Reviewed: March 2019
Released: November 2018, Antichrist Magazine
Promotion by: Grand Sounds PR
Reviewer: James Swandale
Ah Burzum, as much as I love the music, I can’t help feeling a twinge of self-loathing inside me whenever I crack on a song knowing who the man behind the band is. Varg’s exploits are widely written about and I’ve got two hours of fantastic music to get through so I won’t dive into that here. This album does, however, manage to alleviate any hesitation I have knowing that Varg probably had nothing to do with it. This mammoth tribute covers 17 tracks across Burzum’s discography up to 2012’s Umskiptar.
The majority of this album has, in general, a less lo-fi sound to it than the entirety of Burzums original catalogue. It’s basically Burzum but with modern recording techniques. Even if you’re a Kvlt purist that only likes the raw lo-fi black metal, I still think there’s a place here, as while the recordings are generally good across the board, many of them do still have the rawness of the original. Making something sound raw to emulate the sound of decades ago doesn’t appeal to me that much. You can, in my opinion, create that rawness while not sacrificing fidelity or feel. But in the end, it’s a stylistic approach more than anything. A lot of these tracks still have a DIY feel, it’s just that 25 years on the DIY has gotten a lot better than being sat in a basement slumped over recording gnarly guitar into a 4-track.
Many of the tracks on this album mimic the original material fairly closely, but there are some very interesting directions that have been taken on some songs that don’t quite line up with the source. I’ll be focusing a bit more on these, though I will say the more traditional covers are all really solid interpretations, there isn’t a bad song amongst any of the 17 on this album.
We open up with the Netherland’s Yaotzin and their version of Hvis lyset tar oss. It’s a really solid album opening, building on the original song but with clearer, more defined guitar and vocals. The song has a really ominous air to it that sets a good tone for the album.
Next up is Germany’s Kahld with Jesus’ Tod. This is a much more atmospheric version of the original. Gone are the abrasive shredding guitar tones, giving way to a softer more dynamic range.
Jumping ahead to track 7 and Dynasty of Darkness’ cover of Dunkelheit, once again the guitar is stripped back to a more atmospheric, melodic, sound. Allowing the synth to penetrate through instead of getting lost in a wall of sound.
Track 9 is an interesting departure from the original, Ukraine’s Colotyphus take the basis of Burzum’s Han som reiste and layer in excellent atmospheric guitars. Taking the synth line from the original and making it significantly more orchestral in the process. Burzum’s original is one of my favourites from their entire discography, and each of these versions has their own charm that I’ve found myself listening to depending on my mood.
There are many more fantastic covers on this album from Chaoscraft’s beefed up version of War, to Thy Unmasked’s pummeling take on Vanvidd or Uruk-Hai’s soft, ambient Hermodr a Helferd. But by far the largest and most interesting diversion is Katarina Gubanova’s piano rendering of the great Ea, Lord of the Depths. The core melody of the song is taken and distilled down to its purest form, this is easily one of my favourite songs on the entire album. It’s so different from the original that it doesn’t need to be compared to it, and can stand on its own. The driving piano piece brings a close to two hours of excellent black metal, allowing my ears a brief respite before the repeat kicks in and I start all over again.
01. Yaotzin (Netherlands) – Hvis lyset tar oss
02. Kâhld (Germany) – Jesus’ Tod
03. Atra Mors (Ukraine) – Belus’ død
04. Aetranok (USA) – A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit
05. Myrkur Skógur (Netherlands) – Feeble Screams from Forests Unknown
06. Wan (Sweden) – Stemmen fra taarnet
07. Dynasty of Darkness (Germany / Norway) – Dunkelheit
08. Mournful Winter (Germany) – My Journey to the Stars
09. Colotyphus (Ukraine) – Han som reiste
10. Unholy Baptism (USA) – Glemselens elv
11. Bestia (Estonia) – Beholding the Daughters of the Firmament
12. Chaoscraft (Greece) – War
13. Thy Unmasked (Colombia) – Vanvidd
14. Uruk-Hai (Austria) – Hermoðr á Helferð
15. Eclipse of The Sun (Hungary) – Valgaldr (Song of the Fallen)
16. Imšar (Belarus) – En ring til å herske
17. Katarina Gubanova (Germany) – Ea, Lord of the Depths (Bonus Track)