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Sunday Old School: Burzum, The Most Notorious Band In Metal

Photo of Burzum

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

Diamond Oz's avatar

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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10 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Burzum"

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hellrat's avatar

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1. hellrat writes:

FVCK YEAH OZ!!!!

one of the best sundays ever!

excellent work mate \m/

# Jan 16, 2011 @ 12:07 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
EsotericSurgery's avatar

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2. EsotericSurgery writes:

I do think he's an intelligent man and have a lot of respect for him in some regards but his vocals really ruin it for me. Not sure how anyone can understand him...sounds like a bat in a blender. Shame...I like his instrumental/ambient stuff. To be honest...I think everyone here on MU has heard more than enough about Burzum though. :p

# Jan 16, 2011 @ 2:38 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

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3. hellrat writes:

'...bat in a blender' ha! i don't care who you are, that is fvckin funny right there :)

i do find your speculation at the end there pretty interesting, brother....considering that a total of just over 30 articles have ever featured burzum here 'Underground, whilst the number of dimmu borgir related entries totals almost 275...hell, lil'avengie vaggiefold has well over 200

yes my friend...very interesting indeed ;)

\m/ BURZUM \m/

# Jan 16, 2011 @ 3:33 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
4. neto1 writes:

FINALLY best band ever hails

# Jan 16, 2011 @ 4:10 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
5. cam666 writes:

burzum is one of my favorite black metal band's of all time

# Jan 16, 2011 @ 4:27 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
TheFishWasDelish's avatar

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6. TheFishWasDelish writes:

@EsotericSurgery
I can totally see where you're coming from man, The vocals in Black Metal bands make it very hard for alot of people to get into it.

# Jan 16, 2011 @ 6:32 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
RTB's avatar

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7. RTB writes:

appreciate the piece OZ, it was a good read...even though im not a fan of this......."guy"...good show

# Jan 17, 2011 @ 3:47 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
EsotericSurgery's avatar

Member

8. EsotericSurgery writes:

well...I stand corrected HR! :p haha my bad...not sure why but to me it seems like I'm always hearing about Burzum.

# Jan 17, 2011 @ 4:32 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

Member

9. hellrat writes:

its the Bat in the Blender man...

its telling you to listen to BURZUM ;)

# Jan 18, 2011 @ 12:36 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
fireflyz's avatar

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10. fireflyz writes:

Until the Light Takes Us really made me like Varg where I use to have mixed feelings about it all, I think he is just a purist sort of person with a vision of the world that our current sh**ty reality could never live up to, I like his music and look forward to hearing new stuff

# Jan 23, 2011 @ 10:14 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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