark wall of atmosphere. There are a few deviations from this formula. The second track of the album, "Hermoðr á Helferð" features some plucked string sounds. A few tracks also have bells in them, which serve little purpose other than to make the album seem more complete.

Two songs, "Bálferð Baldrs" and "Illa tiðandi", are actually rerecordings of two Filosofem songs, "Jesus Tod" and "Gebrechlichkeit I", respectively. "Illa tiðandi" is my personal favorite on Daudi Baldrs. It features the same great composition as its Filosofem counterpart, but it is a little less interesting due to the lack of distortion and incoherence. That is what made the songs on Filosofem so special.

Varg Vikernes put forth a great amount of effort when recording Daudi Baldrs. He composed each song quite carefully. He added a few interesting parts to the two rerecordings to make them a bit original, as it would be a bit of a ripoff to release the same material again. Sadly, even with all of this effort put forth, this does not join the ranks of such albums as Filosofem and the debut. Possibly, if the traditional metal setup of guitars, bass, drums, and vocals were used, this could join those ranks. It's not that I have an issue with ambient, it's just that very cheesy sounds were used here. As previously mentioned, cheap horn sounds take the place of a rhythm guitar at some points. The orchestral strings are great sounding at first, but because of their simplicity, they can get a little tiring for the listener.

Other than a few flaws that Varg really had no control over, Daudi Baldrs is a good album. It is just lacking when it is compared to the rest of Burzum's discography.

Varg goes to prison, his music goes to Runescape. - 41%

ConorFynes, August 13th, 2015

No one can say Dauði Baldrs was recorded under the best circumstances. While the most infamous murder in rock history most directly robbed us of Euronymous, who had only recently hit his stride on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, but Varg Vikernes' incarceration put a considerable handicap on his musical output. Consider this: Varg had gone from the primitive sketches on Burzum to a timeless mastery come Filosofem in the space of a year. What kind of music might we have expected to hear from him, had he kept his nose out of the dirt, free to record without the constraints of a prison cell? No matter the path he may have chosen, chances are it would be nowhere near as disappointing as Dauði Baldrs.

In most other cases, it seems I'm actually a rare supporter of Burzum's ambient material, new and old. While there's no comparing The Ways of Yore to, let's say, Hvis lyset tar oss, I think Vikernes' innate ear for ancient atmosphere comes across no matter which side of the tracks he's coming from. His skill with ambiance was apparent from the start too; the self-titled debut ended on an eerie note with "Dungeons of Darkness". Had I been anticipating Dauði Baldrs before it came out, I wouldn't have any reason to think it was going to be bad. Keep in mind this is the same guy who managed to keep me enthralled for 25 minutes with the minimalist "Rundgang um die transzendentale Säule der Singularität" off the album before.

People who hate on Dauði Baldrs simply for not being 'metal' undoubtedly fail to understand Vikernes' character as a musician, and I'm sure he laughs at them. No, the real problem with Dauði Baldrs is how far it fell short of what it should have been. There's no doubting he had challenges; he wasn't permitted use of 'real' instruments, and the artistic capacity for a prison-sponsored computer in 1997 is no doubt horribly limiting, but that can't fully be to blame for this. Dauði Baldrs sounds like it was recorded largely with the cheapest MIDI sounds Varg could find. The chosen sounds clearly mean to approximate 'real' instruments, but it's as if the man was still up to his 'worst is best' doctrine when it came to recording the music. The palette of fake horns and lifeless percussion on the title track is almost laughably hollow. If I were to play devil's advocate with this, I might suspect Vikernes imagined it as a soundtrack to an unmade computer RPG. I could see some of the stuff here possibly working in that regard, but even then I could see a lot of it getting annoying as all hell if it were looping endlessly while I dungeon crawled. Varg's penchant for repetitive minimalism didn't go anywhere when he went to prison, so the given loops here even manage to get grating.

The cheap MIDI palette on Dauði Baldrs makes the Runescape soundtrack sound like a von Karajan production by contrast, but there is some authentic atmosphere that exists in spite of the fakeness. The title track is undoubtedly the worst offender o the lot, and though it's one of the most laughably bad songs I've heard from an otherwise brilliant artist, the rest of Dauði Baldrs gets a fair bit better. "Hermoðr á Helferð" is simple and quaint. "Illa tiðandi" actually hints at Vikernes' genius as a composer with an incredibly basic but evocative piano line that sorts more realized than the faux-orchestrations. I'd say "Móti Ragnarǫkum" actually holds up to the rest of his ambient material; it's a sign of how good this album could have been in spite of the budget restrictions.

Dauði Baldrs is interesting as a historical artefact, and I'd say there's even some solid material here for those who don't mind its damning flaw. I can even hear good intentions on the album, and the corresponding mythological concept even suggests some thoughtfulness. Varg can attach paragraphs of supposed significance to each of these pieces if he wants to, but at the end of the day, I can't see myself feeling an urge to return to this at some point in the future. As much as I'd like to defend this album, it's an almost completely unworthy successor to Filosofem.

Arcade Music - 55%

McTague97, January 2nd, 2015

If I were to be 100% honest I don't carry any ill will towards this album. I know it's very disliked amongst the metal community, but I don't simply because it struck sort of a nostalgia. It sounds like it could be the soundtrack for an old school sword and magic arcade game, which is strangely something I'm extremely familiar with.

As far as the sound goes its far clearer and cleaner then the music for most any retro arcade game and miles away from what Varg did with his previous black metal albums. Its very slick and very clean. (Probably because it was generated on a computer and not recorded)

Musically it is very simplistic and very repetitive. Clearly meant to be minimalist. Basically every song is 4 layers. Each layer meant to sound like a stereotypically medieval fantasyesque instrument that plays around 3 different bars (phrases, measures choose your pick of term). Usually done in a specific pattern of bar 1, bar 2, bar 1, bar 3 repeat. The pattern found at the beginning of a song is what is found for its entirety. (Technically a riff is a repeated measure or measures of music so on its simplest definition these would qualify).

Yes, a lot of is extremely boring however there are parts that are just beautiful. Granted these are not only repeated over and over again but these melodies, well they sound like someone grabbed a scale and threw a few of its notes together to make it. Childish in a way.

All of this being said though I found a great use for those who happen to own this album, if you like playing RPGs out of books then you might find this to be an amazing thing to put on the big speakers or surround sound (not too loud mind you) while you play D and D, Mayhem or something of the sort.

Thought-Provoking and Strangely Elusive - 85%

Compcat, October 23rd, 2012

These tracks are mostly spooky, an atmosphere of gloom, isolation, and despair, which is enhanced by the raw midi tones. Judging by the music alone, it still seems fascinating to me that this album could've become so well-known, due to the sheer simplicity and repetition. It is, of course, understandable, considering Burzum's general fame and the hype that was surrounding Varg at the time, and this album as well, being his first "prison album." In a way I'd say that the hype was a very good thing, because it allowed listeners to explore a very eccentric release that I think most would usually avoid judging on the music alone. Instead, people listened and attempted to understand, and though I personally do not know that there is too much to "get" here, it still played a powerful role in opening people's minds to what could be done with the dungeon mood.

There are some quite magical moments mixed in with these trudges through desolation, such as Hermoðr á Helferð and Móti Ragnarǫkum.

This work as a whole could best be described by the term "vampiric." I certainly don't mean that in the sense of the popular modern notion of vampires, of course, but more along the lines of what it symbolizes: the decayed aristocracy, a noble bloodline turned monstrous by the weight of time. I feel as if Varg most strongly falls into his persona as "Count Grisnakh" here, the title and blood of a high-born person but with the repugnance and innate evil of an orc. One can almost picture, especially during tracks such as Bálferð Baldrs and Í Heimr Heljar, a horrific tyrant, limping through a rotting castle, barking orders at subordinates, drunkenly attacking servant, or sometimes just screaming at empty air in his inbred madness.

The mood becomes far more somber in Illa Tiðandi. It is a song filled with loss. It feels as if this is a more sober look at just how deeply this once-beautiful existence has been corrupted. It seems to have fully accepted the hopelessness, but there is beauty nonetheless, if only in a sort of dreamlike remembrance of what must've once been, though can be experienced no longer. The length of this track is the longest in the album, and I think for good reason, since I feel that it represents the sands of time blowing on, the long wait before life might return to the desert. It is a mood of not only loss, but acceptance, recognizing that night inevitably comes.

And then there is the track which I feel is the highlight of the album, Móti Ragnarǫkum, which is the rebirth where the previous track was the death. It is grand and glorious; one sees the towers crumbling, the earth splitting asunder, fires raining from the heavens, and finally senses that the thorough rot is being washed away. This track might even be the climax of all of Burzum's ambient material, that this decadent modernity which Varg so opposes finally meets its inevitable destruction, so that the life might begin anew without this debilitating disease.

Kitsch music with a deadened feel and emotion - 35%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, September 30th, 2012

This album was intended to be the first of a trilogy based on old Norse myths and legends about how the world would end. A black metal sensibility definitely exists in the tone and melodies used here although all instrumentation is entirely synthesiser-based. This is not out of choice on the artist's part: at the time of recording, Varg Vikernes was in prison serving a maximum jail sentence of 21 years for the murder of Oystein Aarseth (Euronymous, of Mayhem) and acts of arson, one of which led to the death of a fire-fighter. Initially prison authorities had allowed Vikernes to keep guitars in jail but confiscated them after he attempted to break out of jail. (Some people have suggested to me that Vikernes might not have been allowed to keep guitars in jail for the same reason that shoelaces and neck-ties aren't allowed - there's a suicide risk.) So here is a unique opportunity to hear black metal or something like it without the instruments most associated with the genre and discover whether the music can stand on its own without those instruments. From the results on "Dauði Baldrs", the answer is very definitely yes so on that level, the album is a success; but whether Vikernes can build on that style and add something that no other black metal musician can do, that's another problem altogether and this is where his reputation as a composer and performer lives or dies. Sad to say, the album quickly reveals the limitations of Vikernes as a composer and arranger of music and music pieces.

The title track is an example the problems of the album that other MA reviewers have referred to: for such a long piece and a pivotal one at that, it is endlessly and maddeningly repetitive, with no variation in tone, texture, intensity and volume among other things. Vikernes has ignored, either wilfully or otherwise, most aspects of what we'd call the dynamics of sound in his attempt to construct music on minimalist principles. What can be done with electric guitars can't always be done with other instruments like pianos whose range of sound and potential to express mood and emotion might be great but fall on other sound criteria because the tones produced are always pure and can't be distorted for texture or modulated for volume. So you would try to compensate by experimenting with sound and through trial and error come up with something interesting that might take you on a different path but there's no indication that Vikernes has done that here. The result is that the mood and emotion expressed on this and other tracks here are fixed, and over several minutes become frozen and blank. Imagine talking to someone whose face assumes a look that stays the same the whole length of time you're both chatting about the same topic, and which only ever changes when the topic changes, and you would soon think your poor companion was autistic or was missing a brain cell or two. This is what I feel about the album: with the music fixed at the same level of volume and each track only able to express one mood, the overall effect becomes cartoonish and kitschy.

There is no suggestion that the music is striving for anything: it's merely retelling the events that began with Baldr's death in the competition when he challenged the other gods to try to kill him with weapons fashioned from all the trees that had promised not to harm him, only for him to fall from a weapon fashioned by trickster god Loki from the mistletoe which had made no such promise, to the point before the battle of Ragnarok begins. There is no interpretation of those events, nothing to suggest that Vikernes had studied his source material and found something that resonated very deeply with him and which he believed might mean the same to others so he tries to communicate what he found meaningful through this recording. At this point, listeners might well wonder: does Vikernes feel anything at all? If he calls himself an artist, what is he trying to communicate here? The legend of Baldr is not being done any justice.

Some might argue that given the conditions that Vikernes recorded this album in, we should be more forgiving; let's not forget though that a lot of black metal as well as other music has been composed, played and recorded in equally bad and often worse situations, and performers have often forced their instruments to do things that they weren't made to do, or had instruments that were cheap, broken or missing parts. I'm sure that if I knew what conditions most albums I've reviewed here were recorded under, I'd probably award another 10 percentage points at least for sheer effort, ingenuity and sweat that didn't make it onto the final result.

It's not a long album but the music grows stale very quickly. There are good melodies and even a bit of drama, especially on the last track "Moti Ragnarokum", but the relentless circularity deadens any emotional effect. There's little here that moves the listener and that's a pity because there's a lot of potential in the melodies to express drama, complex mood and intensity. Not for the first time have I wondered if there's much substance and character to Vikernes, from the evidence I find here and on some other recordings he's done.

If there's any worth to the "Dauði Baldrs", it's demonstrated that there is an art to being an arranger of music and music instrumentation as well as composer, and that for all Vikernes has given us in the past - and he has given us some very good music in albums like "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" and "Filosofem", there's no doubt about that - there's something lacking in his artistic development that I feel will continue to hinder his music career and that this lack tells us something about his personality and moral being.

An A for Effort - 40%

CrimsonFloyd, April 8th, 2012

There’s an old saying that you have to be happy with what you have to be happy with. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. After his arrest and conviction for the murder of Mayhem guitarist Euronymous, Varg Vikernes attempted to continue the Burzum project from behind bars. The only instrument at his disposal was a low-end Casio keyboard. Varg valiantly—or pitifully, depending on one’s perspective—tried to create an ambitious neoclassical opus on the shoddy machine. The result is pretty torturous. Though the compositions on Dauði Baldrs are stellar, the sound quality is comically bad, resulting in an unforgettable low point in Burzum’s career.

First of all, it should be emphasized that the compositions themselves range from good to great. Dauði Baldrs allows the classical influence on Varg’s compositional techniques to stand front and center. His use of repetition and counterpoints has classical roots, though it’s usually easy to overlook behind the wall of fuzz and maddened screams. Dauði Baldrs gives a fair nod to those roots and can help elucidate the classical influences on other Burzum albums. The arc of the album is also impressive. Dauði Baldrs tells a mythical story and the movement of the album from start of finish succeeds in expressing numerous dramatic shifts.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that regardless of how good these compositions are, the execution is for the most part awful. One can only go so far with Casio. Even Beethoven’s 9th sounds cheesy when played on a Casio, so Dauði Baldrs doesn’t stand much of a chance. Some of the samples are just excruciating to listen to. The oboe sample sounds like a cartoon quacking goose, the cello sample is really nasal and grating and the xylophone sample will pierce your brain. The piano sample is the least offense; sure, it sounds cheap, but at least it is an adequate simulacrum of a real piano. The “string section” sample is also tolerable.

Thus, the relative tolerability of the tracks correlates to their avoidance of the more annoying samples. The final two tracks rely predominately on the piano and string section samples and consequently, are fairly moving. “Illa Tiðandi” is a slow, somber piano dirge that expresses a deep spirit of melancholy. “Móti Ragnarokum” is another somber piece that centers on piano and strings, cultivating a tragic sense of resignation. Though the nasal cello sample pops up a few times, there is enough quality here to overcome it.

However, the first four tracks are damaged beyond repair. The title track opens the album with a series of laughable cello, war drum and oboe samples that raze all semblances of taste and standard to shreds. “Í Heimr Heljar,” with its goofy percussion and bombastic strings, would work well as the background music for a commercial for the local renaissance fair. The other two tracks don’t fare much better.

Dauði Baldrs is a waste of good material; beneath the corny Casio samples are very impressive compositions. Varg affirmed this when he rerecorded the title track—the most unbearable track on Dauði Baldrs—on Belus. Expressed through the power of blazing guitars, bass and drum, the piece took on brilliant new life. Recently Varg rerecorded tracks from the self-titled debut, Det Som Engang Var and Aske. Doing so was a waste of time, since the songs on those albums are already excellent. However, a rerecording of Dauði Baldrs would be a worthy project. If Varg ever decides to complete such a project, the result will be something special. Until that happens, Dauði Baldrs will remain a sad reminder of what could have been.

(Originally written for

Waste of time - 10%

Midnyte13, June 21st, 2011

I've often said that black metal band members should not attempt to do "ambient" or "neoclassical" side projects. This album is a shining example of everything that's wrong with black metal band members trying to branch out. The underground black metal scene exists in its own world with its own bizarre rules. In the world of black metal it's possible to achieve fame from throwing together sloppy, poorly written, and poorly recorded albums. Creativity, experimentation, and high production values are often shunned. What these band members don't realize is that these values will not translate well into other musical genres.

Enter: Dauði Baldrs

The first sound heard is a solo violin melody of such unacceptable quality that it makes me shake my head in disbelief even after owning this album over a decade. Remember the old days of the internet when people had Geocities webpages that would force your sound card to play little MIDI songs? That's what this entire album sounds like. So this is it, folks. We're only five seconds into this album and it's clear that it's going to be a loooong journey.

After enduring almost nine minutes of repetitive string/saxophone/timpani drivel, I'm about to hit the next track button when track two kicks in. What a breath of fresh air. Track two begins with a quick, beautiful harp melody, topped with that same annoying violin sound from the first track. The melody it self really is quite beautiful and dreamlike, but it quickly wears out its welcome around the 1:00 mark when you realize that it's going to be another repetitive, four note song.

There's really not much more worth saying about this album. The rest of the tracks are comprised of violin/string/timpani/choir sounds. Pretty much every track establishes its melody by the 0:20 mark and just repeats it to the point of nausea. There are very few redeeming qualities about this album. The whole low-fi, primitive, sort of thing might work within black metal, but this album is a failure for trying to apply those characteristics to classical music.

Expressive gloom despite its production pratfalls - 77%

autothrall, March 18th, 2011

Dauði Baldrs ('Death of Balder') is yet another anomaly in the long string of anomalies that have festooned the career of Varg Vikernes. Recorded entirely during his prison sentence, and without the benefit of musical instruments, it certainly had its work cut out for it, and yet, fascinatingly, it succeeds despite this. Was it too costly a risk to take? We can each answer this only for ourselves. I personally know several people who despise this recording with a passion, thinking it some blasphemy upon the damnable Earth, or a mere grab at cash during his incarceration, sold upon the name Burzum alone. But certainly, anyone who sits through the entire 40 minutes can hear that there is in fact a stout effort placed into its haunting drought. All atmospherics. Somnolent compositions of a folk saga being played out as puppets on a dimly lit stage.

This is a MIDI album. Not a metal album. It's got more in common with cryptic Super Nintendo role playing games than Hvis Lyset Tar Oss or Det Som Engang Var, as if Tchaikovsky had penned some lost Final Fantasy score. Yet, the aesthetic choices made through the compositions are theatrical, ritual and maintain a persistent gravitas. Part of this is the packaging, which is, like Filosofem, brilliantly conceived. In fact, it's the best looking Burzum CD period, including artwork by Tanya Stene; the lyrics and poetry incorporated to guide the listener through the imagery being evoked in the music, despite the lack of vocals on the album. I might have liked having English translations in the booklet, but they are provided on the official website for any who want to read them. Certainly for something this minimalist, Varg and the label have gone all out. There was no stopping his vision, confinement or not.

Musically, the material ranges from a martial, Medieval framework to a more lush, melodic folk landscape, all of which captivate the desperation of Balder's saga. The quality is a bit lopsided, and I can say I enjoy four of the songs greatly and the other two not so much. "Dauði Baldrs" itself is the opener, and the nearly 9 minutes portray an ominous descent, a conflagration of dour dreamstuff that is carried through a number of melodic, eerie lines and a rather stout contrast in the percussive use of the horn. "Hermoðr Á Helferð (Hermodr on a Journey to Hel)" is far shorter, clocking in under 3 minutes, and features a flighty repetition of pianos with a flute-like narrative. "Bálferð Baldrs (Balder's Burning)" returns to the vibes of the first track, only it runs dry within the first few minutes, and it's not a favorite here.

"I Heimr Heliar (In Hel's Home)" is steady and bombastic, like a march, but all too brief, and then the album curves into the dire eaves of "Illa Tiðandi (Ill Tidings)", which is incredibly drawn out to over 10 minutes, ultimately a bit too repetitive even for a man who on his prior album included a 25 minute ambient track. "Móti Ragnarokum (Towards Ragnarok)", on the other hand, is beautiful, perhaps my favorite tune on the whole disc, with a powerful sense of melancholy evoked through the piano and the sweeping symphonic discourse, then the stalking violin string segues that morph into pianos and back again to the creepy melodies. When I say it feels very Metroid, I mean no insult whatsoever. There are likely only a handful of folks who will understand what I'm getting at, but this piece creates a similar, isolated vibe to that game's old score, which I worship.

In the end, this is an enjoyable departure, an enduring experiment, but it does suffer a few flaws. For one, this is the one of the only cases where some of the repetition that has proven crucial to Vikernes' compositions in the past creeps out and bites the album on the ass. It's hardly crippling, but at least two of the central tracks ("Bálferð Baldrs" and "Illa Tiðandi") needed something more to them to round out their considerable, 16 minute chunk of the ritual. Also, this is intensely crude, even for MIDI, it was basically shunted over to a tape recorder. The format is pretty damn charming, but I'd honestly love to hear a few of these pieces worked out with an actual orchestra. That said, Dauði Baldrs is what it is, a musician's perseverance through a near depletion of any and all musical resources. One can envision its creator coming up with these bits in confinement, how much more haunting they must have felt within the folds of that imagination. I wouldn't mind hearing more in this style, but that doesn't seem likely.


Video game music - 45%

linkavitch, July 27th, 2009

Dauði Baldrs, which is the first of two ambient albums, is somewhat of an ambient release I guess. Unlike the later album Hliðskjálf, this album is composed entirely out of a MIDI keyboard. It’s hard to build any sort of ambience to draw the listening into with MIDI sounds though, so listening to Dauði Baldrs sometimes gets your bored, rather it be the MIDI device used on this album, or the fact that all the songs (especially the longer ones) are dragged on and on constantly having the same two or three MIDI melodies repeated over and over one after another.

Dauði Baldrs is entirely used with a MIDI device so the overall sound is like an 80’s Nintendo game. That alone might annoy people enough not to get this, for the actual sound given off is basically an old Nintendo game soundtrack. This doesn’t bother me that much like it would others so I don’t really have a huge problem with Varg using a MIDI keyboard for this release.

Ambience is the thing that this album does not have however, which is due to the MIDI sound. Out of the six songs there’s about two different emotions that you can pick up on, happy and sad. “Hermoðr Á Helferð” is the only track that gives off any sort of positive atmosphere only due to the cheese melody used for the two minute length. The rest of the songs sound as if they’re supposed to be depressing or something, although the line between depressed and bored is very thin here.

Every song has about three melodies repeated over and over, which is why this is such a repetitive and boring album. The fact that there’s really little to no atmosphere at all is also why it will bore you (as it did me). The best track on here would have to be “Illa Tiðandi”, which is also the longest track on here. Not for the fact that it does anything interesting, but only for the fact that this is the only track that I can pick up any sort of sadness. It’s a really slow paced song, with a repetitive keyboard, and if you listen to it late at night it can sometimes make you depressed and tired. But other than that no real songs stick out.

The one thing that would save this album would be the lyrical booklet. They are supposed to tell what is going on in the song. They don’t really work for me though. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I don’t have a good imagination, or that Varg can picture what I can’t in his music. They make interesting reading nonetheless, and if you can picture what’s going on you might find some joy in this album.

It may seem like a bad album to you, as a lot of people will not like this album. The songs are lengthy, all have about three melodies played through the entire song, and it’s made entirely out of a MIDI keyboard. I for one don’t necessary hate it, for I can tolerate the MIDI sound. I can listen to it in the background with no problem even though I might get a little bored. This album is basically just elevator music for me. But I could also go my entire life without ever hearing it again and I wouldn’t care also.

A unique rendering of Balder. - 86%

hells_unicorn, May 15th, 2009

At the most basic level of categorization there are two kinds of music; the kind that shows what its intentions are and the kind that challenges the listener to find the intention or attribute something to it which may or may not be the correct interpretation. Most music that attempts to do the latter and gets any sort of mass attention are ones that do this through lyrical metaphors or abstract themes laced within the storyline of a concept album, such as is the case with artists like Dio and Fates Warning. Within the underground world of death metal and other extreme music that utilizes atonal practices, the lyrics tend to be straight forward but the disjointedness of the music itself creates a distorting effect that tends to challenge the listener to find reason in the extremity of what is being experienced. But finding music that is without words and also, either intentionally or by sheer circumstance, challenges the ears to put aside what it is used to with easier forms of music.

It was much more by circumstance than by intention that “Dauði Baldrs” is so difficult for most ears to accept, as it essentially comes in an entirely midi generated sound package, not all that far away from what would comprise a Nintendo Entertainment System game soundtrack. There isn’t really any atmospheric differentiation to speak of within this musical medium, except those created by the synthesized timbres of each instrument that wanders in and out of the mix, an affect of switching from a soft to a full sound instantaneously known as terraced dynamics, which was common in Baroque music. This medium, contrary to what might be assumed, is actually perfect for bringing out the usage of this means of dynamic contrast by presenting the listener with an auspiciously different sound than what he/she is probably used to and also plays off the minimalist model that Varg has utilized for his many past ambient works.

This album is, in every way, a soundtrack. It is rigidly programmatic, in much the same way that an opera or a symphonic work based on some preexisting story would be. The low fidelity technology employed gives it the feel of a dated NES role-playing game version of the tale (my own tolerance for these sounds may lie partly in that I worked with midi extensively while taking music composition courses in college and still do), but its intention is fairly clear from a formal standpoint since not only are the title’s of each song revealing of the emotions they portray, but each song comes with a description of which event in the story of the Norse god Balder. The challenge comes into play by attempting to visualize these events happening within your own mind while the music is on, rather than listening to it while doing something else such as working on your computer or trying to go to sleep, although the serene piano ambience of “Illa Tiðandi” are a pleasant though somber way to walk through the gilded gate of dreams. Although this requires an effort that many would not wish to give or spend money on trying, for some reason it came rather quickly for me, probably because it was my first Burzum album and I didn’t approach it with any expectations. Nonetheless, I had to listen to it 6 or 7 times before I could fully visualize what I believe is the imagery behind the simple, droning lines that interweave with each other at elongated intervals.

The strength of this album, by virtue of the format it comes in, relies completely on quality of ideas because there are not many of them and there is no elaborate production to make lesser ideas appear great. The lead off and title song “Dauði Baldrs” presents a singular theme of 16 notes, all in a singular flowing rhythm, that goes from one instrumentation to another and embodies both a sense of tragedy and of impending drama. There are two countering themes that come and go while the principle one almost always present, creating a series of differing sections out of a very limited set of ideas, creating the image of the most beloved of gods lying dead at the hands of treachery. “Hermoðr Á Helferð” has a much simpler model and gives off feelings of both peace and determination, as a lone traveler sets out on a grand mission. Things start to get a bit more complex afterwards as the plot thickens and the revelations of the future of all characters within the realm of Norse myths come to fruition. “Bálferð Baldrs” mostly drones, but utilizes a short ending section with a lone piano that disrupts what has been a very strictly formatted minimal approach.

“Í Heimr Heljar” is the most intense of the lot in terms of passion, loaded with a lot of percussive sounds, almost like the stomping of giants during a battle charge, and accompanied by slightly more complex themes. Things pull back significantly with “Illa Tiðandi”, which is basically a soft piano drone that slowly adds a solemn voice accompaniment. It flows in much the same way as “Tomhet” and “Rundtgåing Av Den Transcendentale Egenhetens Støtte”, the two ambient works from the previous albums did, and lingers a long time with little change. The closing work “Móti Ragnarokum”, which depicts the coming of the end time prophecy of Northern myths, sees the return of a more complex approach that exploits the extremely limited arrangement to its fullest. The themes at work here are not just memorable and effective, they become absolutely spellbinding once they’ve fully set in, particularly once the full string orchestra sound and percussion comes in. This one also makes use of both an intro and an outro where a single instrument plays a fairly involved them compared to the rhythmically rudimentary ones that dominate the early songs, but still stays within the confines of standard metric timing.

While this album is quite an experience, it is not perfect and actually is among the weaker of Varg’s offerings. Although he put together a lot of really good ideas here, there is a lot that could have been expanded upon or even varied a bit, while maintaining the same time lengths. This music is meant to develop slowly and give the listener time to fully comprehend each theme, but this moves just a little too slow and relies a bit too much on repetition rather than variation and contrast. It is difficult to really recommend because it is purposefully set up to have a limited audience, made up mostly by those who fully understand the egoistic nature of great songwriting and don’t feel the need to be pandered to. But there is definitely a purpose to this, and it might not be the same for you as it was for me, but if you are curious then definitely give this a chance.

Pointless no matter how you judge it - 13%

BastardHead, February 24th, 2009

In the name of science, I am going to be as objective as possible in my critique of Burzum's first foray into pure ambiance, Daudi Baldrs. In order to do this, I am going to look at and judge the album from several angles in an attempt to leave all bias out of the picture. In order to remain focused on objectivity, an approach like this is entirely necessary.

FROM A TECHNICAL STANDPOINT: The entire album is made using a MIDI device. Let it be known that MIDI is not an automatic allegiance to suck, and most of the best classic videogame tunes were made with this or can easily be replicated this way. Therefore, I can't bash Varg for releasing an album with this sound, even if it is kind of what he was stuck with at the time. But by that same respect, I can not forgive him for the mind bogglingly lazy songwriting. Each song is quite literally one or two melodies across five instruments that are repeated ad nauseam. There is absolutely no substance to virtually any song here. If you listen attentively, you're likely to fall asleep. If you keep it as background music, you're likely to never notice it's playing. If you put it on when you try to fall asleep, you'll be unable to sleep because you'll be shaking with rage due to how ungodly boring and pointless this album is. I don't know what kind of human being would hear this and be 100% satisfied with it's content. I understand that Varg comes from a somewhat minimalistic black metal background, but this is pushing it. I've heard more interesting SunnO))) songs, and I fucking HATE drone.

AS A BLACK METAL ALBUM: Ha, this isn't black metal. I know some people who hate this purely because of that, and think it shouldn't have the name of Burzum on it because of it. I just want to point out how absurd that is. Worry not, I'm not actually judging this as a black metal album.

AS AN AMBIENT ALBUM: I am, however, going to judge it as a piece of ambient music. In this respect, it fails extremely hard. Sure, an ambient soundscape shouldn't take center stage and kick your ass like so many other forms of music. But it shouldn't be this utterly inconsequential either. The only reason any of this is memorable is because of the unabashed repetition. Remember what made St. Anger so awful? It was the fact that every song was basically one mediocre/bad song repeated twice from front to back, Varg accomplished this very feat six years prior. Hell, I think the opener is one song repeated three times for nine minutes. Since he made this with a computer, he quite literally copy pasted the same bullshit over and over and over again for seemingly no reason other than to PISS ME OFF. I'll give him credit for at least getting the general atmosphere that he intends to exude to come across well, it's just unfortunate that it drags on for so long. It's unnecessary to prolong these compositions as long as most of them have been. Surely, ten minutes isn't overkill, especially for this genre, but ten minutes is sure as shit overkill for three melodies. The general mood of the album is great, but the content is lacking and frustrating as a result. No development, no evolution, no point. This is an entire album of town music from Zelda. You know, the simple theme that was made to loop endlessly and convey very little. Sure, there's a bit more emotion and suspense in here, but not enough to not imagine Hermodor A Helferd playing over the scene as I punt chickens around Kakariko Village.

AS A COASTER: This seems to be the one thing that this CD is good for. It is wide enough to cover most any size can/bottle of beverage and thick enough to keep the moisture from soaking through. The only downside is that it's rather pricey for it's apparent intended usage. Also, the material and smooth texture allow it to slide around a little bit more than is comfortable, but it keeps the Schitz sweat off of my coffee table, so I endorse Varg's unintended line of coasters.

AS A FRISBEE: This is probably the most fun you can have with the disc, but it's also the most dangerous. If you are playing with a partner that throws it too hard, there is a possibility you could cut your hand or get the CD embedded in your skull. And after the headache and metaphorical embedding it'll give you from listening to it, this is the last thing you want to happen. If you try to avoid this problem by playing fetch with your dog, this is only good for one throw, as your dog's bite will most likely break it.

FINAL THOUGHT: Well, no matter how you judge it, this isn't worth much at all. It's an incredibly boring journey through what should be a fascinating and encapsulating story. Daudi Baldrs features six pedestrian compositions with no development in the melodies within each track. No progression, no substance, no value. Seriously, when people don't give enough of a shit to spell the artist's fucking name correctly on the cover, you know you've cocked up big time.

Let's Forget This Ever Happened, Shall We? - 10%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 4th, 2007

Resources were obviously low for Varg when he created this full-length in prison, but still, it's not very good. The vast majority of this album contains very flat 'melodies' which are continuously repeated time and time again. This very fact is enough to put anyone off and probably rightly so. You can't fault Varg for attempting to create music. It's his profession and what he does best. However, 'Daudi Baldrs' is a poor excuse for an ambient album.

After the last full-length, there was so much promise. Varg had just written two of his best works and one of those contained a far amount of ambience. This is nothing like that. 'Daudi Baldrs' is a subpar form of repetitive ambience. It lacks in atmosphere throughout. There are times when an atmospheric nature begins to shown it's head, but it quickly disappears again behind the monotonous repetition that is 'Daudi Baldrs'. It's lost in simplicity, to put it marginally. The full-length reeks of simplicity. Although that's an aspect Varg has worked with before and used to the best of his abilities, his limited resources are painfully obvious. There are a few nice touches on the keyboards. A mostly classical feel is washed over the music, so forget about purchasing this if you're after a black metal album. It does, at times, contain the sadness a black metal album would be proud to have covering it, but it's average nature is far too obvious to be looked passed.

Moti Ragnarqkum, the very last track, is actually quite a pleasure to listen to. It's sadness and grief are portrayed rather well given the fact that Varg had very little to work with, but on the whole, you simply have to admit to the fact that this particular Burzum full-length is lacking in substance. There's no doubting the passion behind it all, but to have that and no substance, well, it's damn near impossible to come out without criticism. The truth is ugly, but it's unmistakable. This full-length simply has no legs to stand on when it comes to competing against the very best that classical has to offer. If that's not Varg's intention, then you simply have to wonder why he bothered releasing this. To let us know how he feels locked away in prison? I'm sure if I was locked in prison he wouldn't give a shit. This is just an attempt to make epic classical music that fails. It's warn out, needs to be put down and out of it's misery. Not to mention ours.

A non-atmospheric ambient album. - 51%

VRR, May 31st, 2007

Orchestral. Neoclassical. Metal. Three words that will play no further part in this review. What we have here is instead a collection of half-finished melodies and malformed ideas that are offered up as ultra-minimalist compositions of Grand European Tradition. Given the liberating constraints offered by prison life, Vikernes has been able to escape the milieu of Norwegian black metal that, having helped spawn two undeniably classic albums from this solitary rogue, led also to his eventual incarceration.

The fifth full-length Burzum album, as this was to be, seeks to avoid the reality of imprisonment and instead struggles to become something greater than the sum of its parts. It barely succeeds. The rejection of guitars is just one example of Burzum's long history of side-stepping reality. They have been excluded entirely from this album; a decision made on the theory that the guitar is of unsound heritage. Truth be told, Vikernes will not have had access to the necessary recording facilities and has been forced instead to settle for tinkering on loop-making software and sequencing programmes. There is little to suggest that even midi keyboards have been used here: the mechanically quantized rhythms and note velocities suggest music created by mouse clicks alone. Seemingly to his advantage, Varg's (widely praised) previous album "Filosofem" was composed using a similar technique of multi-layering short phrase groove arrangements. Whilst that abstraction of electronica production norms into the world of harsh fuzz box black metal helped establish Filosofem as a pioneering record, the results on Daudi Baldrs betray a general inadequacy of compositional ideas and approach.

Each track comprises between two and four separate layers, each layer voiced by the synthesis of some stereotypically medieval instrument. The predictable, formulaic presentation is, at times, excruciating in its naivety. Some moments are laughably twee, (Hermodr A Helferd comes immediately to mind here), as our tragic anti-hero struggles to mangle a meagre two parallel phrases together with sufficient shifts in arrangement and velocity so as to earn the dubiously-awarded title of "composition". Arrangements themselves are a purely binary affair: each voice is either playing its one phrase, or it isn't. No introduction, no coda, no elaboration or development whatsoever. That each phrase on each instrument on every track can itself be broken down to a paltry four bars, (where bar one and bar three are always identical), offers some idea of the level of repetition found in this work.

Nothing on display here fits that oft-regurgitated "neoclassical" hyperbole that lazy journalists use to label Vikernes' later recordings. The individual tracks are works of pure repetition and stop/go melodies: A motif ceases to be a motif when it is the sole element of a composition. The predictable and staid implementation of cadences coupled with the purely homophonic interplay from the individual voices robs the music of any potential for hidden depths within the melody. It lacks every defining characteristic essential to the identity of neoclassical composition (there's that word for the last time)!

What we are presented with is an amalgam of the Baroque musical elements found in plainsong and the sparse, reductionist approach of twentieth century Electro producers. This curious juxtaposition fails simply because Vikernes is unable to navigate past the pitfalls of each approach. Baroque composers would avoid the endemic blandness of homophonic scoring by employing constant variation and ornamentation in the melody. The minimalism of electro pioneers was itself largely an illusion comprising dozens of layered micro-loops played simultaneously. The arrangements on Daudi Baldrs only emphasise the flaws of the chosen form by ignoring these essential techniques.The end result leaves the listener struggling to find meaning in a work of ambience that is, perversely, devoid of any atmosphere whatsoever.

What is this album then? It is certainly not the continuation of previous Burzum music in either style or execution. It is difficult to argue that it is the result of progress and maturity either, given that the compositions here are woefully unsophisticated in comparison to those on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss or even Det Som Engang Var. It is also a certainty that, if you have acquired this record on the strength of Vikernes' earlier albums, you will be disappointed by your first listen. Some consolation can be taken from the fact that this album has not been adversely affected by the limitations of the recording process. It is difficult to believe that the ideas on display here could have been executed with any greater success in a studio environment as there are simply no ideas to begin with.

Where exactly does this record score its points then? First and most obviously, it is a document of one of the most dramatic sagas in modern music. The Death of Baldr, the archetypal hero; the eternal innocent, and the unsettlingly hollow and dead-inside nursery rhyme melodies offer a more convincing insight into the mindset of Vikernes at this time than any number of rhetoric-laden interviews or carefully contrived memoirs could ever hope of conveying. Understanding this record as the soundtrack to one man's retreat into his own subconscious explains those nightmarishly repetitive toybox melodies. The monotonous, single-minded tracks become sonic mantras, comforting in their familiarity. The impact of this album is subtle, slow-acting but lasting. As music, it communicates with neither emotion nor reason, but through the Pavlovian principal of conditioning by over-exposure. Having sat dormant in my own musical collection for a number of years, a recent playing transported me back to the instant when I first heard Daudi Baldrs. Here is an album that says nothing to your ear, but speaks volumes directly to your subconscious self. For this reason alone, it has value.

No excuses, this is crap - 3%

Napero, April 22nd, 2006

Frequent requests and weighty opinions by several respected users of the Metal Archives, a few of them among the most profilic and trusted reviewers around, have led me to re-evaluate my original review on this album; I even took the time, the effort, and the eventual half-torturous discomfort to listen to this incredible piece of poop once again, in an effort to find any redeeming qualities in the sound, compositions and performance. I didn't find any. Actually, the experience was worse than I remembered. So, instead of the original, and inexplainably controversial, poetic approach, here is an evaluation of the album and its importance in prose. Maybe this is easier to read. After all, we don't wish to have our users dislocating their brains, or (oh, the horror!) simply passing by and ignoring a review because of unconventional gimmicks.

The circumstances surrounding the album are famous: Varg in prison, only using a keyboard and MIDI to record his vision, bravely overcoming the difficulties and finally releasing the fruits of his efforts as the fifth full-length of Burzum. The alleged value, if there is any, is supposed to spring from the genius, the will to prevail in the face of difficulty, and the vision contained in these simple compositions. The occasional observer, with little knowledge of Burzum's earlier works, even less respect for the goofy Norwegian, and minimal will to listen to anything that doesn't either please the ears or make the head bang, is forced by the dreadful experience to question if those who claim to like the album haven't simply been mislead by the reputation of the lonely pseudo-philosophical dude in his cell.

The bottom-line is simple. The album is practically horrible to listen to, both because of the terrible sound and the too simplistic, naivistic songs. I can't locate a single grain of the so-called genius in any of the songs, and after a dozen spins, I'm no longer willing to torment myself by trying. Since the album is not metal, and it uses the approach of classical music, it should be judged as a non-metal album, too, and in that field the competition is too fierce for Dauði Baldrs to survive much longer than an inept figure-skater in an ice hockey ring.

The music, in its repetitiveness, ugliness and simplicity, does not fly. It tries to invoke emotions, though. There are "melancholic" parts, some "beautiful" passages, attempts at something that can perhaps be described as "serenity", and possibly striving for epic grandeur. The main emotion, after all the cards are on the table, is just irritation. I'd expect to hear this as the background music in an overlong clay animation based on a Bulgarian folk tale, produced in East Germany in 1974. It would be of better quality, though, the folks in East Europe in those days didn't have a keyboard with MIDI, and would have been forced to use real instruments in the hands of a decent chamber orchestra or something similary functional.

The songs are essentially cheap two-finger compositions, and some of them keep repeating the same two bars for minutes. The simplicity might be an artistic choice; on the other hand, it could just as well be the result of fundamental incapability of doing anything else.

Maybe the good stuff lies in the romantic approach to times past, the longing for medieval and/or mythical times? Maybe. There was a considerable nationalistic movement in Finland's arts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and that movement produced some of the most notable finnish pieces of classical music, along with some of the most famous paintings. There are hints of similar longing for the pastoral times, the mythical "good times", the age of legends in Dauði Baldrs. But the delivery of those ideas, too, is stuck in the past, and such romantic ideas have been communicated musically a hundred times more convincingly a century earlier. This music is simply childish, and were I to seek the atmosphere attempted here, I'd simply put some decent classical into the player. This is a poor, redundant attempt that lacks depth and ideas, and treads paths that have been overgrown by the forests of time.

The music being what it is, a question surfaces and demands an answer: what do the people who rate the album highly see in this? Do they indeed listen to it with any frequency? I honestly can't imagine anyone actually doing that. Therefore, it seems that other factors must be at work in the higher ratings. Is it the legendary fame of Varg? Is it the naivistic ideology embedded in the music? Is it bright-eyed, unquestioning worship of something that simply must be worth worshipping, and the frantic subconscious search for anything "deeper" that could perhaps be hidden in these worthless songs? I don't have an answer. Also, I am most unwilling to attach any of those values to my listening experience, and looking at the Dauði Baldrs simply as music, it blows a donkey.

The fact that the medium was minimal might work as an explanation for the crappiness of the sound. But it will not be a plausible excuse for the inherent silliness of the music itself. In the final analysis, the origin of the lousy sound should not matter, and should be taken at face value, without any regard to the reasons behind it; listen to the album as just another album, without attaching any non-musical values to it, and feel the bitter blood dripping from your ears. I shall listen to this no more.

Repetitive, but still has some redeeming qualities - 60%

stickyshooZ, June 29th, 2004

You know those albums by artists you love which are evidencing of the fact that the artist is slipping, and you’re not sure if they’ll be able to balance themselves out again? This is exactly what this album is like for Burzum. This makes me think around the lines of ‘Ouch...err...I don’t know if they’ll be able to recover from this one.’ I wish I could say otherwise, because I love Burzum and the idea of Varg having made a mediocre album doesn’t fascinate me. Never the less, it’s true - this full-fledged keyboards album is rather mediocre.

I don’t mind minimalism at all, because I happen to love the “Hlidskjalf” album; but if you’re going to go down the path of a minimalist, then you need variety! Most of the songs are VERY repetitive and don’t transform or have any interesting direction; it just keeps a basic rhythm pattern and repeats it over and over again. There are some interesting lead key parts thrown in, but UGH, the rhythm rarely changes! Songs like “Balferd Baldrs” keep the same rhythm all the way through, occasionally playing that same rhythm with a different it’s fairly boring for a six-minute song. The up side to this album is that it’s rather alarming and sometimes even disturbing.

Yeah, the over consistencies may annoy you at times, but the mood is so gloomy and sad that it’s almost creepy. I don’t know anything of the story of Baldrs, but since Varg portrays it as a very melancholic and pessimistic tale, I can imagine the general gist of it. The entire album is in midi form, so it’s rather sloven, tempestuous, and rugged in sound; it’s not clear and tidy like the follow-up of this album. There aren’t that many complexities in the songs, but some are rather intriguing (“Moti Ragnarokum” and “Illa Tidandi” are my personal favorites) with their lonely sound, as if it’s alone in a dark forest and looking for shelter. Good, but yet again, the perpetuity is too much.

I feel that most of the song lengths could easily be cut in half, or a quarter at least and still manage to deliver a powerful performance; because when the listener becomes irritated due to over extensive song length, that’s when you’ve messed up. In all honesty, I would have enjoyed this very much if Varg had either shortened the songs or would have added more variety of elements in his songs; preferably the latter. I get the feeling that Varg tried with this album, but somewhere along the lines he got lost, forgot he’d gotten lost, and decided to declare the album done. This album is highly repetitive, but still okay for an occasional listen...although, don’t get your hopes up too high for something really cool. In my opinion, this isn’t worthy of being called Burzum...but it’s not a complete stain to the name by any means.

The good: creepy atmosphere, decent musicianship.
The bad: too repetitive and drawn out.