Burzum - Burzum
Burzum's self titled LP debuted in 1992, the child of now infamous metal figure Count Grishnackh. As he is better known these days due to public exposure through various controversies, Varg Vikernes was then a sometimes bass player of Mayhem, Burzum his solo project in it's infancy. The early Norwegian black metal scene is shrouded in a kind of mysticism for many, the isolated beauty of the countries large and desolate pastoral forest landscapes and the strong hold over the government by the Christian faith at the time creating bleak alienation in many areas of the population. It was expressed most beautifully in the vbs.tv documentary "True Norwegian Black Metal" (which chronicles some of the genres origins and looks indepth at the life of Gorgoroth vocalist Gaahl), in particular a section which shows how when young he was one of only two boys going to a school in the isolated district he grew up in until he was 18. The other guy killed himself.
The loneliness and isolation merely hinted by this is perhaps unfathomable by most and surely only the tip of the iceberg, but still I came to something of an understanding watching this. Black Metal once seemed such a man-made concept outside of nature to me, a cacophony of noise in rebellion of good musical taste and well that was that, end of story it wasn't quite as good as Pantera to my naive teenage mind. However, now i've grown up some and approach things differently I feel the nature and spirituality of the Norwegian landscape tied very strongly into it's essence. Listening to Burzum's self-titled LP affirms this for me, and I must say because of this it is one of the most exhilarating and haunting rushes of dissonant beauty I have ever experienced.
There is a meditative quality to this music, at some point in his dual career/incarceration Varg himself described each Burzum song as a kind of "spell" dwelling in pagan mythology, making it's listeners more susceptible to "magick" and inspiring a trance-like state of mind. This may sound a bit much on surface level, nonetheless it is an apt description of the kind of black and immersive atmosphere that has been created here. Repetition is key on most of these songs such as Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown
, Ea, Lord of The Depths
, A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit
& My Journey To The Stars
, four tracks that take you on a truly consuming journey into a black abyss. Drums incessantly pound over and over the same fast paced rhythm to strongly pronounced double kicking as minimalistic tremolo picking patterns on distorted guitars storm over the top, now cliche standards in the genre here they sound fresher and more captivating then ever. Varg howling over the top of this beautiful chaos doesn't have to make any sense lyrically, the amount of torture you can hear in the tone of his voice is gut wrenching throughout (particularly on Ea
and the thrash riff led War
). It stabs through the black, dreamy atmosphere like a razor edged knife, or a fist punching out of a complacent, angry wall of sound.
The subtle melodies on this album help strengthen it, from riff sections on such tracks as My Journey To The Stars
to the slower paced Black Spell of Destruction
. The music falling to a simple guitar ostinato at 4:27 of the latter as Varg screams himself to death is a truly spine chilling moment, the minute long guitar interlude The Crying Orc
equally so despite it's absurd title and musically overdubbed simplicity. There is some ambient work on here as well, primarily Channeling The Power of Souls Into A New God
which features some moody keyboard work and closer Dungeons of Darkness
, a bass led track that leads you out to sleep.
Burzum's self titled LP is essential early black metal, influential, fresh and telling of the era. It is strongly repetitive, but despite this the songs do have varied and interesting parts which are more or less good ideas stretched out longer for maximum effect. The production is very good for an early black metal album, where as normally the more thin and tinny it gets the more character it has (e.g. A Blaze In The Northern Sky
by Darkthrone) but this holds up well with a just a slightly murky mix by Euronymous on producing duties. The fact that one man created such atmosphere out of so little is quite astounding as there is a very immersive quality to the insanity here, Varg's description of trance inducing "magick" almost a warranted compliment because of this. Once you get a taste for it, this is a beautiful darkness which you may never want to leave.