BURZUM

Atmospheric Black Metal / Non-Metal / Black Metal • Norway
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Burzum is the solo project of Varg Vikernes (born Kristian Larsson Vikernes, AKA Greven Grishnackh/Count Grishnackh, currently legally named Varg Qisling Larsson Vikernes). The band was initially known as Uruk-Hai, Varg Vikernes' first band which he formed in 1988-89. He changed the name to Burzum (meaning "darkness" in Black Speech, the language of Mordor in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings) in 1991 after the disbanding of Satanel, a band he founded with Abbath of Immortal.

Burzum played a vital role, along with other Norwegian black metal bands such as Mayhem, Darkthrone, Emperor and Immortal, in the development of black metal as a musical genre and ideology. In particular, the ambient black metal and depressive black metal subgenres owe much to Burzum's sound.

From his 1992 debut, Burzum, until his final black metal album, 1996's Filosofem, Burzum went from playing raw, primitive black metal to playing ambient, exclusively synthesizer-based music.
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BURZUM Discography

BURZUM albums / top albums

BURZUM Burzum album cover 3.67 | 26 ratings
Burzum
Black Metal 1992
BURZUM Det Som Engang Var album cover 3.59 | 31 ratings
Det Som Engang Var
Atmospheric Black Metal 1993
BURZUM Hvis Lyset Tar Oss album cover 4.27 | 55 ratings
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
Atmospheric Black Metal 1994
BURZUM Filosofem album cover 3.88 | 49 ratings
Filosofem
Atmospheric Black Metal 1996
BURZUM Dauði Baldrs album cover 3.00 | 10 ratings
Dauði Baldrs
Non-Metal 1997
BURZUM Hliðskjálf album cover 3.47 | 11 ratings
Hliðskjálf
Non-Metal 1999
BURZUM Belus album cover 3.64 | 25 ratings
Belus
Atmospheric Black Metal 2010
BURZUM Fallen album cover 3.47 | 26 ratings
Fallen
Atmospheric Black Metal 2011
BURZUM Umskiptar album cover 2.42 | 9 ratings
Umskiptar
Atmospheric Black Metal 2012
BURZUM Sôl austan, Mâni vestan album cover 2.42 | 6 ratings
Sôl austan, Mâni vestan
Non-Metal 2013
BURZUM The Ways of Yore album cover 2.17 | 3 ratings
The Ways of Yore
Non-Metal 2014
BURZUM Thulêan Mysteries album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Thulêan Mysteries
Non-Metal 2020

BURZUM EPs & splits

BURZUM Aske album cover 3.23 | 13 ratings
Aske
Black Metal 1993

BURZUM live albums

BURZUM demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

BURZUM re-issues & compilations

BURZUM Burzum / Aske album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Burzum / Aske
Black Metal 1995
BURZUM Draugen album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Draugen
Atmospheric Black Metal 2005
BURZUM Anthology album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Anthology
Atmospheric Black Metal 2008
BURZUM From the Depths of Darkness album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
From the Depths of Darkness
Atmospheric Black Metal 2011

BURZUM singles (0)

BURZUM movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Dunkelheit
Atmospheric Black Metal 1996

BURZUM Reviews

BURZUM Hvis Lyset Tar Oss

Album · 1994 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
voila_la_scorie
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.

BURZUM Filosofem

Album · 1996 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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666sharon666
Out of all the big name black metal bands that came out of Norway as the genre was being pioneered, which include Mayhem, Immortal, Darkthrone and Emperor, there's one artist that I've always struggled to really enjoy or understand: Burzum.

Burzum is among the most infamous of black metal bands because of the actions of its sole member, Varg Vikernes, who has been convicted of both church burnings and murder (of Mayhem's guitarist Euronymous), making him one of metal's most notorious figures. Despite that, or perhaps even because of it, Burzum's music has retained a particularly high level of regard even after two decades, with two particular albums being the most noteworthy; this one, Filosofem, and the previous one, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. They are both often counted among the best black metal releases ever created, especially Filosofem, which is often ranked as the best, not just one of them. It's the kind of high regard that, despite my continual struggles with them, has me every once in a while trying one or both of these albums again in hopes of finally getting what all the fuss is about.

However I've come to the conclusion that if I haven't got it by now, I probably never will.

I'll be fair, Burzum presented an early example of atmospheric black metal with these early releases, which were all recorded in the 1992-1993 period before Varg ended up in prison, and then steadily released over the next few years, with Filosofem (1996) also being the last black metal Burzum album until Belus in 2010. His work was groundbreaking and I think his stuff could even be considered an early blueprint for depressive black metal as well as atmospheric black metal. However this is a case in point where groundbreaking doesn't necessarily mean the best or even the most interesting music, at least in my opinion.

You see, I find the music on Filosofem to be extremely minimalist. I think that was in fact Varg's intention, but his drawn out style of songwriting means that here he is stretching his ideas out into complete snooze territory as he repeats the same ideas over and over again. There isn't a track here that's under seven minutes. There's even a pure ambient track that goes by the twenty-five minute barrier, continually repeating the same patterns. I just find that ridiculously long for the low amount of musical ideas on offer. Sure, the atmosphere on the album is pleasant enough, as paradoxical as that may sound, but even in atmospheric black metal I guess I'm just looking for something more than what this album offers, and I don't think I'll ever understand why this is so well regarded. I've heard more much interesting newer black metal albums than this get blasted for being repetitive and amateurish. This is supposed to be the best black metal album ever made if its ranking on music sites to be believed, yet that's exactly what this sounds like to me: repetitive and amateurish. Released today without any of the notoriety surrounding it and I seriously doubt that this would even make a blip on the black metal scene.

1 Star.

BURZUM Hvis Lyset Tar Oss

Album · 1994 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
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.

BURZUM Filosofem

Album · 1996 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Conor Fynes
'Filosofem' - Burzum (91/100)

"Do you think Filosofem and Hvis lyset tar oss would be considered masterpieces if they were released this year?" I asked a friend of mine a month or so ago. My experience with Burzum up until that point had been remarkably shallow, and the single-serving listens I'd given some of Vikernes' best-known songs had not done a lot to convince me the music had earned its status without the help of some over-discussed arsons and/or stabbing party that happened in Norway some years ago.

"Yeah I do," he replied; "The music has a timeless quality to it." Another friend noted Filosofem as the perfect embodiment of 'cold' atmosphere. I'm glad I've known folk who could interpret and experience this music outside the bounds of sensationalism; experiencing Filosofem has been a long time coming for me, and it's with self-admitted regret that I've let a monument like this pass me by for so long.

First off; it has been a nagging pet peeve to read review after review of Burzum's music that tries to separate an appreciation of the music with the ideas behind its making, much less the man himself. You see this kind of pussyfooting whenever someone's talking about an unfashionably right-wing group but it's never so pronounced as it is with Burzum. The appeal of mystically-inclined ambient black metal is arguably wider than Varg's politik, but a willingness to explore the music without opening oneself to the ideas behind the work is to miss an essential part of the point. Filosofem wears its intention in the very title; this album is a manifest philosophy, and though the music and lyrics don't touch upon the political specifics of his Odalist pro-racial agenda, that intent seeps through every minute of Filosofem.

Possibly moreso than any black metal album I've heard, Filosofem truly evokes a longing for an ancient past. For music crafted with the most minimalist, simple and repeated ingredients, the atmosphere is richly evocative; it is as if the music was robbed from another time, real or imagined. I do not believe Filosofem would be felt so powerfully, did Varg not feel so powerfully about his vision for a pure(r) Norway. Atmosphere in music is often intangible; it is as hard to replicate as it is to properly write about. In Burzum's case, Varg Vikernes managed to create an incredible (and, indeed, timeless) palette of sound with the seemingly laziest elements at his disposal. Foregoing the use of proper microphones or even a proper amplifier (the guitar tone was brought about using distortion pedals plugged into his brother's stereo) he created a sound that's all too easy to become lost in. Compare that to the tens-of-thousands of hours of mindless bedroom demos that have spawned forth since. Some of them might be decently imagined, but it's not likely any manage to spurn a session of contemplating your own philosophies in life. Filosofem manages to do this, and more.

Though it's easy to confuse his musical priorities with laziness, his tactical use of keyboards in his music enforces the notion of Varg as a brilliant composer. For one of the simplest motifs you'll ever hear in music, the brooding three/four note keyboard overlay on "Dunkelheit (Burzum)" is instantly and greatly memorable. Varg has a penchant for these hook-bearing 'earworms' that you almost never hear in an atmospheric or ambient context. "Jesu død" is just as impactful a track as the first without help of keys at all, with little more than a few repetitive guitar riffs to see it through. How Burzum's best work manages to do so much with so little is virtually indecipherable on an academic, objective level. It is music that can, must, and will be felt by whomever listens to it.

The sense of Filosofem doing intense things to the psyche with so few concrete ideas is best represented in "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte", the album's twenty-five minute centrepiece, and apparently still the thing most listeners (outside of the PC whiners) have the toughest time grappling with. As a fan of progressive music long before I came into black metal, I instantly loved how Vikernes' ambient music sounds so close to the Berlin School of electronic music, in the minimalist vein of Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream. The first half builds up a single motif; the second half is spent dwindling it down.

Of course, that brief description tells little of the way it affects the spirit while listening to it. "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" feels both like a denouement to the 'metal' side of the album and climax in its own right. As a composer and musician, Vikernes' work on Filosofem is defined by how he economizes the use of ideas, and this 25 minute sprawl stands as a definitive realization of that intent. Bookended by parts one and two of "Decrepitude" (which seems to bridge the gap stylistically between the black metal and full ambient chunks of the album) the album's sequence doesn't place it as an afterthought so much as a full-bodied other part of the music that should be regarded just as intently as the three-or-so songs people are originally coming for. In a sense, Vikernes was already recognizing the close-mindedness of the lion's share of the black metal scene and was already playing against it pre-emptively.

Though the ambient centre of the album does seem to go between five and ten minutes longer than might have been optimal for atmosphere's sake, Filosofem still sounds bold and relevant. Even today, there are so few artists that decide to fuck what all others think or will think of their art. I don't get the impression Varg's artistic choices were done as a way to seem 'cool' so much as the behaviour of some of the Second Wave's other star players... He simply felt something deeply to the point that it defined him as a person, and he possessed the musical talent to bring that psychic energy into the material world with his music. I'll say again; those who wish to avert their fragile eyes away from the essential meaning of what he was trying to say are losing sight of what this music is really about. Without feeling something so specific so strongly, the supposedly 'universal' atmosphere here would not have existed to begin with.

BURZUM Umskiptar

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
The latest Burzum album seems to represent a clean break from the band’s past, heralding a change in musical style as radical as the one Bathory underwent between Under the Sign of the Black Mark and Blood Fire Death. It seems to be Varg Vikernes’ attempt at viking metal - appropriately enough, considering that the lyrics consist of a recitation of an ancient Icelandic poem - but bless him, the man just isn’t very good at it. The songs are somewhat too simplistic, over-long, and over-repetitive - and bear in mind this is from someone who really likes the 25 minute ambient track on Filosofem - and in general it’s not only not the sort of thing I expect from Burzum, but it also just isn’t very good judged on its own terms in isolation from everything else Varg has done in his career.

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