Review Summary: Though not at all a bad record, it is rather mediocre coming from a man that could do much better.
With all due respect, it is very easy to see that Varg Vikernes loves attention. He toys with the press, periodically changing his image and his ideals to keep things interesting and keep all eyes on “what Varg will do next”. That is large part of the reason why the remains of a burnt down Norwegian church can be seen in the covers of this little three track EP, shock value sells. Normally bands rely on shock value when their musical material is lacking, to compliment their small amount of musical substance (see Gwar). And though Aske isn't bad at all, Burzum have proven throughout time that they (he) can do better.
Stemmen Fra Taarnet begins with the sound of distorted power chords and a double pedal drum beat coming in from far away, eventually erupting into a pretty average chord progression over an even more average drum pattern. However Varg Vikernes has never been known for incredible musicianship, it’s all about the atmosphere he creates. Yet the song doesn’t feel as cold or as emotional as other Burzum works, instead sounding more like the early black metal bands such as Venom and Hellhammer, and though it isn’t bad it certainly isn’t what Burzum does best. The song could be considered pretty average were it not for the presence of Varg’s vocals, which, though often criticized, are extremely raw and dark, adding to the feel of desperation and hopelessness.
The second track on the EP is Dominus Sathanas, a little interlude that possess a some great riff work and some truly evil sounding little chants that are at times almost inaudible but add greatly to the atmosphere of the song. However instead of acting so much as a stand alone tune it works more like an introduction to the album’s true focus, the 10 minute closing piece, A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit. The song immediately kicks off heavy, and more importantly, very grim, evoking the same feel that made Burzum legend. It is the stereotypical black metal epic, loads of distorted riff work, healthy amounts of blast beats (yet never too many, Burzum for some reason never used them to the extent that their contemporaries did) hopeless lyrics and the typical high pitched shrill. Though some parts are downright amazing, such as the slower bridge 3 minutes into the song, some parts seem terribly average and generic, a disappointment only strengthened by the fact that it is Burzum we’re talking about, not your neighbors black metal band. Though lo fi production is necessary for the atmosphere and feel of a black metal record, some parts of Aske are actually held back by this aspect. Take for example the barely noticeable overdubs in some of the closer’s breaks, you can clearly tell they are there yet because of the low quality of the production you can’t hear them clearly, probably missing out on some interesting stuff in the process.
Maybe the burnt down church in the cover, that little bit of shock value, was a substitute for lacking quality. Though Aske is certainly not a bad black metal record, the riffs and vocals especially stand out as very good, it is rather mediocre coming from a band as respected and highly regarded as Burzum. However rating it as an individual EP without taking into consideration the rest of the band’s catalog this gets a 3.