Review Summary: Cold, dark and evil, this album is what the Norwegian black metal scene was about. True, it could have been done a bit better, but it's still good enough for us to stop talking about it and start enjoying it.
Ok, this is my first review, so... Have no mercy :)
Filosofem is the last album Varg Vikernes recorded as a one man project- Burzum before his imprisonment. Since Sputnik Music is a web site dedicated to music and not an online history encyclopaedia I'm going to concentrate on Vargs music rather than on his law breaking endeavours.
The first thing you will notice about Filosofem is it's horrific production, even for black metal standards. On the earlier albums the production was bad because Varg opted not to enhance it due to his view that his music is a valid representation of himself with all of it's mistakes and because he was opposed to all the "trendy" death metal bands (ok, forgive the man, he was only a teenager) which went after specific brands of instruments and equipment. But on Filosofem he intentionally worsened the sound by plugging his guitar in a stereo instead of an amp and adding the inevitable fuzz pedal. Instead of a classic microphone he used the worst one the sound technician had and that was the one from a headset. And crazy as it sounds, that choice instead of ruining the album rendering it unlistenable, gave it a specific sound which matches perfectly with the atmosphere of the music. While the albums Burzum and Det Som En Gang Var had a more plain and simple sound, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss a kind of hypnotic ambiental groove to it mixed with black metal, Filosofem sounds like the essence of pure evil. The first three songs- Burzum, Jesu Dod and Beholding the Daughters Of The Firmament all rip through your eardrums with viciousness. Burzum displays the only clean vocals of the albums mixed with the aforementioned haunting screams with the amp+fuzz efect giutar just adding up to the effect and blending everything together into a sound guaranteed to haunt you for days to come. The consistency is on the level on the next two songs so there is no problem there. Also, the last track-Decrepitude II is a solid instrumental with an interesting, you could even say "Vargish" keyboard playing over the guitar in the background, simple but effective.
Unfortunately, the bar was set too high for the two remaining tracks.
Decrepitude I is just awfully uninspired and boring despite my efforts to find out if it sinks in after the tenth listen. Well it doesn't and it is a solid candidate for the worst Burzum pre-jail track. Rundtgåing Av Den Transcendentale Egenbetens Stötte is basically a couple of notes played over and over and over (you get the point) again for a good twenty and so minutes leaving the listener waiting for some radical or, hell, even a subtle change in the song enhancing the feeling of escalation or even loneliness, but the magic is gone after the first listening leaving us with no wish to put the track on repeat. The (unused) effect of surprise is just gone.
All in all Filosofem is a great album, although with a couple of flaws, but with a distinctive and specific sound and intensive feeling of fear and subtle agression to itself. Another one of Vargs classics having it's name written in the pages of metal history.