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Like Belus But Worse - 73%

BobbyPeru, March 16th, 2011

Only one year after the highly regarded Belus welcomed back the Norwegian killer Varg Vikernes into the metal scene, the American branch of Candlelight Records is releasing its follow up and the one man band’s first official release in American shores, Fallen. Fallen signifies Vikernes’ second attempt at playing metal after his stint in jail during which Varg developed a moronic neo nazi ideology, an allergy to anything that’s not white and kept himself at bay from rock music because of its roots in black culture.

Unlike the first phase of Burzum during which each album signified a sizeable step forward, Fallen is more of a step to the side, giving us results that are both unsurprising and surprising. Unsurprising because Fallen looks and sounds like the logical continuation of Belus. Where Burzum’s classic releases made history with their monochromatic and amateurish artwork, now we are introduced to its not so black metal sound via classic images intended to portray the timeless Euro-centric beauty of nature (Belus) and of its ancestry (Fallen). In this occasion Elegy by French turn of century painter Adolphe-William Bouguereau graces the work of Vikergnes.

Long gone are also the days of true aural grimness and sheer hate. Even better, long gone are the days of self-sabotaging one-finger-at-a-time Casio keyboard playing. Now, Burzum boasts melodic and jagged heavy metal guitars, frequent mid tempos, not so menacing BM vocals alongside spoken parts and catchy yet linear song arrangements.

On the other hand, Fallen is surprising because it is the softest metal release by Burzum to date. Was Vikernes to continue down this path he will end up recording for Napalm Records and playing pirate fests in Finland. Regardless of what the Count may say to the press via e-mail, he must be consuming lots of folk metal. Tracks like “Jeg Faller” are only momentarily aggressive and sporadically metallic. At their core, these songs are tender, traditionally European and folksy, with choruses full of melody and longing for the tenderness of a white nipple.

Where Belus was dynamic and fast paced and included a couple of clearly outstanding tracks (namely “Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning”) Fallen lacks aggression and does not present a clear winner at first listen. It is also full of hooks and hence, it is ready for mass consumption because its quotient of extreme metal is rather limited. Of the seven numbers included here only five (to some this may make Fallen an EP) are metal songs and these are flanked by a mediocre intro titled “Fra Verdenstreet” and by an excruciatingly long (at less than six minutes it feels like it drags for twenty) and clumsy tribal oriental-sounding outro named “Til Hel og Tilbake Igjen”. I kid you not, its first half sounds like Chinese opera.

But those who loved the meat of Belus will find something to enjoy in Fallen. Melody reigns the metal songs and their core is all melancholy. In the fast part of “Jeg Faller” Vikernes voice sounds spent and raspy, as if the man had aged a decade in the span of twelve months. So he speaks, sings minimally and vocalizes quietly longer passages just like he did in limited fashion in the previous record. If this approach is a sign of age, it is also reflected in his guitar playing. “Valen”, like much of Fallen, is mid tempo. No frills or fills on the drums, multiple identity vocals and the repetitive and entrancing fingerwork of Vikernes. To a degree, these idiosyncratic and stylistic states are all trivialities; after all, the audience for Burzum has already been divided. And if you are still with him after that shoeless pic was printed on Terrorizer, you will probably also get a woody with Fallen.

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