Burzum - The Ways of Yore
Byelobog Productions
13 songs (68' 35")
Release year: 2014
Reviewed by Andy
Major event

Despite the continued notoriety of Burzum's leading man in the metal scene (rarely does a month go by in which I fail to see a new shenanigan or outrageous comment out of Varg Vikernes in my news feeds), he has been slipping away from metal for years now. Burzum was instrumental to the atmospheric black metal scene, but even then the material was rather unconventional, and the jailhouse dark ambient albums Varg produced turned out to be harbingers of his future interests. With The Ways of Yore it's even more clear that he has apparently lost interest in metal completely in favor of neofolk. It's not a return to metal -- we may never get that again --, and there are better neofolk artists out there, but love him or hate him, Vikernes knows how to make an album with atmosphere.

In addition to Vikernes' propensity for sneaking tons of swastikas into the album art likely being a turnoff to a lot of people, some of the first songs were initially a turnoff to me. God From the Machine and The Portal sound more like samples than anything else, and by the third track I was starting to be convinced that the whole thing was going to be more of that. But it gets better. For some reason, The Lady in the Lake, a pensive, hesitating synth ditty with Vikernes' spoken words blurrily over it, just has the right ambience to follow Heill Óðinn and fit perfectly. Sure, it's all computer synth stuff, there's no metal anywhere to be found, but it sounds perfectly made for the mood he wishes to evoke, like the soundtrack to an old computer game. With this track, Vikernes kicks into gear, or maybe I'd just gotten used to the pace of the album, because The Coming of Ettins and The Reckoning of Man, very similar pieces with clean electric-piano samples and buzzing synth backgrounds, also have a hypnotically attractive quality. Listeners with an interest in northern European poetry will notice that Vikernes takes care to make all his lyrics in The Reckoning of Man alliterative, though that starts dragging after a while. Heil Freyja, an overly solemn song with Vikernes singing praise to the goddess Freyja in the same way as he did to Odin four tracks ago, is a dud, though.

Which brings us to the title track, one of the strongest on the album. It isn't metal, but its dark, rough synthesizer noise running in the background is nonetheless a faint echo of Burzum's past greatness in the early- and mid-90s. Like the title track, Hall of the Fallen also does a lot of that rough synth and benefits well from it, but after that the remaining three tracks go off into a sleepy fugue of quiet, mostly amelodic keyboard tinklings. They sound alright, but it seems to me that the album wouldn't have suffered from ending right at the tenth track; the remaining tracks don't seem to develop the album at all, merely providing elevator music for the listener to wait until the album's done.

After a few of the latest albums, including this one, it's clear that Burzum can produce decent keyboard neofolk songs, but not amazing ones. Most metal fans gave up on this guy a long time ago, and The Ways of Yore is a mixed bag which, though it contains some flashes of genius, reminds me of MOD-file computer music from the early 90s -- primitively made tunes crufted together by some guy in his basement, armed with a few low-quality instruments and a set of beliefs that were more than likely to offend. But not only is that a hallmark of the black metal scene Burzum helped make, it is intensely personal and, still, often weirdly appealing -- even now, with the metal gone and Varg older, quite possibly with the best years of his career behind him. It's not great, but it is authentic -- if not authentic Norse folk music, at least authentic Varg Vikernes.

Killing Songs :
The Lady in the Lake, The Ways of Yore
Andy quoted 69 / 100
Other albums by Burzum that we have reviewed:
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
Burzum - Belus reviewed by Goat and quoted 81 / 100
To see all 12 reviews click here
1 readers voted
Your quote was: 100.
Change your vote

There are 22 replies to this review. Last one on Mon Feb 23, 2015 7:33 pm
View and Post comments