Review Summary: FOR THE “MUSICALLY ELITE” ONLY
I’m very serious about the summary, it’s not a joke. Listeners who listen to more mainstream metal music such as thrash and the ever-growing –core scene should stay far, far away. Varg’s aim with Burzum was to revolt against the growing commercialized American death metal scene. To record his albums, he went to the local music store and bought the cheapest guitar, cheapest bass and borrowed a cheap drumset from one of his drumming friends (who is in a famous black metal band, don’t remember who). He recorded his vocals with the ***tiest mic the recording engineer had on hand, and for one album, Filosofem
, he recorded his guitar through his brother’s stereo set using various old fuzz pedals. Basically, Varg’s aim was to have his music as evil and simple as possible and record it using the worst equipment on hand and ultimately have purposely bad album production.
But what can you expect anyway? You’re listening to black metal. It’s supposed to be that way anyway, right? I suppose. Why then, is this album, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
, considered THE black metal album? This is a little different. This is by far the most “evil” sounding album I’ve heard. Bands like (early) Death, Darkthrone and Mayhem don’t come close. From the absolute coldest synth melodies to the relentless guitar riffs, the songs on here pummel you, beat you, and leave you dying in the frozen deserts of Antarctica.
It’s quite obvious that Varg isn’t very good at any of the instruments (he plays all of them), but it’s also quite clear that he isn’t trying to be. He recorded everything in a day’s time, and recorded everything with one try, despite making minor mistakes (except the bass in Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
, which took him a couple times), proving that the riffs are quite simple. Simple as they are, they only intend to deliver two things: heavyness and evilness. The beginning of Inn I Slottet Fre Droemmen
showcases this, as it is only two different chords repeated over and over. They mesh extremely well with the synth. The synthesizers on the album are intended to deliver two more things along with the guitars: chilliness and atmosphere. For example, the synth in the intro of Det Som En Gang Var
brings on a desert-like winter scene with nothing else around but snow dunes or the beginning of a zombie apocalypse as if they were rising above the ground at the very moment out to eat and kill.
There is a showcase instrument here though: Varg’s voice. He easily has the most unique scream in the black metal scene, so unique that I cannot accurately describe it; you would have to listen yourself. The closest I can think of is that he sounds like a man in his 20s screaming from being eaten alive. The crappy reference aside, his voice adds the utmost character to the music, bringing listeners his emotionally rough and powerful voice. The Norwegian lyrics also add to the uniqueness, not letting non-Norwegian folk understand at all (not that you could anyway). The drums and bass are at the black metal standards, and do not shine whatsoever, but they are there, and they complete the musical machine Burzum is.
Now there are only four songs here, but all of them are long, the shortest one being about eight minutes, the longest being 14 and a half. This shows that the songs are very repetitive. However, another unique characteristic of Varg’s songwriting shines here, unlike virtually every other band, which avoids it or falls to it: while it’s not complicated by any means, Varg uses repetition to his advantage, and forcefully drags the listener into the music itself, as if it isn’t repetitive at all. The opener Det Som En Gang Var
is the longest song here, but there are really only three main melodies, with one or 2 other riffs to link those together. Tomhet
, only a couple seconds shorter, only has 2 main melodies! But like I said, it’s for the better.
Like I said before, I believe the idea of this album was to pummel you with simple yet crushing riffs and melodies. And it’s true for the first three songs. Not a single one of those has a break in it that lets up and doesn’t give you time to relax. Det Som En Gang Var
is a classic, and may be the greatest black metal song written. Inn I Slottet Fre Droemmen
is also another Burzum classic that can easily stand up with the first song. Unfortunately, the one flaw I find with this album lies in the title track, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
. While it isn’t a bad song, it’s only okay at best and drags the album down a little in the middle, ruining the mood slightly. At the end, Varg decided to give his listeners some mercy; the album’s very last song, Tomhet
is a slow-paced, simplistic, atmospheric song that slowly heals you back to your former self before you were relentlessly beaten by the album.
Is this the greatest black metal album of all time? Could be. Hell, I think it definitely deserves the title. Everything you could want in a black metal album is present in this one album. Sadly, I had to lower the score because of the title track. Regardless, this is easily what I’d call a classic black metal album, and is a must for all black-heads. Oh, I apologize, the “musically elite.”