Review Summary: For what it's worth, The Ways of Yore is Burzum’s first fully-realized dark ambient effort.
One thing that can be said about Burzum’s Sol Austan, Mani Vestan
is that it was certainly a step in the right direction. There is no denying that Burzum has been losing relevance to the world of music with each passing year, and after the release of the insufferably dull Umpskiptar
in 2012, it seemed likely that Varg Vikernes had completely lost what little remained of his inspiration, as well as his sanity. With that being said, it became necessary for Burzum to undergo a complete change in sound. After all, Varg had changed much since Burzum’s glory days, and his attempts to rekindle the atmospheric black metal sound present on albums such as Det Som Engang Var
always fell flat. Thus, 2013’s Sol Austan, Mani Vestan
was an entirely different venture than the nine albums preceding it. Although Burzum is no stranger to the genre of dark ambience, for the first time the concept truly felt fleshed-out. Unfortunately, despite undoubtedly being an improvement from Umpskiptar
, Sol Austan, Mani Vestan
was a rather boring, sleep-inducing affair, suffering from a long running-length and repetitive song structure. With that being said, it was forgivable to be underwhelmed by the release of Burzum’s eleventh studio album, The Ways of Yore
Touted as being a continuation of Sol Austan, Mani Vestan
’s dark ambient sound; The Ways of Yore
has Varg turning his focus to old European music, specifically that of the Norse persuasion. As a result, the ambience created on The Ways of Yore
is much more organic-sounding than any other of Burzum’s ambient releases. While acoustic guitars, bass, and percussion were present on Sol Austan, Mani Vestan
, they were generally used more for effect or to compliment the synthesizer melodies. Here, these instruments are utilized more frequently, often taking center stage on songs such as “The Portal” in order to allow the synthesizer to float around delicately in the background. In addition, many of the songs on the album feature spoken, sung, and chanted vocals from Varg himself. The interesting organic nature of the album helps give it a unique identity from Burzum’s other ambient releases.
Although far from perfect, this album greatly benefits from having a clear and compelling overall vision. Gorgeous medieval melodies and lyrics focused around Norse mythology help give The Ways of Yore
an incredibly strong atmosphere. Vivid imagery is present throughout the entire album, with each track painting a similar picture of the ancient time period in which the album is set. “The Reckoning of Man” serves as the album’s emotional highlight, with softly spoken vocals, melancholy synthesizer melodies, and waves of bright ambience creating a tragic, yet uplifting atmosphere. While Burzum’s focus on the album’s concept helps make The Ways of Yore
a cohesive and engaging listen, it also detracts from the listening experience as a whole. The repetitive tonality and lack of dynamism over the course of the album leads to songs being individually unmemorable; a problem shared by its predecessor as well, but to a larger extent. Furthermore, while Varg’s vocals help create imagery and undeniably make the album’s atmosphere seem more authentic, they also hurt the album more than anything else. For instance, on tracks “Heil Odinn” and “Heil Freyja,” Varg chants in an irritatingly amelodic manner, slurring words together akin to a drunk old man. The sung vocals on “Ek Fellr (I Am Falling)” suffer from the same issue and become grating long before the song reaches its end. With the exception of the spoken vocals utilized on tracks such as “The Reckoning of Man” and “Hall of the Fallen,” which actually add to the album’s serene atmosphere, Varg’s vocals are simply too annoying and over-the-top to be truly effective. The vocals end up ruining a few of the shorter songs, but luckily have no effect on the longer arrangements that fill up most of the album.
For what it’s worth, The Ways of Yore
is Burzum’s first fully-realized dark ambient effort, as well as arguably his best release since Filosofem
. It is a pleasant listen loaded with emotional atmospheres and trance-inducing ambience. Although it is easy to be put off by the album’s hour-long running time, most tracks flow together so cohesively that the whole affair seems much shorter than it truly is; unlike Sol Austan, Mani Vestan
, which seemed to drag endlessly. The Ways of Yore
improves on many aspects that plagued Burzum’s past six releases, but is by no means flawless. At times, the album can be rather repetitive and quite self-indulgent in its atmosphere. Still, The Ways of Yore
easily tops Burzum’s other ambient releases, and will hopefully assist in restoring Varg Vikernes’s long-lost musical credibility.