Burzum - Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
Black Metal
4 songs (44:30)
Release year: 1994
Reviewed by Kyle

Though I firmly disagree with 100% of the racist and extreme nationalist bullshit that regularly spews outward in a projectile stream of verbal vomit from Varg Vikernes’ mouth, and even though I can’t help but guffaw at his viewpoint of the modern black metal scene (Since when exactly did black metallers start behaving like your “Stereotypical negro”, Vargy ol’ buddy?), I simply can’t deny that he did have an excellent ear for great black metal in his prime, and that Burzum is one of the very most important projects in the history of the genre. When Varg claims that modern BM bands will never match the same level of quality of their Norwegian influences, it’s very easy to believe him; after all, he did create an entirely essential quartet of albums, and no two are close to being alike. Each one represents a different cornerstone of the genre; together, they represent a perfectly executed musical evolution, and the passion with which they are created is undeniable. Many, many BM bands, both classic and current, have surpassed Varg in terms of talent, but I believe that hardly any have matched him in terms of vision and ambition. And though echoes of all four of these classic albums can still be heard throughout the scene some fifteen - twenty years later, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss’ groundbreaking sound seems to ring truest in black metal today, and is, in my opinion, the most influential Burzum album of them all.

Taking a turn for something much less complex after the experimentation of Det Som Engang Var, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss opted for a minimalist and more atmospheric approach; it’s here where we see a much larger use of the electronics that would define the less-than-well-received latter half of Burzum’s catalog, and also the introduction of much, much longer songs - Det Som En Gang Var and Tomhet are both over fourteen minutes long, which was a rare phenomenon in 1994, though it’s commonplace throughout metal music today. While on past Burzum albums electronics were toyed with on only intros and interludes, here they’re integrated into the album opener Det Som En Gang Var, giving the music a more mystic vibe, while still holding onto the rock ‘n’ roll edge that made the previous two albums so very catchy, once the track ventures into faster territory. This is also the first Burzum album to feature lyrics “Sung” entirely in Norwegian; whether or not this is a reflection of Varg’s NS views is debatable, but it does at least lend HLTO a more authentic feel.

Minimalist music is very difficult to pull off without it becoming too boring, and this is especially true today when you view the large amounts of “Trendy” black metal bands that follow a more atmospheric path. Really, I don’t think Hvis Lyset Tar Oss should’ve connected with Burzum fans as well as it did: after the first two releases (three if you count Aske), Varg devotees were likely looking for something much less simple in a third album, yet everything falls into place here all the same. The toned down drums that occasionally feature a vaguely NWOBHM style snare, Vikernes’ quieter-yet-still-piercing vocals, the fuzzier guitar tone… all of the components gel so very well. And though HLTO is a much more straightforward affair, there’s still a bit of diversity to be found: The title track is atmospheric metal in the purest sense, with a gargantuan wall of howling guitar sound and piercing blast beats. Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen is the most traditional song, and the sense of claustrophobia the short, repetitive riffs give combined with the decidedly louder drums is enough to leave an odd, numbing feeling in my mouth. And the brilliant closer Tomhet, which is entirely performed on keyboard, is completely chilling and masterfully performed despite its MIDI quality; in my opinion, this is one of the best ambient songs ever made. It can be easily be divided into two halves because of a break in the middle, the former half being more somber and drawn out, while the latter portion is a bit brighter, though at the same time, quieter. Imagination willing, Tomhet can easily be the soundtrack to a two part story of your own choosing, which in my opinion is the key to great ambient music.

Though just which Burzum album is the best is entirely debatable (Hell, I’m not even sure what my favorite album is), and ultimately depends on the listener’s own taste, every single one of them is influential for their own reasons, and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is perhaps the most important of them all. Here, you get four very well-crafted and classic songs, all of them different, yet still sharing a loose theme of atmosphere and perfectly executed minimalism. Furthermore, if you’re new to Burzum or even the black metal scene, this is an amazing jump-off point, but genre purists know that this is also the type of album that nearly every BM fan can enjoy. Essential, atmospheric, and at times, moving… HLTO should never, ever go unnoticed.

Killing Songs :
Kyle 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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