Review Summary: Expected to be a large disappointment, Belus proves that Varg Vikernes is still relevant within the black metal community.Introduksjon
In the year of 2009, after a lengthy 16 years of incarceration due to the murder of second wave black metal leader Euronymous, Varg Vikernes had finally attained his freedom. Rumors worldwide fueled the prospect of a new album, and almost immediately Varg responded with that rumors confirmation, warming the hearts of hundreds of thousands of black metal fans around the world. In December 2009, it was announced the album would be entitled Belus
(a renaming of what was initially an album to be titled The White God
). Throughout the recording process, Varg promised a high caliber black metal epic (along with almost constantly disassociating himself and Burzum with the current black metal scene), but the question on everyone's mind was; will Belus
really deliver" Thankfully for this reviewer, along with the thousands of other black metal fans worldwide, Belus
is a worthy addition to a line of classic albums. While it may not stand to his classic albums of the 90's, Belus
shows many great and new elements to Burzum's burgeoning and unique sound, proving that Varg Vikernes is not down for the count just quite yet.
displays an almost completely new side of Burzum, combining well established elements from his older material, with newer, and at times, unexpected components. The first, is a very obvious increase in melody. Songs like "Glemselens Elv" are filled with extremely harmonious and atmospheric tremolo picked guitar lines. Fourth track "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning" starts with heavy black thrash inspired riffs (which with their dissonance also bring the song "Key To The Gate" from Det Som Engang Var
to mind), but then eventually leads into a beautifully melodic spoken word section, complete with a simple, yet powerful lead and melodic chords layered underneath. An element that has never been seen before in a Burzum record is the inclusion of clean vocals; an element that find a warm welcome on Belus
. Tracks such as "Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning" display Varg's mid ranged and surprisingly well toned clean vocals, which take almost a soothing quality and provide excellent contrast from the fierce nature of the music. Instrumentally, Belus
also proves to be the most technical piece of work Burzum has ever done. While nothing is played with mind boggling skill, songs like "Sverddans" and "Keliohsten" show perhaps the cleanest playing in the whole Burzum discography. Everything from the guitar to drums is played with great precision, a big difference from earlier Burzum material. The bass in particular stands out, as it is pleasantly audible and often diverges from the guitar lines to create its own unique harmonies and patterns.
For all of its accomplishments, unfortunately Belus does falter in a few places. Firstly is the fact that the guitar passages at times, do not hold much interest for long periods of time (which is the length they are usually played for). There are many times that songs ("Belus' Doed", and "Morgenroede") feel much longer than their running time, with bland and uninspired riffs dominating the lengths of the songs. There is also a strong lack of the keyboard embellishments that have in the past, dominated the sound of Burzum. Many times some songs feel like they could include some sort of airy synth work, but unfortunately they never come. Perhaps the biggest fault with Belus
lies with Varg's vocal performance. Past albums were filled with Varg's unique and pain filled screech and while that style of vocals was often hit or miss for some fans, it was a large part of the definitive Burzum sound. Belus
shows Varg adopting a much more generic and processed style of vocals, that sound like they could come from any other vocalist in the genre.
Overall, while Belus
might not be the masterpiece many were hoping for, it is definitely not the disappointment many were anticipating it to be. Despite it's down points, Belus
displays a new, invigorated Burzum ready to take on the 21st century. From here, many will ponder about the future of Burzum and possible new releases, but it can easily be said that if Varg builds upon the great new factors of Burzum's sound, that he might just once again create a string of classic albums.