Friday, March 30, 2007

On the Blood Red Snowy Ground

Burzum – Burzum/Aske

You may recall that some time ago I wrote about Burzum's most recent album Hildskalf (insert your own arbitrary germanic character accents). Burzum is the work of the infamous Varg Vikarnes, considered the godfather of black metal mainly for being one of the first to define the genre's current sound (even though he considers most of the current practitioners to be posers and sellouts) but also for walking the walk in regards to the antisocial behaviour expected of a trve black metaller (i.e. the church burning, the satanism/paganism, the murder, the neo-Nazism and so on).

As it happens Hildskalf was not in any way a black metal album so I went back to his first release (actually his first two EPs concatenated onto a single album) which is more or less a textbook example of the genre. Probably because these early Burzum albums are the textbooks which later black metallers composed by.

Seminal as this album may be, it's not much more than an average listen. Varg's vocals are impressive, being one of the few examples I've heard of the standard black metal howl/gurgle that doesn't sound stupid, and the music, which is so stripped back as to be almost punk in some ways, is agreeable but in no way inspiring enough to justify this guy's inflated reputation. However there are a couple of ambient/industrial tracks included which I quite liked (especially 'Dungeons of Darkness', rattley, scrapey goodness!). I suspect that this album and Hildskalf are not his best works so I shall continue on with the other albums.

Varg claims to have recorded the whole thing in seventeen hours and played all the instruments himself (save for a guest guitar solo on 'War' by, you guessed it, Euronymous, the dude Varg is currently in jail for killing). That's quite impressive (If it's true that is. It must be borne in mind that this comes from the guy who says things like “I'm not a Nazi because I don't believe in 'national socialism'” and “I was framed for the murder! The police said that they found my fingerprints on the knife, but I wore gloves when I killed him!”) and even I, lover of over produced technical death metal, have respect for the purism of his back to basics, one take (mistakes and all) approach, and the fact that he made such a professional sounding album even within those constraints.

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