Review Summary: The best post-prison Burzum release.
When I learned that Varg Vikernes had released a new ambient album under the Burzum name, I was intrigued but a little apprehensive. I’ve always been a fan of Burzum’s dark ambient material when featured as individual tracks on the metal albums, like “Tomhet” off of Hvis lyset tar oss and “Han som reiste” off Det som engang var, but I found Vikernes’ two full-length ambient albums to be a huge letdown. The albums were poorly recorded and featured uninspired, video game-esque music. I was willing to give Vikernes the benefit of the doubt and chalk up his mediocre ambient albums to the restraints he had recording in prison, and decided to check out the new album. I’m glad I did, because Sôl austan, Mâni vestan was a pleasant surprise.
This record is radically different from anything Vikernes has released in the years since his release from prison, and with the quality of the metal albums he’s put out being as poor as they have been, this is not a bad thing. Sôl austan, Mâni vestan features tasteful ambient music, relaxing and ideal for listening at night. The album features a fair amount of variety, and proves an engaging listen.
This is a lengthy album, featuring almost an hour’s worth of music, but it does not seem to drag on. There is surprisingly little filler on Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, which is something that cannot be said for Burzum’s previous ambient releases or his post-prison metal works. While ambient keyboard melodies are certainly the focus, some tracks also feature acoustic guitars and bass, adding greatly to the variety and mood of the album. The ambient keyboard swells heavily featured on this album recall Burzum’s earlier ambient piece, “Tomhet”. Each song on this record features a large amount of repetition, but this is the standard for Burzum releases.
All in all, this album is worth at least one complete listen. It is hands down the best material Vikernes has released since 1996. Vikernes is making a wise decision in moving away from his metal sound; ambient material seems to be his strength these days. Even if you’re not a fan of Burzum’s other ambient releases, you might find this one enjoyable. It’s a unique listen.