Sunday Old School: Burzum, The Most Notorious Band In Metal
Band Photo: Burzum (?)
Given the news earlier this week that Burzum would be releasing a new studio album in March, it seemed as good a time as any to take a look back at the band, and it's sole member, Varg Vikernes, who has in the past been called, "The most evil man alive" by the media. Whether or not Vikernes is the Darth Vader of metal music is open to interpretation, but the fact that many people have claimed to enjoy the music of Burzum, while proclaiming to hate the man himself, is proof that Burzum really is one of the best bands from the Norwegian black metal scene.
Vikernes formed Burzum in 1991, shortly after leaving the death metal band, Old Funeral, of which he was the guitarist. Two demo tapes were quickly recorded and caught the attention of Øystein Aarseth, the founder of the Deathlike Silence Productions label and also the guitarist of Mayhem, in which he used to the stage name, Euronymous. Aarseth decided to sign Burzum to his label and work on the self-titled Burzum album began shortly afterwards, with Euronymous guesting on the track, "War," performing a guitar solo. The album saw a release in 1992, making Burzum only the second band to have a record released by the label. After the release of the album, Vikernes became interested in recruiting musicians so that Burzum could perform live, going so far as to bring in Emperor bassist Samoth. Samoth would not stay in the band long however and only recorded on the "Aske" EP, after which Vikernes had no interest in transforming Burzum into a live band.
Now on his own again, Vikernes recorded a wealth of material from 1992 to 1993, the first of which to be released was the album, "Det son engang var," in 1993. Around this time, Vikernes was also recruited to perform bass duties in Mayhem, though he still composed and recorded music for Burzum. Unbeknownst to anyone however, "Det son engang var" would prove to be the last album Vikernes would release as a free man, as he was arrested later that year for killing Øystein Aarseth, his Mayhem bandmate. The reasons for the muder remain debated but Vikernes claims that he went solely to hand over an unsigned record contract, and retaliated after Aarseth attacked him first, climaxing in a fatal stab would to the head. He was convicted in May 1994 (the same month his album, "Hvis lyset tar oss" was released) and sentenced to twenty one years imprisonment, which is the maximum length of a prison sentence in Norway. In addition to the killing of Aarseth, Vikernes was charged with burning several Norwegian churches, something he claims he was wrongly convicted of.
Imprisonment didn't stop Burzum however. A new album entitled, "Filosofem," was released on New Year's Day, 1996 (though the material had been recorded in 1993.) The album is considered one of the best in the Burzum catalogue and is notable for Vikernes using a headset to record the vocal tracks. Vikernes was eventually granted permission to record new music while he was incarcerated, but was denied the use of an electric guitar, microphone, a bass or a drum kit. The restrictions led to a drastic change in style, as the next two albums would be more in the vein of dark ambient music than black metal, a result which received mixed reviews from fans. Following the release of the second ambient album, "Hliðskjálf," Vikernes stated he was laying Burzum to rest, citing the negative press attention as one of the main reasons.
However, in 2009, many were shocked to hear, and some even infuriated, that Vikernes had been granted parole and was to be released, despite an incident in 2003 in which he failed to return to prison after being granted a short leave and was found with, amongst other things, an AG3 automatic rifle, a handgun and numerous large knives. He announced that he was to record and release a new Burzum album now that he is out of prison, and stated that it would be much more black metal than his previous two releases. Initially, the album was scheduled to be named, "Den hvite guden" (The White God, in reference to Baldr), but this was changed after many felt it was a racist title. The new album was instead named, "Belus" and was released in March of last year, to mixed reviews from critics, but positive feedback from fans. Since then Vikernes has kept rather quiet, until last week when he announced that a new album, "Fallen" would be released this March.
Burzum - "Dunkelheit"
Burzum - "Frijôs Einsames Trauern "
Burzum - "War"
Burzum - "Tomhet"
Varg Vikernes talks about killing Euronymous
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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