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Burzum - "Belus" (CD)

Burzum - "Belus" CD cover image

"Belus" track listing:

1. Leukes Renkespill (Introduksjon) (0:33)
2. Belus' Død (6:23)
3. Glemselens Elv (11:54)
4. Kaimadalthas' Nedstigning (6:43)
5. Sverddans (2:27)
6. Keliohesten (5:45)
7. Morgenrøde (8:54)
8. Belus' Tilbakekomst (Konklusjon) (9:37)

Reviewed by on March 11, 2010

"Black metal fans who have ingested nothing but blast beats, dense symphonic pressure or sonic speed in the past will no doubt entirely miss the minimalist subtly of this album."

Contained within a barren cell for half of your life would be a difficult mental task for any man, you and I can only imagine. However, compounded with unwanted infamy, the burden of devoted fans, media misrepresentation and general vilification the process would take on an entire new meaning. A lesser known fact about the legendary ambient and anesthetic black metal band Burzum's most praised albums was that they were imagined, created and recorded by solo musician Varg Vikernes in the space of less than a year, released years apart thereafter. So how would a life of imprisonment and notoriety affect one man's spellbinding musical vision after more than a decade and a half? It seems, very little.

After an interesting intro draws us in, we hit the fantastic opener "Belus' Død" and much like "Dunkelheit" on the "Filosofem" album, it sets the scene for the rest of the show. It can only be described as is a classic Burzum song, a slow ubiquitous riff that despite it’s speed still hits with severe mental force. Gone are the higher, desperate screams of albums from a youthful past, instead replaced with a deeper, hollow, throaty growl. At times Varg's voice rises into clean Viking metal chants, other times like on "Sverddans" a low whisper more reminiscent of Nuclear Holocausto of Beherit. However, all are still recognizable Varg's own voice.

But, being a classic Burzum album would lead us to the conclusion that this is also a very raw recording, an assumption which here is justified. And while this is certainly a raw album in terms of the grating guitar and generally lo-fi production there is more to the tale of the “White God” Belus. Each song is raw in its most basic execution and lumbers on narcotically, without frills. The best example of this is that there are no strong synthesizers used on this album at all. By that I mean not only are there no ambient tracks, but there are no tracks like "Det Som en Gang Var" or where eerie synths hovered over distant guitars, or "Dunkelheit" where keys drop in the distance like slow motion rain. Black metal fans who have ingested nothing but blast beats, dense symphonic pressure or sonic speed in the past will no doubt entirely miss the minimalist subtly of this album, and whether subconsciously or consciously Burzum fans like myself will miss the magical element the synths brought to previous albums. However, the quality of riffs stands up well to previous efforts especially on highlights like the track "Morgenrode".

A new feature is the bass guitar which at times is surprisingly high in the mix, but this is a positive feature that adds more to the Burzum tapestry. While there are aggressive, jaunty black metal riffs signaling a healthy respect for Burzum’s most early work spread across most of the tracks, this may in fact be Varg's most serious attempt at extended trance-inducing metal. “Belus” stands out as a focused musical entity with no foreign bias, no pretension, no fake emotion and no derivation from other works other than Burzum's own (the last point which may be a valid criticism). Burzum fans cannot be disappointed because despite the musical evolutions, this album is Burzum’s core.

A track like “Glemselens Elv” is one that could easily be placed on an imaginary pre "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" album, as at Varg's roots he has not strayed an inch from the initial path that Burzum has blazed in the metal world. "Belus" is an album that, while can never top its mighty brothers, does very well to sit beside them with the same blood coursing in its veins.

Highs: Stays true to the Burzum formula while still finding original works within the tight working space.

Lows: The lack of synthesizers take away some of the magic so evident in previous Burzum masterpieces.

Bottom line: "Belus" is an album that while can never top its mighty brothers, does very well to sit beside them with the same blood coursing in its veins.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)