Review Summary: Uruk Hai is an artefact that will resonate with only the most hardcore Burzum fans.
It was only through following the curious little Burzum Museum Instagram page that I came to know of Uruk Hai
’s existence. The story behind the release isn’t shrouded in an exciting tale, and honestly, the music contained within is even less exciting. Of course, at the time of Uruk Hai
’s official, physical-only announcement (no digital version has, as yet, been planned), my interest understandably piqued at the prospect of hearing more Burzum music from the golden era of the band, 1988-1994. However, that excitement was firmly quashed by the time I got around to hearing Uruk Hai
. The record is essentially an EP split; the first half of the record contains four tracks from Uruk Hai, the name of the project before it was permanently penned Burzum, and a telling indicator the first half of the record comes from the former half of the specified time frame. The latter half of the record, I assume, comes from recordings Varg had produced while he was in prison, preceding Varg’s shift into dungeon-synth territories. This all converged onto one tape where it was sent, by Varg, to Misanthropy Records and subsequently landed in the owner of Burzum Museum’s lap. It was put up onto Youtube in 2019 as a low-quality rip, with an intermittent dinging sound heard throughout to prevent bootlegs. However, it has now been given a proper release with its intended sound quality.
Up until this review I hadn’t heard the Youtube rip, so I didn’t have any preconceived ideas on what this would actually sound like, but essentially the record boils down to being a collection of fragmented song ideas that don’t amount to much of anything. “Prologue” certainly sets the mood, and it had me rubbing my hands together over its dank poignancy, but the tracks that follow are so thin in substance it’s hard to overlook the record as being anything other than a collection of arbitrary jam sessions being recorded in the background. My wife summed up Uruk Hai
perfectly by saying, “This sounds like Varg trying to be John 5, only he doesn't have a thumbnail of John's virtuosity.” Indeed, 85% of this sounds like sloppy shredding without focus. That’s not to say there aren’t a few redeeming factors from this though: “Prologue”, “Hoddmimisholt” and “Epilogue” aren’t as myopic as their thrash-y guitar track counterparts, and they do display some of the alluring ambient qualities Burzum’s earlier works are so well known for.
If nothing else as well, it was quite enjoyable distinguishing which songs came from which era. “Odinns Daudr” is so clearly a part of the early-nineties Burzum zeitgeist, while “Total Destruction” and “Blood-Red Scimitars” feel juxtaposed with juvenility in comparison. And I suppose, with a release like this, that’s the intended purpose; Uruk Hai
is an artefact that will resonate with only the most hardcore Burzum fans. For me it lacks purpose, and with there being no vocals or other instruments on this bar the guitar, it’s hard to appreciate the music on offer here, other than those broody effect-lathered guitar tracks. But I guess its appeal comes from knowing that “Prologue” was the first song Varg had ever written, or hearing ideas that would become more fleshed out in later years, that make it worth spinning for curiosity’s sake. In regards to the audio quality, this version is obviously the way to go if you're wanting to check Uruk Hai
out – as it doesn’t have the *ding* effect over the tracks, and you’re getting the full audio quality – however, considering its limited availability in this condition, it will all depend on your fandom for the band and whether you’re willing to shell out money on these rather insignificant tracks.