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Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • Psychedelic black metal? Acid black metal? Whatever you call it, this is two or three cuts above the average screamy stuff. It’s beautiful, fuzz-distorted, ambient black metal; the vocals are buried in the mix, and are almost indistinguishable from the riffs. Beautiful and mid-paced work, with a twenty-five minute ambient track that actually works! The ambient work on this album is like Brian Eno’s “Discreet Music” or Cluster’s “71,” only it’s framed by music from a frost-stripped northern waste.

    If you like this — and you probably will if you’re already looking at it on Amazon — then you should look at some of the other earlier Burzum albums. You should also take a gander at Judas Iscariot, Nortt, Xasthur, and Nachtmystium, as well as half a dozen good, fuzzier, ambient black metal acts from places like Russia, Poland, or Finland.

    Now…buy this album. Enjoy. I know you will. Then get “Det Som Engang Var” and the others.

    Posted on January 7, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Filosofem lies on the most chaotic and turbulent era in Varg’s career, and rather than reflect the chaotic horror of a mind of a man who has just murdered someone it rather reflects the sedated mourning voice of someone being punished for their beliefs. Yet rather than go out with a whimper of fatalistic anguish, Filosofem reflects Varg’s dark promise that his soul and vision will haunt us long after he’s been sent to the grave.Filosofem is like a witch’s last words before death, a downward spiral of musical depression, yet coated from beginning to end with the feeling of resurrection, or being reborn someway.However broad or narrow-minded your tastes in black metal may be, whether you’re for progression or traditionalism, there’s no denying the pure power this cd has. Containing the spirit of black metal, yet in some ways this cd doesn’t sound at all like conventional metal, but perhaps something new and different altogether. The guitar style is definately not your typical headbanging riffs. There’s a very “grungy” feel, as if every instrument has been coated in a layer of dust and decay, which is what I believe was the intended atmosphere, as the layers upon layers of guitar distortion wash through each track in an ambient drone. “Dunkelheit” a very dark track and one of Burzum’s best, showcases this minimalist drone sound through a landscape of morbid decay with just a few simple main riffs and a ghostly xylophone echoing the melody. His ode to “darkness” rasps through his new industrial sounding vocal style, very different from his tormented screams of past albums, and sounding somewhere on a line between whispering and screaming. The next two tracks continue in this hypnotic drone style, although not as powerful as the opener. The later half of the cd is where things start(purposefully) becoming disconnected, and we are lost in a long downward spiral of ambient instrumentation and dispair, the conclusion of our last bitter glance at the world.Now I definitely don’t claim to agree with this man’s racist and anti-satanist attitude, but there’s no denying the sheer genius within his tormented mind and how he’s changed the world of dark pagan music forever.

    Posted on January 7, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This is the last Burzum album that is metal, with the next two being dark ambient recorded in his jail cell. While those are good, they don’t have the same impact as his metal albums and in particular, this one. This was released while he was in jail and he says he has never heard the final master of it (he has later explained why he said that) but it is perfect. A lot of people like to complain about the sound, saying it is horrible and that any atmosphere is lost due to it, but that is simply untrue. Any real black metal fan knows that production like this only ENHANCES the atmosphere to even greater proportions. While Varg may not be the most talented musician in the world, his knack for songwriting and mesmerizing passages are one of a kind. Just listen to the first track, Dunkelheit, and tell me it is not brilliant.

    This album consists of 4 metal tracks and 2 ambient ones, the last two being ambient, and even more, the last track is the ambient version of track 4.

    1. Dunkelheit (Darkness) – metal
    2. Jesus’ Tod (The Death of Jesus) – metal
    3. Erblicket Die Töchter Des Firmaments (Beholding the Daughters of the Firmament) – metal
    4. Gebrechlichkeit I (Decrepitude I) – metal
    5. Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Säule Der Singularität (Travelling Between the Transcendental Pillars of Singularity, or something like that. My German is not too good) – ambient
    6. Gebrechlichkeit II (Decrepitude II) – ambient

    With that said, the metal songs themselves are really Ambient Black Metal because they entrance you and provide wondeful soundscapes. Every track on here is amazing, even the 25 minute track 5, which works even if it is only the same 6 notes being played over and over again. Listen to this in the dark and let your mind wander far off into the distant mountains and forests. The repetition each song presents is never boring, but mesmerizing and captivates you and pulls you into its dark lair. Listening to these songs, it’s like you are dreaming, dreaming something cold and sorrowful, then you awake to find yourself amidst a nighttime forest filled with all the creatures that the night brings.

    Varg was/is a master of composing beautiful melodies and epic black metal and turning everything upside down in the process, making everything you think you know about black metal irrelevant. If you can buy only one album, let it be this one and discover the secrets of the universe in the process…

    P.S. To everyone who takes sides with Euronymous and Varg. Can’t you just enjoy both bands?

    Posted on January 7, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • A guy complained about the production ruining the music. I don’t think so in this case, it works fine. Burzum has other releases where the production truly is quite (bad), like the aske/self titled. I think his statemenst would make more sense in that context.

    As for the music/album, I’d say Varg has made a beautiful and personal album, his melodies touch on odd emotions that are carried throughout, his songwriting is fine that doesn’t really stick to a particular bm aesthetic though it does have that vibe. I can’t complain. It’s a contemplative album that tells plenty about the guy who wrote it if you’re willing to pay attention to detail. Lots of people try to create black metal that is ‘true’ and ‘kvlt’, whatever the that is they miss the point of making music(although I do enjoy a good homage to a particular sound). Regardless of who he killed and what he burned, this guy made honest music and it’s pretty darned listenable. This actually sounds like it came from one mind, one musician, with no other members to contribute their misinterpretations of what Varg was after. The album runs the gamut of emotions from dark, brooding, sorrowful, introspective, reflective, contemplative, odd melancholy, and the serenity of being completely alone, lost in the wonders of drifting thought uninterrupted. It’s a very human album, if you ask me and I don’t think I’ve really heard anything as personal as this, save maybe stuff like Hank Williams Sr or Today is the Day. In a word, it’s unique and pretty good too.

    I recommend it, but surely you’re not clueless as to what this sort of stuff is.

    Posted on January 7, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I have such reverence for this album that it feels like arrogant presumption to even talk about it and judging it seems to be blind hubris. One thing is for sure: Filosofem (“The Philosophy”) defined contemporary black metal by blatantly ignoring the rubrics, limitations and “rules” that had come before it and truly maturing the genre as a diverse artform. Before Filosofem most black metal sounded similar, explored similar lyrical motifs and avoided incorporating elements from other genres, after Filosofem black metal became a spirit rather than a rule-bound scene, a spirit which permeates every release but does not restrict the music technically. In essence Filosofem signaled the death knell of “true” black metal and gave birth to post-Black Metal.

    Instead of having a fixed toolset to work with, Filosofem introduced the notion that the true black metal artist should use whatever he can to express the feeling of dread, isolation and misery he is overcome with – inspiring contemporary bands like Deathspell Omega, Diabolical Masquerade, Astrofaes, Leviathan, Xasthur and Blut Aus Nord to incorporate experimental, introspective movements within their work which during the time before Filosofem would have been considered pretentious at best, and at worst, a betrayal of the “true” meaning of black metal.

    Filosofem ignored the restrictive boundaries and formula of prior black metal and presented a very personal, existential philosophy on life – expressed musically in a novel way. Here we see the introduction of the heavily distorted, maddened, desperate style of vocals, the complex layering of complicated guitar riffs to create the illusion of chaos, the slow heartbeat style of drumming used as a bassline to give a song an immediate contemplative effect, introspective melodies choked by dry, scratching riffing, the introduction of industrial instruments to accomplish emotional effects, highly personal stream of consciousness lyrics rather than punk inspired, macho, silly Satan worship, and finally, and perhaps most novel: completely throwing out formulaic song structures, constructing songs as to express a philosophy or idea rather than to merely “rock out” at a concert, constructing entire tracks around ambient noise and droning, austere, mind provoking, minimalistic melodies.

    In essence Filosofem introduced the idea of a personal project that wasn’t meant to be played live, that wasn’t trying to prove anything to anyone, that was created in a way that most clearly expresses a philosophy for means of meditation and reflection. Many “solo” black metal bands emerged after the advent of Filosofem as men found it an ideal method of expression without pretending to be a rock star, or suiting themselves to the puerile expectations of others. Today Varg Vikernes remains an especially aloof, erudite, thoughtful man who still holds to the notion that Burzum was created for his own good, not the entertainment of others, and especially not for purposes of fame or gold; at most the music is offered in hopes of sharing insights gained, in darkness and in hardship. Fame, roadies, intoxication and the whole “scene” which accompanies music is worthless for Varg, and he showed others soon to form solo projects that it was capable to express oneself honestly, and in whatever way is best (meaning: no limitations), without needing to feel shame. This sort of integrity is known only to good philosophers and the method to which Varg created his music is still imitated today as good philosophers still imitate the Socratic Method.

    Filosofem is a profound, moving experience that is crucial listening for those seeking an examination of the human spirit.

    Posted on January 7, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now