Burzum - _Fallen_
(Byelobog Productions, 2011)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (
It is silly to try and introduce the work of Varg Vikernes with any sort of freshness. In fact, if you are not familiar with Vikernes and his one man project Burzum, please spend the next couple of minutes looking at Wikipedia articles or the next week reading Michael Moynihan's "Lords of Chaos" and Vikernes' lengthy reaction to the book. Ill wait. Vikernes' history within the Norwegian black metal scene and subsequent imprisonment have built a foundation of infamy and legacy. Burzum's pre-prison, prison and post-prison albums have all taken on a life of their own. 2009's _Belus_ was the first album released after Vikernes' parole. _Belus_ broke a ten year silence since _Hliðskjálf_ and acted as a return celebration to the arms of multi-instrumental, non incarnated black metal. _Fallen_ comes quickly on the heels of _Belus_ with its quick attempt at innovation and evolution. The result of either has yet to be determined. It is difficult to separate the music of Burzum with Vikernes' transgressions. Accounts of church burnings, murder and vague racist ideologies obscure Burzum's music in a dense fog. Nearly twenty years since the death Øystein Aarseth, Burzum's recent music is being evaluated independently with court documents as an afterthought. This is a step forward, as Burzum can be reviewed as a musician with a horrific backstory rather than a murder case with accompanying soundtrack. The cover for _Fallen_ is striking, as it displays a nude portrait by academic realist William-Adolphe Bouguereau. His devotion to classical subjects and traditional methods of painting were sublime, but forgotten compared to the French Impressionists gaining recognition. It is perhaps metaphorical Vikernes would choose a painter stubborn to the changing world to adorn his new album. The cover speaks to Vikernes' mental imprisonment in the past, unable to progress without some sort of redemption. The painting also breaks the tradition of decorating a black metal album with grainy black and white photographs or a morbid etching from some forgotten engraver. Whatever it is, it works. Vikenes's early comments regarding _Fallen_ mentioned the album would be cleaner with mixing closer to the fidelity of classical music. This portion is true, as _Fallen_ moves away from the dark blur which crossed the "T" on Burzum's signature. _Fallen_ possess the mixing inherent for classical music but it is far from the style's balanced quality. The choice to have the guitar in front would work if said guitar was not so repetitive. The cyclical melody has always been a staple of Burzum's music, but has never reached the level of frustration it does with _Fallen_. The broken record quality of each of the songs drains the energy from transitions and segments with potential quality. The mid-song drop of "Vanvidd" into guttural screams would be stronger if the tinny riff did not buzz around like an obnoxious fly. This trend continues as the raw black guitar work steps over any sort of atmosphere being created._Fallen_ does speak kindly about Vikernes' desire to move into the future and possibly leave the past behind. The six minute closer "Til hel og tilbake igjen (To Hel and Back Again)" is a fabulous neofolk instrumental, complete with lumbering drums and dissonant atmosphere. If the album shared more of these aspects, it might have received more than an indifferent shrug. Vikernes, from various interviews and written documents, does not wish to dwell in infamy. While his past and legacy is rooted in violence, there seems to be a glimmer of humanity behind that cold gaze. There may be atonement in Vikernes' future if there is anyone left to listen.
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