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He can be thankful he quit - 0%

Demiror_Moritur, July 29th, 2018

Even though he still has somewhat of a cult-like following who will eat up any single thing he puts out, this man can be thankful he finally retired from making “music”. As much as I personally despise him for single-handedly ruining the early black metal scene with his jealousy and inadequacy only to multiple years later have the audacity to still insist he was rightful in his actions and lie to hundreds of thousands of gullible brain-dead teenagers on the internet about how things actually went down in the 90s, I can still appreciate his first full-length Burzum album as one of the cornerstones of the black metal genre, but this right here is absolutely nothing like it, and I'm not precisely referring to the obvious change of genre.

The Ways of Yore is an ambient album by otherwise black metal musician Kristian Vikernes of something more than an hour in length and no salvageable attributes, traits or qualities whatsoever. As much as any of his deranged (or simply idiotic) fan-boys would hate to admit it, this man got lazy and decided to release an album under the name of Burzum to somehow attempt to still milk the cow that partly brought food to the table back in 2014, without realizing the only thing doing such a thing would actually do is tarnish and disgrace his already not-so-bright legacy.

The music contained within this record is nothing interesting, good, or remarkable in any kind of manner. I think it'd be more than enough to say he completed this whole thing solely by the means of utilizing his wife's Mac (this shamelessly stated by himself). As much as he's trying to aim for some sort of mystical sound, attempting to sell this hot trash as supposedly “traditional European music” on his own self-promotional YouTube channel, he doesn't quite succeed at it, and the whole album turns out to sound bland, boring and uninspired in general. It's safe to say the guy himself was bored while “composing” or making this.

None of the thirteen tracks really stand out for any particular reason or motive at all, as they all sound extremely similar (probably because they were engineered using the exact same program and features, all of them) and it's amazing how some of them are purely instrumental, without even featuring any kind of vocals at all (coincidentally the three last ones are just that, hinting at an attempt to hastily add some more content to the album to round it up to the hour mark probably to justify the release). Talking about the different “instruments” (and I'm making use of quotation marks because they're all virtual), they all sound really plastic and inorganic, making the overall feeling and sound of this project come off as unbelievably weak, plastic (in the sense of digitally textured) and extremely simplistic (without that being a good thing in this case), giving off a very fake-deep and musically dishonest vibe throughout. It's also quite hard to distinguish what kind of instruments he's even “playing”, since they don't really sound like any real counterparts would, but more like plain low-budget “elf movie” sound effects.

None of the compositions on here are imaginative and they are usually various sets of easily predictable notes repeated time and time again with some very, very minor changes here and there to prevent the listener (or the composer) from falling asleep on the spot halfway through a song, while adding some chanting-style vocals on top of it which sound funny at best and sadly pathetic at worst. Either that or they are literal rehashes of some his old songs from Hvis lyset tar oss and Fallen turned into "virtual form" (sad butchering of already mediocre black metal tracks).

As I just suggested, not only does the instrumental component of the album come off as disingenuous and bland, but the vocals themselves, which would be the more “human” or “real” side to this release, are sadly enough quite uninspired and lame as well, having no real bright moments whatsoever and never really being too risky either, always playing it extremely safe and attempting very hard to sound “medieval-chanting-like”, if that's even a thing. They sound really ghostly (not in a flattering way) and at times creepy in the sense that they tend to come off as an old man crying for help on his deathbed. It's hard to believe they can reach such level of lameness sometimes.

The lyrics are also not that noteworthy or interesting either. Thinking that there might be some salvation for this project I dug into them hoping or rather longing to find some sort of sense as to why this man would decide to put this out there at all, but all they are are senseless and inconclusive ramblings about supposed pagan gods and overall regurgitated mythological ideas and tales of supposed European origin.

All in all, this project doesn't stand up to the standards of the ambient genre, and much less to those of traditional or folk music in general. It's a shame he decided to take his music in this direction since he probably has it in him to make quality black metal (or had, anyway). I can't find any single thing I enjoy or like about The Ways of Yore, so I believe it's good for him to finally have put his Burzum musical project to rest, but it's a real shame this is the thing that put the final nail in the coffin, as he could have left with a much more worthy last full-length album instead of this boring, unoriginal, uninspired ambient piece.

The Ways of Yore - 30%

Lars_Stian, April 7th, 2017

Burzum's ''The Ways of Yore'' just feels like somewhat of a waste of time. Despite its long length, there's not really that much content on this release. In retrospect, it feels as if the album mostly just consists of digital effects and some percussion. Sure, there are some melodies, some even slightly enjoyable, however they aren't really that interesting or special overall. Most melodies are just boring, bland and overall uninteresting. Most songs just have one simple melody, which plays over and over again for a couple of minutes.

Most of the songs are somewhat indistinguishable from each other. This is largely due to the kettle-boiling sound effect, as I like to call it. Kristian Vikernes adds this weird effect that sounds like a tea kettle boiling, usually to compensate and cover up for his content, or rather lack there off. Whenever he's not using that annoying effect, he usually just strums a chord on an acoustic guitar numerous times, with some percussion in the background. Kristian really does take this simplicity thing way too far, at times it doesn't even sound like music, just noises.

There are a few enjoyable melodies, for instance ''The Reckoning of Man''. The problem with this song, and a few others, is that it starts out good, with a fairly solid melody, but then it continues for what feels like an eternity. Many songs feel very stretched out, and are thus no longer too enjoyable. The few good melodies are quite nice, though they are somewhat simple, they are still quite interesting, they're usually quite nostalgic and relaxing, and it's obvious that the intent was to make a nostalgic, yet relaxing and atmospheric album.

What more is it to the music? I don't know, as no matter how many times I listen, there's such a lack of substance and diversity that I can't really remember anything. There were several instances where I genuinely couldn't tell if the song was just some recycled melodies from earlier songs, as they're barely distinguishable.

Furthermore, the vocals are quite dull. He simply talks quite often, however he does ''sing'' quite a bit. The singing, however, still sounds like talking, as there's no evident passion or effort. But what really annoys me is the talking. Just as the singing, there's no passion or effort, he just talks in the most mundane, monotone and uninteresting manner imaginable. And the lyrics are boring as well, just some pseudo-deep mumbo jumbo that doesn't have any meaning.

One more thing that I don't get is the swastikas on the cover. It's not really a major aspect, however shouldn't Kristian Vikernes, the man who has become synonymous with racism and white supremacy, refrain from using symbolism heavily correlated to nazism? I know it's a sunwheel, and that it's been used for ages, however there are tons of ancient symbols, so why did he feel the need to chose this particular symbol? Nevertheless, Vikernes did what he did best upon hearing criticism concerning the symbolism; he played victim, talking about how oppressed he is, and how he was a victim of the evil, Jewish media or whatever he believes.

So what is the conclusion on this clumsily written chaotic review? The content is boring and dull, and comes across as effortless, rushed and uninspired. It might just have been one of the most boring album I've heard in awhile. A whole hour of this is quite unbearable.

Promoting the old ways again, minus the tact. - 75%

hells_unicorn, September 2nd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Byelobog Productions (Digipak)

Call it an odd quirk, but my own general ambivalence towards ambient music in general, there is something truly charming about the minimalist sonic pondering that has taken place outside of the black metal genre by the likes of Fenris via Neptune Towers, Ildjarn, Beherit, and the ever infamous Burzum. But in contrast to most, Varg's long-lived project has opted to make a recent stop back in territory that was abandoned by the rest towards the end of the 90s, of which The Ways Of Yore stands as his 4th cumulative outing in the world of pure synthetic instrumentation. Per usual, the well-known ex-con has opted to continue his pursuits of disseminating the lore of Odin and several other aspects of Nordic mythology, though here the formula has been modified a bit into something that is arguably more personal, but also comes with some flaws given the storyteller's limited abilities in certain departments.

On his previous ambient works, there was always a strongly ethereal character to the keyboard motives at work, though in the case of the lower fidelity midi creation that was Dauði Baldrs this was a bit more implicit. Where things start here is a bit more rustic and overtly folksy, opting for a percussive collection of pluck string themes and drum sounds, culminating in the two introductory instrumentals "God From The Machine" and "The Portal". Comparisons to Renaissance Faire novelty music wouldn't be entirely out of line here, though it doesn't hold as a binding rule for the entirety of the album. Further along into the album the familiar texture of sustained synthetic hazes of sound as heard on Hliðskjálf appear, albeit with a slightly harder hitting synthesized guitar character, as clearly heard on "The Lady In The Lake". This formula tends to trade blows with the earlier covered folksy music, until things eventually melt back into the entirely foggy character of previous endeavors on the longer instrumentals that close things out.

As mentioned before, while there is a good amount of tantalizing collection of sounds on here for those seeking peaceful contemplation and sleep, this isn't quite a perfect evolution of what was heard out of Varg's previous ambient endeavors. The chief flaw is the incorporation of lyrics through either spoken or sung means. For all of his ability to establish a restful atmosphere, Varg is not possessed of a voice that melds in well with his music, resulting in a jagged, disjointed attempt at a chant song in "Heill Óðinn". At other points his lyrics are spoken, which is a bit less abrasive, but still interferes with the atmosphere. Call it an uncompromising sense of sentimentality, but it's near impossible for me to square the narrative/storybook character of many of these songs with the more abstract approach taken prior. Some things need only be expressed in a title or in the insert notes, some things need no further explanation.

Overall, the good tends to outweigh the bad here, but I can't help but imagine how much better this whole album would flow if Varg axed the narrations and used synthesized choral vocals for the few sung parts found on here. It didn't necessarily have to be an almost complete revisiting of Hliðskjálf the way the predecessor was, but the best ambient albums are best expressed via what is implied, rather in what is said outright. Nevertheless, the target audience of this album shouldn't be too displeased with the results, as Varg's undying love of his motherland's history and lore translates itself nicely through this medium. Even if Burzum never releases another black metal album, there is still plenty of territory to explore while on the present path, and there seems to be little end to Varg's new found prolific writing streak.

Burzum - The Ways of Yore - 50%

ThrashManiacAYD, July 12th, 2014

The train keeps rolling with new Burzum releases, “The Ways of Yore” being the sixth full-length (including ‘compilation’ LP “From the Depths of Darkness”) since 2010 following Varg’s release from prison for you-know-what. By and large his ’second era’ material has been of a good standard, devoid of the intensity and ill will of earlier Burzum recordings but possessive of their own more relaxed earthly spirit. An excursion into maturity you might say, a journey he had plenty of time to consider through the long years of incarceration. “The Ways of Yore” thematically continues Varg’s explorations of mythology, folklore and Odalism but musically the departure into acoustic and ambient territories takes the mind back to his late 90’s prison albums, “Dauði Baldrs” and “Hliðskjálf”. In spite of that the 13 tracks here (inclusive of two re-recorded versions of older tracks) feature a decent amount of variation, not least in comparison to other black metal acts who have trodden similar paths in recent times, notably October Falls and the upcoming Wolves in the Throne Room record. We have acoustic guitar intermissions, atmospheric effects, slowly monotonous percussion and a variance of clean vocal styles from Varg which provide a warm, humanist vibe to the record, a feeling which may some contradictory given his frenzied path but retains value from a historical perspective.

Early listens to the album however left me cold and distinctly bored by the closing stages of its 68 minutes as the slow drawl and lack of energy provide ample opportunity for the mind to wander and crave something a bit more, well, like the nihilistic Burzum of old. My own personal appreciation has grown through subsequent listens but I doubt that many out there will be so willing to embrace what at times feels like a personal message from its creator. I would not wish to second guess the underlying intention of the (English) spoken word passages in “Heill Odinn”, “The Coming of Ettins”, “Ek Fellr”, all of which witness Varg orate with his heavy nasal Norwegian accent, but in a similar way to Sabbath Assembly records the simplistic and spacious soundscapes are ripe for the delivery of intuition. The plethora of atmospherics are primarily focussed around individual keyboard strokes with a deep echo reverberating into a dark ether of unpredictability but through any of these it is hard to feel the same attachment as compared to the ambient tracks from previous Burzum records where their more spared usage had a strong effect. I can’t help but feel that much of the depth through these passages comes simply from standard keyboard effects as the inclusion of two rerecorded old tracks featured at the end - “Emptiness” (“Tomhet” from “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”) and “To Hel and Back Again” (“Til Hel og Tilbake Igjen" from “Fallen”) which consume 23 minutes of the running time - show themselves to have a greater depth and mystery through their gentle melodic sweepings. Whether down to a more prolonged exposure to their wares down the years or through the space of this album, they end up highlighting that too little of “The Ways of Yore” possesses the hooks for instant gratification nor lingers in the memory long beyond the finish. I appreciate “The Ways of Yore” as a representation of Burzum’s variations in the past few years but I cannot see how many fans of the man’s fabled back catalogue will be too enamoured by this.

Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net

Nostalgic Swastika Ambient - 80%

messengerofthegods, June 26th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Byelobog Productions (Digipak)

A priori I can define this album by saying that it continues the trend of the previous one but being more folk-oriented. It is still ambient and has again that windy synth sounds all over the record. Tracks like The Portal or Hall of the Fallen are instant winners, the ones that stand out at the very first listen. The former because of its catchy melody and those chaotic electronics intermingled. The latter because of the strange sounds that can be heard and which reminded me of icelendic band Sigur Rós.

One of the things that caught my attention is that Varg makes use of vocals sung in a folky way. The point is, does he really do them better than the ones who already do them? The answer is no. I'd rather listen to Denez Prigent, Dead Can Dance, Arcana or Daemonia Nymphe to get that kind of vocals properly done. This is partly because Varg's voice and his ability to sing is just average at best. Here the vocals sound muddy and nasal, so probably there's also a bad production issue added to that previous problem. Ek Fellr is an example of a beautiful tune ruined because of way the vocals are done/recorded/mixed.

But the vocals on this record are not limited to sung ones. There are also passages of spoken words. I didn't like it when Varg used them in his last metal offering Umskiptar. In this album they are even worse because although he speaks in English here, I still can't understand most of what he's saying. The Reckoning of Man showcases the best use of the spoken vocals on this recording. Besides that, this track is awfully depressing, reminding me of old Burzum tunes like Illa Tiðandi, and I still don't know if it's a good thing or not.

There are some surprises by the end of the album. For example in the titletrack you can hear some kind of electric guitar with distortion, but it is hard to tell if it's in fact a guitar or just a VSTi. This is also used in which is probably the best track on this recording, Autumn Leaves. Out of curiosity I would like to know if the title means that autumn is leaving, or leaves is intended to mean the plural of leaf. Probably the meaning is double here. Anyway, it is well composed as each layer of sound that appears is always adding something to the atmosphere that is very much nostalgic in a good way. Post-black metal bands like Alcest comes to my mind.

Another noticeable thing is that this album features is the remake of Tomhet, here called just by its English translation, Emptiness. Although in my opinion is not as good as the old version, it's still a good listen in a different way because of all that new percussion added and a cleaner production.

So I'm giving this release an 80 rating because it is the number of swastikas on the cover. Just kidding. In fact I think is a pretty good album but with some flaws (mainly vocals) and it doesn't flow as well as the previous offering Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, making it less trippy and more focused on individual tracks. But it still makes a good journey to listen to this.

Bombadils Away - 65%

autothrall, June 17th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Byelobog Productions (Digipak)

I had initially described this album to a friend as 'music one might hear over a loudspeaker at a Renaissance Fair while smoking a cigarette and waiting to use the privy trailer out near the parking lot', and I'm largely sticking with that assertion. But I do feel like some might take that to imply that I hated what I was listening to, and I want to state that this is not the case. Granted, I'm not entirely sold on the experience, but The Ways of Yore, Varg Vikernes' fourth purely ambient/folk album under the Burzum brand, is a step above its predecessor in terms of structure and quality, with more going on, at least in the limited aesthetic range the Count is messing about with. Hell, I like it slightly more than Hliðskjálf, thought it can't really compare with the charming, cheesy MIDI dungeon synth grandeur of Dauði Baldrs.

Vikernes returns partially to the well of inspiration which produced the lackluster Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, in that he often implements some of the same, simmering synth sounds which dragged that monotonous 80s New Age paean into frustration. Yet on the whole, there are a lot more fluctuating, folksy ingredients, like the string sounds captured against the keyboards, or the droning, deep and often goofy Norse vocals. There are even some electrified guitar sounds incorporated with some effects, like in the title cut, which function beautifully with the repetition of the simple percussive programming and modest synth tones. Strangely enough, I actually found the tunes which Varg was narrating to be the most compelling and meditative. Say what you will about the man, love or hate him (as he is won to do towards you), but the guy's accent is quite distinct when speaking English, so hearing his style of storytelling over the base repetition of the instruments makes for some degree of authenticity that I found lacking last time, due to the severely limited sound-set and design. I'd also add that The Ways of Yore is marginally more complex, if only because it involves string lines with more notes, and I feel that's a positive move if he's going to continue in this vein...

Initial reactions were not strong, and in the end I don't consider it all that great of a listen, but it does succeed in providing an hour of atavistic escapism. I listened to it several times while walking my six-month old in his stroller on some cooler late spring mornings, and found it was adequate enough background music even though few of the note patterns truly weave themselves into your memory. The folksy guitar-like parts seem like the sort of stuff you'd hear in a tavern on a computer RPG, and a few of the synth lines seem too redundant of the prior full-length, but the first 10-11 tunes go by with few distractions and some solidarity in concept and direction. A tranquil, undemanding sort of experience which is likely to suffer from the massive bias against its creator, but if you view it for what it actually is, I wasn't ultimately too turned off. Are there a hundred neo-folk, New Age or dark ambient bands who perform this better than Burzum? Yes, of course, but you have to admit that Vikernes' obsessions with European history and ancient cultural ideology fit like a hand to a glove with this musical medium, so it makes a lot of sense that he's chosen this path.

I do find the re-recordings of "Tomhet (Emptiness)" and "Til Hel og tilbake igjen (To Hel and Back Again)" to be needless chaff tacked on here, which might not 'interrupt' the flow of the newer material, but does not at all complement it. Consider that these two pieces alone are bloating out the album by 24 minutes! I would have preferred that this just stopped on "Autumn Leaves", but the unnecessary length is really my biggest concern. "Emptiness" has more or less been tweaked with the same sound set found elsewhere on this and the prior album, so whether you will like it or not really depends on your reaction to this new phase of his career. "To Hel..." is much the same, but I felt like the bass-range synthesizers worked well with in tandem with those scintillating electric melodies and the lighter, piano-like textures and repetitions, so this one wasn't much of a bust. Their inclusion almost seems like fan service...but for whom? These aside, though, The Ways of Yore was not an album I really minded, and might be something I break out again in the Fall to see how it syncs up with the seasonal New England atmosphere. But it's not so strong, either, and even after a matter of hours I find that I forget anything about it but the general audio cues and impressions. Now to get back in queue for that toilet.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Burzum - The Ways of Bore - 50%

Sonikdeath, June 3rd, 2014

In all honesty, this record should not be getting a review on Metal Archives. The reason why is obvious - it isn't metal. However I have decided to take the opportunity to post my thoughts, and therefore hopefully counterbalance the somewhat unwarranted exposure this record will get within the realm of ambient electronica.

First up, I'd like to state that this is not an offensively bad record by any means. There are some good moments on here, especially Autumn Leaves, in which the gently cosmic keyboard tones are augmented by a simple yet evocative acoustic guitar and bass pattern, and then later with one of the rare examples of distorted guitar utilised on the record. This augmentation works well because it draws the ear away from the silence behind the sparse rhythms which infuses the record. So many of the tracks suffer because dynamically speaking, they offer little, while musically speaking their reductionism draws attention to the fact that what is on show is often just not very interesting.

Vikernes' prison material Dauði Baldrs saw primitive keyboard work allied to the occasional equally primitive percussive element. While his early explorations in this new style were restricted in scope for obvious reasons, in the intervening years there has been a disappointing lack of progress in his electronic work. The keyboard elements are more polished and evocative of a 'cosmic' atmosphere, but are noticeably simple and fairly repetitive. These loops of more atmospheric synth are joined with simple piano-like tones in a format which is repeated more or less for the entirely of the record. Again, pleasant enough but not that interesting.

One of the weak points of the record are the vocals of Varg. On Heil Odinn he produces a murmured attempt at singing that, while raw and honest enough, demonstrates a lack of melodious quality and strength that reduces its impact. On Lady In The Lake, he tries a spoken type of vocal style. Again, for all his many qualities, I don't believe his spoken voice , which is given a kind of hand-over-the-mouth muffled treatment, is particularly compelling. The Coming Of Ettins begins with the already familiar swathes of cosmic keyboard, before more chatter from Varg. Once again, these hushed tones are muffled in an inexpert fashion and placed in the mix in an uninteresting way. Simply put I just didn't find the style he adopts adds anything to the sense of mythic lore he is attempting to capture. The Reckoning Of Man follows this template once more - keyboard nurdle and spacey synths, the Count speaking another passage in English. At least he uses a tiny bit of reverb effect this time. If there is any great poetry to his lyrics I cannot say, for I found the spoken word fairly hard to follow. On Heil Freya we are once again 'treated' to Vikernes singing, as he attempts to introduce a ritualistic quality to proceedings. His singing is once again fairly tuneless and uninspiring. Ek Fellr (I Am Falling) is another opportunity to showcase his somewhat tremulous warblings. I admire him for attempting to introduce this element but unfortunately his lack of tunefulness acts as a barrier to the attempt to evoke a sacred, ritual atmosphere.

In summary I'd say that although there are some nice moments of contemplative ambience, and Varg certainly has a reverence for the material which shines through, the repetitive dynamic and predictability of the record makes it unlikely to be one which I revisit too often. Most of the tracks follow a formula that relies heavily upon the swathes of spacey keyboard, which unfortunately start to sound very similar to one another, thereby reducing their impact in invoking a dreamlike atmosphere. I'd like to have heard more of the acoustic guitar which works so well on Autumn Leaves. He has obviously improved his playing no end over the years and I think greater use of the guitar would take some of the emphasis away from the keyboards which become rather boring by the final track. The greatest failing though is with the vocals, as mentioned at great length here. Simply put they are not strong enough to warrant such prominence within such a sparse sound field, and the man cannot sing to a degree that makes him compelling. If he had managed to find another person to sing many of these tracks would have been improved greatly, and he could have concentrated upon expanding the atmospheric element of his work.

So there's some hope Vikernes may eventually come to fully realise his atmospheric vision, but this record, while an honest attempt, will only garner interest because of the use of the Burzum moniker, and not because it stands out in the densely populated field of dark ambient electronica. Anyone wishing to hear a superbly realised example of ethno-ambient soundscapes could do worse than checking out the solo work of Karl Sanders.