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No signs of stagnation - 90%

Thumbman, May 10th, 2011

Only a year after releasing Belus, Varg returns to release his second album after being released from prison. This album does not deviate too far from the Burzum formula but there are many experimental moments that pay off. Although many people know of Burzum only because of Varg's connections with murder and church burning, he proves once again that he has artistic merit and that Burzum is much deeper than mere shock value.

Much like Belus, Fallen starts with a short experimental intro. This one is very ambient and features eerie whispers and deep rumbling. It conjures up haunting images of gargoyles overlooking a dark cathedral. As the black metal comes into play, the first thing that is apparent is the production. Varg has said that this album has been produced in the same way as classical music. It is hard to know if this is true or not, but the new approach to recording has certainly paid off. The guitar is dense and heavily distorted, yet still easy to make out. There is very clear production on the drums, which are simple but highly effective. Many metal bands drown their songs in relentless and monotonous blast beats, but this is not the case with Fallen. The bass plays a very important role in the atmosphere of this album. There is one point in "Jeg Feller" where all the instruments but the bass drop out and Varg half speaks and half whispers in a very creepy way. It is experimentation like this that makes the album so interesting. It would be a good idea to listen to this album on high quality headphones, as there are subtle elements that are crucial to the album, such as the bass lines, that might not be audible on cheap earbuds.

There is not a bad song to be found on Fallen. "Jeg Feller" showcases Varg's surprisingly melodic clean vocals. Varg's clean vocals have gotten very good on this release. His rasps are powerful, without being over the top. The riff on "Valen" is one of Burzum's best riffs. It is simple, repetitive and highly effective. In fact, much of the album is like this. It is in no way complicated, but the repetition is hypnotic rather than tedious. "Enhver til sitt" features slow melodic sections that are almost reminiscent of doom metal. Like most black metal albums, there is no shortage of tremolo riffs. "Til Hel og tilbake igjen" is a very interesting outro. There is a slow hypnotic drum playing for most of the track. The instrumentation has a vaguely Eastern vibe to it. Varg's willingness to try new things has payed off on this album. This album has an old-world European feel to it. When compared to much of the stale black metal that seems to be spreading like a plague, this is very authentic sounding and a breath of fresh air.

While many people accuse Burzum of playing boring, typical black metal, that is not very fair or accurate. Its not Varg's fault that so many mediocre bands have ripped off his sound. That said, it is true that there have been bands that have successfully added to Burzum's style and incorporated new influences. Without Burzum, black metal as we know it would not exist. With Fallen, Varg shows no signs of slowing down. This is a very welcome addition to Burzum's discography. With so many black metal bands happy with playing mediocre music, Varg deviates from the trend, continuing to write original and interesting music.