Review Summary: 1991-2020Thulêan Mysteries
is more than just a record, it’s an emblematic assertion for Varg and one that puts music behind him forever, which by all accounts reflects the quality to some extent. Indeed, after nearly thirty years of infamy – seminal, genre-defining highs, post-prison lows, and middling dungeon-synth Pagan concepts and all – Varg is finally saying adieu to a pretty wild journey with music. Thulêan Mysteries
should be a total disaster on paper, when you consider the context surrounding it, but somehow it manages to be one of the most consistent Burzum albums in recent memory. Pointing out the elephant in the room, this LP wasn’t made with paternal care, nor was it designed to go out with a celebratory bang, hearkening back to its roots; no, Thulêan Mysteries
was simply made for the sake of emptying out Varg’s demo vault. Just by looking at how the album was promoted (a Twitter post being the extent of its promotion), it’s as though the album was made with complete indifference just so Varg could dispose of this chapter in his life. And yet, for all the fervent contention surrounding this man’s controversial rhetoric and ideologies, it can’t be understated that there’s always been a whimsical effortlessness to his music, whether he hits the mark every time or not, and Thulêan Mysteries
is no exception.
So what is it? Well, this final entry is an expansive extension on from the dark-ambient explorations of his last two albums, so for those hoping for Varg to return to his frosty shrills and cutthroat guitar riffs, prepare to be disappointed. If, however, you’re looking for a continuation on from Sôl austan, Mâni vestan
and The Ways of Yore
’s neo-medieval sound and all its gloomy ambiences, there’s plenty for you to enjoy here. Despite the stigma that these were demos, there’s certainly improvements being made from the aforementioned albums, and it knuckles down on a really cohesive tone for its whopping ninety-minute journey. It’s a poignant, chilled out peregrination that, like previous entries, paints a vivid world for the listener to reside in. There’s nothing here you haven’t heard before today, but the delayed guitar chords, dull, thumping bass, and sweeping synth backdrops continue to keep the listener engaged. Its marriage with European instrumentation and abrasive electronics bring aesthetically pleasing results, and Varg’s acute ear for chord progression – namely on “The Road to Hel” – delivers intense, praiseworthy results. The likes of “The Road to Hel”, “Skin Traveller” and “The Sacred Well” emphasise Vikernes’ incredible talent for composing dense and moving ambient pieces, like the left-field “Tomhet” forged twenty-six years ago.
However, even when you factor in my complete surprise for the album, it still has glaring issues. At twenty-three tracks in length, it’s hard to overlook the fact Thulêan Mysteries
has excess baggage – further adding to the narrative that Varg scraped every last note out of the barrel and dumped it into this swansong. Songs like “The Dream Land”, “The Password” and “A Thulêan Perspective” are far from bad, but there’s not much outside of the initial minute or so to hold up your interest. Then there’s the vocals which are far less distracting this time, granted, and less frequent than on The Ways of Yore
, but they can still be a burden to the overall tone at times. The opening to “The Password” sends shivers of cringe into my body every time the song opens up, while “Heill Auk Sæll”’s chanting becomes extremely irritating after the half-minute mark. Then again, the narrator snippets for “The Land Of Thulê” are a godsend next to the only overtly awful vocal track here: “The Great Sleep”. “The Great Sleep”’s untameable wails and cracking melodies are an unfortunate mishap, but fortunately for us, they happen only once.
Overall though, I have to tip my hat here; considering how this album was being sold to us, it should have been a complacent mess – a barrage of incoherent ideas splashing into each other. Pondering over the whole thing now, it seems pretty obvious this stuff came out of the previous two albums’ writing sessions, and that’s probably why it gels together the way it does. The writing here is really well crafted, bar the on the nose Pagan lyrics and vocals, and for fans of this kind of genre, there’s little to dislike here. As far as last albums go, while it’s a far cry from the galvanised hatred of earlier works, it seems an appropriate end for Burzum when you look at the latter portion of his output, and bands have gone out far worse.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://www.plastichead.com/catalogue.aspx?ex=backlist&target=BURZUM