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The Expansion of Belus - 83%

ImpureSoul, March 25th, 2011

Burzum's at it again. When Burzum's newest release, Fallen, came in the mail, I checked the inner artwork and found something saying that this album was completed in recording November 2010. That means that this album was fully recorded 4 months before Belus (the previous album) was even released. So yeah, Varg's doing it again. Recording things at a pedal-to-the-metal speed, blasting out music and releasing it periodically over the years. (Before his jail sentence he recorded 4 albums and an EP in 18 months).

Anyway, when I heard Fallen was coming, I wasn't sure it was real. The Times New Roman font on the front, the English album title, the fact that it was released with almost no mention anywhere (magazines, forums, etc)... it all seemed highly suspicious. But nope, Fallen is totally real... and now I own one of the limited vinyl copies. Yay.

So, Fallen picks up where Belus left off: tinny, yet glossy production, technical guitars, casually sung melodic vocals... but being that Burzum never makes the same album twice, drastic changes are present.

Let's start by talking about the tone. Unlike the Warm, sleepy, fuzzy feeling of Belus, this one goes for a much more bombastic approach that we caught a glimpse of in songs like Keliohesten on Belus. It's heavier and more in your face, but it doesn't totally abandon soft winding sections. There's a lot more moments that are pounding and heavy, moments that make you bang your head. In this way, the album does bear similarity to Burzum's '92 debut. There's also a lot of melody this time around. I'd say that this may well be Burzum's most melodic album yet. There're tons of melodic passages and riffs on songs like Valen and Budstikken, but at no point does it feel wishy-washy or watered down. Yup, the Burzum spirit is still alive and well here. I do have a gripe though. This comes from the production. The guitars are distorted as you'd expect, and they sound thin and tinny, which is okay, but I feel that and the rest of the production sort of confines and restricts the atmosphere's full potential. I found that there was a grandeur tone in the drums and guitars in earlier Burzum albums like Hvis Lyset Tar Oss where the atmosphere seemed to expand before you into an epic soundscape that seemed to have a life of its own. I wish Varg had tried that here, because I think that it would have fit nicely. Don't get me wrong, the atmosphere isn't totally impeded, but I think it has dwindled. I would like to hear a different production than on Belus. But anyway, let's talk about what atmosphere there is.

The album also has a primitive feeling, though it isn't a bad way. It's sort of a tribal feeling, and although it serves as a small underline for most of the time, it becomes highly prevalent in the outro of the album, Til Hel og Tilbake Igjen. The album doesn't haven that wide-open foresty/mountain range feeling that prior albums had. Instead, it seems to be more confined, like the album's taking place inside a room where rituals are performed (like I said, the album sounds quite tribal). I think most of this comes from the sound of the drums. While they're low in production, they do have a resonance to them that seems like something new. Also, the riffs have this sort of native flair of renaissance (as much of that as there could be from electric guitar, mind you). The other thing that adds to the tribal tone would be the vocals.

Varg's used melodic vocals in the past, but never this much. I know this bothers a ton of 'tr00' Burzum fans, but I really find it interesting, and it brings a lot of progression to the table, which is something I highly value in any band. Unlike on Belus though, the soft vocals are utilized much more tastefully, and are no longer sung casually. There seems to be a flair of style growing in Varg's clean voice, and I like it. It really fits with the melodiousness of the album. And then you have your harsh vocals. Unfortunately, Varg once shies away from using the harsh wails that made him so distinguishable in his first 3 albums. I'll repeat what I said in my Belus review: he probably either thought those vocals would be too much for the tone of the album to handle without sounding akWard, or he's getting too old. If it's the former, I think a wail or two would work at various parts of the album. He does do something in the middle of Vanvidd that someone resembles these vocals, but he never quite touches back on them completely. Instead of using those wails though, he does what he was doing in Belus: a hoarse growl similar to Darkthrone. He's been going for this style since Filosofem, and while I found it a little weak or even boring in Belus, I think he's getting the hang of it. There's a lot more power in those growls now, and I'm starting to recognize them as 'Varg's growl's', whereas before they seemed a little unoriginal.

The album varies itself with a good amount of interludes that utilize instrumental layering; there are lone guitar moments, lone drum moments, lone bass moments.... and the way the music all comes together is very satisfying. There's plenty of diffrence with the feelings of songs (Enhver til Sitt, Budstikken, and Jeg Faller all have a different emotional tone), but I'm happy to say that there are no out of place tracks on this release, like War on Burzum's debut or Sverddans on Belus. All the songs here fit the album well. While this album still does suffer from the problem Belus had with repitition on a couple songs, it isn't quite as blatant or tiring, nor does it last as long. There are moments where I feel like the song is dragging into the dirt a bit (Vanvidd didn't hold my attention all the way through), but it isn't as evident as it was on Belus and the album never becomes irritating.

I'd say that Varg Vikernes is defenitely in the process of transitioning out of black metal. The grooving riffs and soft sung vocals are highly remeniscent of viking and folk metal. The black metal is still there in that there are plently of tremolo-picked riffs that cut and slice, plenty of Darkthrone-esque growling, and a sparse tone. I think that this progression for the moment may be slightly clunky, but it isn't akward. Fallen gave me the sense of Varg trying t ovind another groove for himself to dwell in for a while.

The intro and outro both work well in the album's favour, deepening the atmosphere and hightening aticipation/bringing you back down to earth. While keyboards are still nowhere to be seen (or should I say, heard), Varg makes up for it with a highly unorthodox ambient outro, done with drums, acoustic guitar, and an old renaissance string instrument (I can't recall the name of it) that gives the end of the album a nice wide-open vibe. It starts creepy and otherworldy, but it eventually segways into a soft relaxing outro on another string instrument that sounds like it might be a short excerpt from one of the songs on Hliðskjálf. Really nice outro.

So for the most part, I'm quite impressed with this. I haven't had enough time to let it fully grow on me, so I can't saw right now whether or not this is better than Belus, but It's defenitely good. Varg still hasn't ran out of ideas as far as I'm concerned, despite the similar production tone to Belus. Burzum has stayed on my favorite band's list after I heard this album, because Varg's shown us that he can still take his new music to new places and show us new things. More original than Belus was, more action-packed than Belus was... the only thing that doesn't come through as clearly is the atmosphere. I recommend this to Burzum fans, especially those who were turned off by Belus. This may just bring them racing back to Burzum's music. It still doesn't hold a candle to the original four Burzum black metal albums, but in my mind those are all untouchable masterpieces. The point is that this album satisfies. Give it a spin.

Out of the whole album, I definitely recommend the song Budstikken. This song showcases pretty much all of the album's elements and has a lot of great action-packed riffs and beats. A song to bang your head to, like My Journey to the Stars, but also a winding epic track, like Jesu Dod. If you want one song off the album to get an idea for what's here, go for Budstikken.

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