Burzum - Burzum
Deathlike Silence Productions
Black Metal
9 songs (46:07)
Release year: 1992
Reviewed by James

Varg Vikernes: Moron or legend? I think most people would agree that both are probably true. Just a cursory look at the man's life yields a history of arson, murder and jailbreaks. And the less said about his moronic political beliefs, the better, seeing as he's been using his website as a mouthpiece for laughably far-fetched Anti-Semitic conspiracies, coupled with a dash of good old eugenics. Yet despite all this (and truth be told, a little because of it, not glorifying him or anything) he's a pivotal player in the bloody history of black metal, and probably the reason it's synonymous with blood and fire even to this day. Yet even outside his poor choice of extracirricular activities, the four bona-fide classics he recorded between 1992-1993 (I'm not so fond of Filsofem personally, but it's impact on black metal is undeniable) are reason enough to make Burzum one of the defining acts of Norwegian black metal.

Introduced to the fledgling black metal scene by his friend Olve Eikemmo, better known as fire-breathing, tongue-waggling Immortal frontman Abbath, Varg certainly didn't hang about, by 1991 having written a good chunk of what would appear on his debut, and follow-up recordings Det Som En Gang Var and Aske. This kicked off the frighteningly productive period in which he wrote and recorded the aforementioned releases, plus Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem, the former of which may be the greatest black metal release ever. He swiftly earned himself a deal with Deathlike Silence records, and the rest is history. Oh, and he did all this by the time he was 20.

Despite amateurish production and musicianship (Varg played everything himself, and there's something rather endearing about the sloppy flopflopflopflopflopflop of his double-bass drumming) Burzum prevails through sheer songcraft and riff-writing. Every song on the album is a bona fide classic, from Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown to majestic closer (not counting outro Dungeons Of Darkness) My Journey To The Stars, all of them legendary in black metal circles. Indeed, you can see how Varg developed as a songwriting at a frighteningly fast rate, from ripping-off Bathory on War (Burzum's “hit single” if you will) to weaving rich tapestries of melodic black metal riffing on My Journey To The Stars. Even Channeling The Power Of Souls Into A New God works, a somber keyboard piece that makes fitting interlude between the two halves of the record. Varg would go on to expand the ideas laid down on this track in a big way, with polarizing results, but that's a story for another review. Only Dungeons Of Darkness falters, a noise outro that's barely audible until the end. It's fairly spooky, I guess, but Svarte Troner off Det Som En Gang Var does the same idea in a far more interesting manner.

Assuming you're OK with listening to Burzum despite Varg's dodgy beliefs (though lyrically there's no reference to it) there's one other bugbear that puts many off his music. I'm talking of course about his vocals. He basically sounds like an adolescent Jacob Bannon without the digital distortion on his voice, an ear-piercing shriek that would send lesser men running for cover. I personally think it's great, but it's fair to say it's a grower.

The fact that this is generally considered the lesser record of Burzum's golden era shows you just what a force Varg was to be reckoned with back in the day. It's just a shame he threw it all away by being a silly, arrogant young man. Still, his first record is a landmark recording in the history of black metal, and things would only get better from here on out...

Killing Songs :
All except Dungeons Of Darkness
James quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Burzum that we have reviewed:
Burzum - The Ways of Yore reviewed by Andy and quoted 69 / 100
Burzum - Sol austan, Mani vestan reviewed by Goat and quoted 40 / 100
Burzum - Umskiptar reviewed by Goat and quoted 68 / 100
Burzum - From The Depths Of Darkness reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Burzum - Fallen reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
To see all 12 reviews click here
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