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Varg's best post-prison output - 95%

BlackMetal213, June 12th, 2015

As we all know, Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes was arrested in 1994 for the arson of several churches in Norway, as well as the murder of once associate and guitarist, Euronymous. He was sentenced to the maximum penalty of 21 years, however, was released in 2009 after serving almost 16 years of his sentence. Under the Burzum name, Varg released his first studio album in ten years, "Belus". This was a return to the harsh black metal sound of old, and after only a year or so, Burzum came back with "Fallen" in 2011. Musically, this album is fairly similar to "Belus", yet its production is far more refined and the structure is a bit different. This is Burzum's most well-produced release to my ears and in my opinion, is the best album he has released since "Filosofem".

This album is the logical sequel to "Belus". There are no keyboards to be heard on this album, and the guitar is the main area of focus. These riffs range from being fast and in-your-face to beautifully and elegantly melodic. After an ambient intro made up of basically whispering, "Jeg Faller" begins with a fast black metal tremolo riff. Followed by blast beats, this song probably has the most elegant chorus on the entire album. This riff is guaranteed to be stuck in your head for a long time. I always find myself humming along to it. I do not intend to go track by track on this review, but a lot of these songs work in similar ways with the melodic riffs, and certain ones must be addressed. Track three, "Valen", also contains a beautiful chorus riff and the intro to this song is almost "bouncy" and up beat. There are some very dark songs on this album, such as the almost evil sounding " Enhver til sitt", but for the most part, these songs are all sound much lighter than dark. Some of the fastest riffing on the album can be heard in "Vanvidd", also contains about two minutes of straight blast beats.

The drumming on this album is standard Burzum. It goes from mid-paced, such as "Valen" which contains no blast beats, and the aforementioned "Vanvidd", which contains an amplified amount of them. The drumming does sound quite similar throughout some of these songs. "Valen" and "Jeg faller" in particular have practically the same drum lines, minus the blasts in "Jeg faller". Like I said earlier in the review, the production is very clean compared to "Belus" and actually anything else Varg has put out in his career. There is still enough fuzz and the guitars still sound tinny enough to create that classic Burzum atmosphere, but the clarity on all the instruments is amplified by quite a bit. According to Varg himself, he "produced this album as one would produce classical music". I assume by this, he was referring to how organic this record sounds. It certainly does sound organic, but with a nice studio sheen over it. This really ups the quality of the atmosphere and makes the album sound huge and epic. This also attributes to the album's bright sound. Albums like "Det som engang var" and "Hvis lyset tar oss" would sound better if listened to while sitting around a fire in the midnight forest. "Fallen" would sound much better if listened to walking through the forest on a brisk summer morning. Burzum may translate to "darkness", but this is some of the most light, up beat black metal I have ever heard.

Something that really stuck out upon first listen is the increased use of clean vocals. Varg still uses harsh vocals on all of the metal tracks on the album, but he uses clean vocals on every track as well. He has done this on albums in the past, notably the song "Dunkelheit" from the album "Filosofem" and some of the tracks on "Belus", however' they are used in much greater quantity on this album. "Jeg faller" probably contains the greatest amount vocals and only two sections of the song contain screaming. Whether it's clean singing or spoken word, there are plenty of cleans on here and they all sound very good. Varg's vocal ability certainly hasn't decreased over the years.

Yes, Varg Vikernes might be a bit of a "nut" in a lot of people's eyes, and I don't agree with everything he says, but I don't give a damn what his political views are. The guy creates amazing music, be it ambient, folk, or the classic black metal he has always been known for creating. This is definitely Burzum's greatest release since "Filosofem", and while his ambient albums are great in my opinion, they will never touch this album. Unfortunately, Varg has decided to stop playing metal, and 2012's "Umskiptar" remains the last metal album by Burzum. Whether you're a fan of Burzum or black metal in general, I'm sure you'll enjoy this record.