Review Summary: Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is a monumental record and essential for any fan of either extreme metal or ambient music in general.
Loneliness is a difficult concept to convey in words but of course it can be done. The Collins English Dictionary defines it as "the unhappiness that is felt by someone because they do not have any friends or do not have anyone to talk to.", however, I feel it has a deeper meaning, for to be in a state of true loneliness you must be in isolation, trapped within yourself to such a degree that you fail to comprehend even the faintest notion of friendship. To be truly lonely, you must also be completely irrevocably insane. Therefore it logically follows that the conceptualisation of loneliness with words is nigh impossible. However with music it is possible to display emotions and ideas on a far grander scale than mere words could ever hope for and it is with this idea that we reach Burzum's masterpiece Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
. Not only is this album arguably one of the greatest black metal albums in history it also, in my eyes at least, conveys loneliness in the most beautiful fashion, and gives true definition to the word.
Burzum, of course, is the one man project of the much publicised Varg Vikernes, a man known for undertaking the most heinous of crimes in taking the life of a fellow human being. It has long been said that genius and madness go hand in hand and while Hvis...
was written and recorded before such deeds it is obvious that Vikernes possessed a mind capable of such thoughts long beforehand. It is from this tormented mind that the dark, harrowing landscapes that infest Hvis...
arise, perhaps shown best through album opener Det Som En Gang Var
. Vikernes wastes no time in creating a tenebrous atmosphere. Until now, the use of electronics on Burzum albums had been strictly limited, however from the get-go of Det Som En Gang Var
they are used liberally, effectively building a haunting atmosphere and creating an uncomfortable tension. As the anxiety reaches a climax a growing, tumultuous drum beat signal the beginning of the storm, discordant guitar riffs interlacing the synth background. Moments later Vikernes distinct vocals are introduced: a sharp, piercing shriek followed by a raspier, dry howl.
Despite being only four tracks long, the lengths of the compositions make up for this small hindrance, giving a full length musical experience. The following tracks utilise techniques similar to those found on Det Som En Gang Var
, with the majority of variation coming from the relative abundances of these stock components. Take, for example, the recurring electronic motif found in Det Som En Gang Var
, which creates a vastly different tone and environment to the driving onslaught of Inn I Slottet Fra Drømmen
or the aggressive, vocal-led hostility that is the title track. Vikernes masters the understated art of moderation, changing the intensity and timbre of both the instruments and his own vocals superbly, generating both a rougher texture and in turn preventing the deep moods from overwhelming the listener. This diversity keeps the record from becoming stale, and what could initially be viewed as three long, drawn-out minimalist compositions become instead three superb black metal tracks.
However it is often said that the best things are saved for last, and this album is no exception; as it is final track Tomhet
that is truly the masterpiece here. After the near-relentless onslaught of Inn I Slottet Fra Drømmen
provides a welcome respite; the calming ambience illustrating a stark contrast from its predecessor. While a fourteen minute instrumental may seem redundant, especially on with such limited chord progressions, Tomhet
actually manages to connect on a far deeper emotional level than any of the three tracks before it. Although it could be argued the soporific approach fabricates unsatisfactory results with the overly repetitive riffs deemed monotonous, it is such repetition that ensures the true beauty and terror of isolation is portrayed magnificently within. Importantly, Tomhet’s
strengths lie not just in the music present but also in what is left out. Whereas Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
and Det Som Engang Var
were reliant on the obvious vocal strengths of Vikernes to emphasise the atmosphere; Tomhet
is entirely instrumental, giving Vikernes musicianship chance to shine and importantly, allowing the listener a chance to saturate themselves in the melancholic atmosphere. Subtle, teasing layers of synthesizers gradually build this ambiance, furthered still by a refreshing woodwind section which increases the distinct contrast from the preceding tracks, utilising a full spectrum of subtle nuances to distinguish itself completely from the rest of the album.
Ending on a high Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
superbly, using the peaceful tranquillity to direct the listener away from the few weaknesses found on the titular track. While there are a few too many similarities between the opener and second track Hvis Lysett Tar Oss
this tiny flaw is negligible in comparison to the overall musical quality and adds no more than a slight tarnish to the record. Regardless of this, nothing should be taken away from the sheer magnificence this record and it is easy to see why Hvis...
is regarded as one of the finest works in its genre. As a creative outlet, Varg Vikernes would use the minimalist techniques explored on Tomhet
to explore ambience in more detail, culminating with his next release Filosofem
. While both his earlier recordings and Filosofem
undoubtedly possess superb tracks, they also contain moments of weakness far greater than anything found here. Such is the consistency of Hvis...
it is easy for even the most casual of listeners to appreciate the subtleties within, and it is this ability to be enjoyed by those who dislike black metal as a whole that raises it above its contemporaries.
Det Som En Gang Var
Overall 4.5 Superb