THE DEMO CORNER
With every Burzum release Varg Vikernes puts considerably longer distances between his project and the black metal movement. Upon returning to the fray after his extended absence he produced a fine return with Belus, a decent Fallen, and last year’s befuddling and unnecessary From the Depths of Darkness. It seems Vikernes is making a habit of producing one album per years, and this year sees Umskiptar (Metamorphoses) added to the Burzum line.
With lyrics taken straight from a Norse poem titled Völuspá this album offers another glimpse into the conceptual side of Burzum. Yes, those elements have always been present throughout his records, tying all songs together if even by the thinnest threads; this record concentrates more on the delivery of an ancient text’s message than a musical journey through the stars, so to speak. The first thing I notice is the simplicity that is always Burzum is still there, raw and unbridled. Along the same lines as Belus the album is enchanting if you enter it with a clear mind and the realization that each Burzum record will take a decidedly different turn in the smallest ways; sorry kids, but those lo-fi black metal days are long gone, never to return.
The intro in “Blóđstokkinn” has a strong feel as a simple two-kick bass drum rests under Vikernes’ spoken word intro, setting a good mindset for what the album is about to unleash, and as if on cue “Jóln” picks up the casual slack and forces open the gates. The production is typical Greighallen / Pytten wonderment, creating just the right amount of atmosphere necessary to invoke psychic and mental visages. Aside from an obviously distorted guitar sound, this is about as far from a metal record as it gets. Vikernes has left the metal world settled in the dust like a long-forgotten artifact on the newly-painted floor. I did not go into any of his last few records expecting heavy metal of any sort; even Filosofem was not a metal record, though some staunch supporters might claim otherwise. When I hear “Hit helga Tré” (The Sacred Tree) and listen to the subtle singing of the mid-text I am left quite impressed with what Vikernes is attempting to do here. This is Poetry 101 for the versed connoisseur and vibrant awakening for the casual observer; the music, for me, becomes secondary in certain areas due in large part to the soft and concise vocalization that borders more on performance art in spoken word that anything.
The one area of complaint I might muster is the music does stagnate to a degree, blending in almost too well. Of course the guitar tone is the culprit here, as is Vikernes’ persistence in creating a musical landscape all of his own vision to accompany and carry his readings. “Ćra” (Honor) is a breathy delivery that manages to create a visual of some elder voice issuing an antiquated spoken lesson for willing and eager pupils. It houses some of the better atmosphere on the record for my ears. I tend to cleanse the fact that the music, in large part, is too repetitive in spots and more or less simmers in its own spot throughout. I understand this to be the concept and basic foundation of the record, and while I honestly believe a mixing of sounds and tones in each individual song would serve as a detriment more than anything it does become ho-hum after the four-minute mark. What saves it for me is the poetic spoken-word and lightly-sung tribute throughout that I find wholly interesting and quite enticing.
If you go into each subsequent Burzum record vying for Vikernes to ‘come to his senses’ and re-create Det Som Engang Var it’s best to let that feeling go; this instructional and even educational Burzum might be best enjoyed free of mind and decidedly open to interpretation. Of all of his post-hiatus releases I am enjoying Umskiptar the most thus far; its natural brand of recitation doesn’t overdo its presentation or overwhelm its subject matter. As I said, it’s poetic utterance that will tap the furthest recesses of your mind if you are so inclined.
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4. Hit helga Tré
9. Surtr Sunnan
Total playing time: 65:13
Release Date: May 21, 2012
Label: Byelobog Productions
Burzum - Umskiptar
May 22, 2012