Review : BURZUM – "Belus"

released March 8, 2010 on Byelobog Productions

Rating : 4/5

Let’s back up 17 years. It’s 1993, and Mayhem have just finished recording their first album in 6 years, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Members Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes (bass) and Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth are plotting to blow up Nidaros Cathedral, which appears on the cover of the album, on the release day. On August 10, however, this plan is eradicated. In a argument, Vikernes ends up fatally stabbing Aarseth 23 times. He is ultimately sentenced to spend 21 years in prison, the maximum sentence for someone in Norway. In May of 2009, he is finally released, albeit on probation, after serving 15 years.

Prior to his sentence, Vikernes had done more than just Mayhem. He had recorded several things under the moniker of Burzum all on his own. Four albums and an EP were completed in 1992 and 1993. Two of the albums and the EP were released. However, the other two were still left unreleased when he was in prison. The first, Hvis lyset tar oss, was released just after his trial began. The second, Filosofem, did not come out until 1996. All of these releases were a new breed of black metal, featuring considerably more ambience and atmospherics than Bathory, Mayhem, or Immortal had ever used. While in prison, Vikernes would record and release two albums using the only instrument he had: a keyboard. These were both entirely ambient records.

I could go on and on about Vikernes’ life and my opinions on him, as I’m sure many others could, but I’m not writing this review as a history lesson. I’m writing this to give my opinions on the first true Burzum (those two ambient albums are not Burzum to me) album since the landmark Filosofem. I’ve been anticipating this one for a while, and I’m not disappointed at all.

Belus is almost a musical experiment. This man has been imprisoned since 1994. He hasn’t heard any new music since 1997 and hasn’t recorded metal since 1993. For the first time ever, this album truly sounds like it was recorded two decades ago. A lot of bands attempt to replicate the classics, but it usually still has a modern flare to it, likely something subconscious that just works its way into the songs and production. Vikernes has kept the same guitar tone we know him for and not changed his production techniques at all (at least, it sounds like it). There is absolutely no hi-fi here. There isn’t even any medium-fi. It sounds almost like it’s underwater and fish are swimming all around it.

Now, the most important thing here is songwriting. I don’t know if any of the material here was written while he was in prison, but it really does sound like he was almost void of emotion when writing some of these songs. That’s not a bad thing. Not at all. The thing I love about classics like “Rundgang um die transzendentale Säule der Singularität” is that you feel nothing when you listen to them. Vikernes’ talent for this is very prominent on this album. Songs like “Glemselens Elv” and “Belus’ tilbakekomst (Konklusjon)” seem to never end, making everything seem insignificant and petty. There are moments where this doesn’t apply, however. “Sverddans” sounds like it’s meant to be angry, with pounding blast beats and screeching vocals, but it ultimately doesn’t work. It’s best for him to not try and channel the second wave bands.

I really can’t recommend this to anyone who isn’t familiar with Burzum or any of Vikernes’ brethren. He’s been incredibly influential in the world of black metal so chances are that you’ve heard someone who’s been influenced by his stuff, but if you don’t think you have, don’t begin here. Go listen to Filosofem. Now that’s an album.

Try 2, 3, 4, 7, 8

01. Leukes Renkespill (Introduksjon)
02. Belus’ Død
03. Glemselens Elv
04. Kaimadalthas’ Nedstigning
05. Sverddans
06. Keliohesten
07. Morgenrøde
08. Belus’ Tilbakekomst (Konklusjon)


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