BURZUM — Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (review)

BURZUM — Hvis Lyset Tar Oss album cover Album · 1994 · Atmospheric Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
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.
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