Review Summary: The perfect release for pseuds looking to ingratiate themselves in the eyes of morbidly obese metal-archives neckbeards.
While I have been told that there are a few people out there who genuinely enjoy doing chores, there’s a reason the word has gained a fairly unambiguously negative connotation. For everyone else, as necessary and productive as chores may be, they’re simply not that fun in the moment. This is where music comes in - the form of art that one can generally engage in and appreciate even while occupied with various mundanities or mindless tasks. Energetic, relaxing, catchy, perhaps even something to sing along to, whatever poison you feel like picking to get rid of the pesky boredom of it all.
They’re not exclusive choices either; a genre like black metal can often be intense and relaxing at the same time. So it follows that one might choose it while, say, vacuuming, or doing the laundry, or cleaning the house. On paper, at least. In reality a lot of black metal suffers heavily from repetition, simplistic songwriting and poor production. In fact one would not be remiss to draw a parallel between the mindless droning and the literal chores themselves.
While black metal has been around since the early-mid 1980s, the most prominent, the most notorious, and the most influential on the modern scene today remains the Norwegian second wave. Bands like Mayhem, Immortal and the more derivative Gorgoroth would polish the straightforward aggressive style, while others like Darkthrone, Ulver, Emperor and Enslaved would experiment with adding other elements into the fray, from a simplistic punk styling, to folk elements, synths and strings, and of course longer, more progressive compositions. By process of elimination, it stands to reason that the infamous droning repetition might stem from the black sheep of the lot, Burzum. It would not be unfair to suggest that, for better or for worse, Burzum is the epitome of the second wave in the eyes of many.
Demo II from 1991 is certainly one of if not the strongest example of these warts and weaknesses from the one-man project’s metal era. The production is, dare I say, worse than VON’s Satanic Blood demo from the same year which Varg claims to have been influenced by in his early career, though not quite as hilariously dreadful as, say, Summoning’s later Upon the Viking Stallion from 1994. While there is much to be said for subpar or unusual production enhancing the atmosphere of a black metal demo, it only accentuates the repetitiveness in this case.
And boy is this ever repetitive. The tape clocks in at hour and five minutes (about 20 seconds longer than Filosofem for reference) which is fairly staggering for being a mere demo. Still, being monolithic is not in itself a bad thing. But what really takes the cake (or the dick, as KILL would say) in terms of painful repetition is the fact that this demo actually features three of its tracks twice. That’s right, of the twelve songs here, three of them are actually repeats, bloating the length by a solid 15 minutes or so. And that’s all on top of the fact that three of the tracks (or five, if you count the repeats) are just rehashes of material from the previous tape.
The compositions are what you’d expect from early 90s Burzum. Channelling the Power of Souls into a New God is possibly one of the first dungeon synth tracks in existence, while Rite of Cleansure is essentially a 6 minute distorted guitar-only drone tune. For better or for worse, everything is purely instrumental on this release, there are no vocals from Vikernes, although it certainly does further accentuate the monotony.
All in all, I can’t see much reason to subject yourself to this demo unless you are either a diehard fan (in which case you better listen to it now before we take over and send you to the gulags comrade, no cassettes allowed in prison!), or perhaps working on a novel, encyclopedia or documentary of some sort.