BURZUM — Hvis Lyset Tar Oss

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BURZUM - Hvis Lyset Tar Oss cover
4.08 | 63 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 1994


1. Det Som En Gang Var (14:21)
2. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (8:04)
3. Inn I Slottet Fra Drømmen (7:51)
4. Tomhet (14:12)

Total Time: 44:29


- Varg Vikernes / vocals and all instruments

About this release

Release date: May 15, 1994
Label: Misanthropy Records

A limited jewel case pressing was released first. Re-issued as digipak.

Hvis Lyset Tar Oss 12" Gatefold LP limited to 2000 numbered copies on marbled vinyl. Also released by Back on Black, LP limited to 2000 copies.

Thanks to Vehemency, The Angry Scotsman, progshine, adg211288 for the updates


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I find this is a difficult album to rate. Burzum's third studio album is often considered a masterpiece of Norwegian black metal and sometimes of heavy metal all together. It was inspired by a view outside into the darkness of a Norwegian night and creator Varg Vikernes recorded the four tracks for this album before the second album was released.

My interest in the album came as I sampled Burzum tracks on YouTube and decided that I really liked the artwork. The dirt, single-lane road curving through a forest with an apparently recently deceased man on the side and crows flapping about really struck my thoughts. I had seen such roads in paintings before which my Danish parents had in my childhood home and the blackbird frequently figured in children's stories and rhymes I had heard as a child. But who was this poor deceased man and how long had he just remained at the roadside with no one coming to find him?

Playing the first track, it was the lead riff that comes in at 2:50 along with the drums that sold me on the album. It immediately took me back to my high school days listening to Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Bathory, and even Venom. The production is lo-fi but not so poor as I had imagined it could be. This is yet another case of getting wrapped up in the atmosphere of the album and forgetting the lack of crispness. The repeated three chords on keyboards are rather hypnotic and as the music is repeated for long sections before changing, it's easy to feel under the spell, which is as Vikernes had intended. He claims in the CD notes that he feels music is a kind of spell to cast over people and make them think what you want. Well, I do find it easy to listen to the whole 14 minutes plus of this opening track.

One thing of course is the crazy vocals. This is like listening to the ravings of a poor soul who has been in solitary confinement for too long. It's back-of-the-throat hollering. And yet, I don't actually mind.

I find the next two tracks inspire mixed feelings. "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" is much less interesting musically than "Det Som En Gang Var", though the third track "Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen"recaptures some of the appeal of the first track with a good riff and more variation in the music.

The album takes a dive for me at the last track "Tomhet", a 14-minute track that sounds much like an instrumental composed and mostly played on an 8-bit keyboard. The simple repetitive music that would be trance-inducing were it not for that very dated sound fails to capture my interest throughout most of the 14 minutes. I can appreciate what Vikernes was attempting here but I can skip this one if I'm not in the mood. I mean it's 14 minutes long! And it's not even prog!

A classic it may be, I'm not jumping off the walls for this one but it is good enough. I may or may not choose to get another Burzum album. Kjetil Manheim of Mayhem said in a documentary that he felt Burzum's first album was shit and I can see how it could be considered that way, that Burzum's music is not so great. It might be a case of the Emperor's New Clothes. But I personally give a strong rating to the first track and good points for the third. Perhaps only a must-have if you are into the Norwegian black metal scene.
Whatever your thoughts are on Varg Vikernes' criminal activities, which include the murder of Mayhem guitarist Øystein 'Euronymous' Aarseth in 1993, if you're into the black metal genre at all it's hard to deny how much of a key act to the genre's development Burzum was. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994) is the third Burzum album, one of a few that were recorded in relatively quick succession between 1992 - 1993 before Varg's crimes landed him in prison.

There are just four tracks on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. Through them, the album moves through three distinct phases. The opening Det Som en Gang Var is a 14:21 minute piece of atmospheric black metal featuring a combination of raw guitars and ambient synths. The next two shorter tracks Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen are in a more traditional black metal style, while Tomhet closes the album in a pure ambient style. Varg's writing is minimal, simplistic and repetitive, and as far as black metal vocalists go I've never found his voice to be all that, but on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss he seems to create something quite special out of seemingly nothing. It really is all about the atmosphere and not just in the track that is today recognised as an atmospheric black metal piece, making Hvis Lyset Tar Oss an early classic of the genre.

While my personal favourite track is Det Som en Gang Var, it's actually Tomhet, the ambient track, that I find especially notable on the album. While some might argue that the 14:12 minute piece is just a bit too long considering this is a metal album (meaning the actual metal music is over just past the half hour mark and never comes back for the rest of the album), I find that the track is quite effective. Burzum's take on black metal may be atmospheric but it still has a harshness to it and I like the contrast that Tomhet gives the album. I wouldn't want the album to end any other way.

Varg Vikernes' non-musical exploits may have coloured his career with Burzum in the most negative way possible but if you're a black metal fan Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is certainly a must own album. 5 stars.
Phonebook Eater

"Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" is one of Metal's pinnacles, a landmark achievement that gives Black Metal an ideal model of an album.

A year after “Det Som Engang Var”, Burzum returns, with the ultimate Black Metal masterpiece, “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”, the model and paradigm of the genre’s albums. Everything about BM is in these four tracks, that cover only 45 minutes of time, which pass by quite quickly. But HLTO leaves a permanent stain in one’s heart that will never leave him.

Burzum has always been one that preferred atmosphere over melodies and riffs: when it comes to these elements, he doesn’t put too much effort in the songwriting, all four tracks have simple hooks that immediately stick with the listener. Instead, with the addition of the keyboards that accompany the buzzing guitars and tortured-like shrieks, Burzum creates an extremely unique, scary, yet haunting atmosphere, and keeps this atmosphere constant throughout the entire album. The production is always lo-fi (Vikernes bought the cheapest recording equipment in order to obtain the worst quality possible), giving the atmosphere a more foggy, gloomy and necrophilic touch.

The album starts off with easily the best Burzum song He’s released; “Det Som En Gang Var”, a fourteen minute epic piece that mixes repetitive guitar riffs, accompanied by icy, mysterious keyboards. The song unfolds it’s few hooks only just before the end of the song, all of them being so stretched out in monotony. Burzum’s vocals are once again rough, a perfect addition to the arcane atmosphere. The title track is much more guitar driven: it’s the song where repetition is the strongest factor, because the main, extremely simple riff never changes much except for some variations occurring. Because of it’s atmosphere, it just never gets boring, one of Burzum’s magic tricks. The third track is even better; more hypnotic, it has as a whole much more variation, almost like it was divided in parts, like the opening track. “Tohmet” is the fourteen minute ambient piece that closes the album, as a sort of relaxer after all of the aggressiveness. Some moments on the track are simply beautiful and some even remind of New Age music.

Say anything you want regarding the persona of Varg Vikernes, and there’s no need to mention all the things he is and the things he did, because they have nothing to do with the music. “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” is an album-model for many albums later on, a piece of work that redefines the concept of the Black Metal and gives it a twist that makes it an even more intriguing genre. Thank you, Burzum.
In retrospect, it's lucky for Varg Vikernes that he had such an incredible burst of creativity in early 1992 - recording this album, the previous two Burzum albums, and the Aske EP in the space of about eight or nine months. If he hadn't produced such a large amount of quality material in such a short time, Burzum's pre-jail output would have been much sparser.

That said, this first Burzum album to be released during Varg's incarceration for the murder of Euronymous (but remember, it was recorded before all that grim business happened) is strong enough and shows enough musical growth to suggest that if Varg had just knuckled down and worked on his craft rather than murdering bandmates, burning churches, or rotting his mind with absurd far-right politics, he might have eventually produced something which makes his infamy-inflated level of name recognition actually justified. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss represents the culmination of all the musical experimentation of Burzum's previous output - three epic black metal drones of sheer unmitigated depression, plus a closing ambient piece which was easily the most polished of Varg's dark electronic experimentations to date.

Those who cannot abide racist lyrics will be pleased to know that there's no such rants here - Varg's shrieks are mainly about how miserable and angry he is at the world in general, without delving into the sort of NSBM-like Jew-baiting he tends to reserve for interviews - whilst the compositions and performance were more polished than on previous releases.

At points, the wailing, buzzing guitars put me in mind of the walls of sound produced by shoegaze bands of the era such as My Bloody Valentine, so there's a mild precedent for the current trend for combining black metal and shoegaze here - and indeed the album also provides precedents for more or less all of the "depressive" black metal out there, plus the sort of dark medievalist synthesiser experiments tinkered with by the likes of Mortiis.

Had Varg not done the things he'd done, if he didn't have the tendency to say the sort of repugnant things he has said (and, regularly, still says), he'd be one of the most beloved treasures of the metal scene. As it is, whilst I'd prefer to keep Varg the man at arm's length, I'd say Burzum the musical project is still an interesting release, but at the same time people have taken the seeds here and developed them further without the same baggage weighing things down.
The early Norwegian black metal scene spawned many fantastic albums and true musical visionaries, and possibly the most infamous of all of these visionaries was Varg Vikernes. Best known for his racist viewpoints, multiple church burnings, and the murder of Euronymous (which he would later serve 15 years in prison for), Varg's genius is often overshadowed by his atrocious actions and extreme right-wing viewpoints. Even though he's later distanced himself from these beliefs, Burzum (Varg Vikernes's black metal act) has always been painted in a rather negative light by the mainstream public at large. But from a solely musical perspective, Burzum is one of the best acts spawned by the Norwegian black metal movement, and that's largely because of this fantastic effort released in 1994. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is an absolutely stunning masterpiece, and remains to this day my favorite black metal record. Here's an album that's poorly recorded, scary as hell, and pretty damn repetitive, yet it's still one of the most beautiful musical statements I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. A truly flawless masterpiece, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is a mandatory purchase for anyone even mildly interested in black metal.

Considering that Hvis Lyset Tar Oss was recorded in 1992 (despite being released in 1994), you could certainly claim that this was a very original and innovative album back then. Varg Vikernes really paved the way for depressive black metal with this album, and the absence of blast beats and tremolo picking was pretty unique in the old school black metal scene. There's also a heavy dose of dark ambient on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, including a full fourteen-minute song that is nothing but ambient. All of the songs are pretty long and simple from a compositional standpoint, but the atmospheres that are created here are simply unparalleled. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is much more about creating haunting atmospheres and minimalist soundscapes than anything even resembling complexity, and as far as I'm concerned, that's one of its finest assets.

“Det Som En Gang Var” opens up with a haunting synthesizer melody played over atmospheric guitar strumming, which soon turns into a mid-tempo and depressing chord progression. This track creates a rather hypnotic effect on its listener, with the tortured vocals and spine-tingling keyboard melodies coming across as absolutely frightening. Though quite repetitive, this fourteen minute track is nothing short of stunning. The title track opens up with drone-inducing drum patterns and buzzing guitars, over which Varg eventually contributes tortured screaming vocals. The rest of the song largely builds off of this single idea, and the track is fear-inducing to say the least. “Inn I Slottet Fra Drømmen” begins with jarring guitar riffs and fast-paced drum patterns - the overall dissonance and heaviness of this opening section can come across as pretty unapproachable during your first few listens. The song soon progresses into a chilling guitar and synth section complemented by Varg's tortured screams. After going into a doomy mid-tempo riff, the song closes with another haunting keyboard melody that leads us right into the final track.

Even though all of Hvis Lyset Tar Oss has a hypnotic, ambient effect on the listener, the final track may still come as a shock. “Tomhet” is a fourteen-minute dark ambient track built off of repetitive melodies that never grow stale as well as chilling atmospherics. Although it may initially come across as a bit uninteresting, this eventually grew to become a sheer masterpiece in my eyes. This song offers almost a form of 'relief' after all of the harsh black metal aesthetics of the previous three tracks, and its subtle beauty is nothing less than an astounding end to this masterful record.

As expected from an early Norwegian black metal record, the production on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is pretty raw and lo-fi. The guitars have that distinct 'buzzing' sound, the bass is hardly even audible, and the mix is inconsistent at best - yet, as odd as this may sound, I don't think I could imagine the album any other way. The absolutely filthy production (though not nearly as filthy as it would be on Filosofem) adds an entirely new aspect of terror and claustrophobia to Hvis Lyset Tar Oss that wouldn't have existed otherwise. It's almost as if this unpolished sound gives the listener an additional feeling of misery and despair, with its inaudibility creating a whole new world of mysticism and exploration. I couldn't imagine Hvis Lyset Tar Oss with any other production - this sound is absolutely spot on.

Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is Burzum's magnum opus as well as one of black metal's most essential releases, so I'd easily recommend it as a good starting point if you're curious about the more ambient-influenced side of black metal. I'll never forget any of the long walks I've taken on snowy evenings while listening to this album, and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss still evokes a nostalgic feeling every time I give it a spin. So I guess I may be a bit biased towards this album, but what can I say? It's simply one of my favorite albums and anything less than 5 stars simply would not suffice. Though my own bias may be blinding me, I fail to see anything in Hvis Lyset Tar Oss other than a complete and utter masterpiece. Absolutely essential.

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