Burzum – Belus

Burzum. What does this name invoke for you? Murder? Darkness? Burning churches? Controversy? Well, for me, I think of that one picture. You know the one I’m talking about; Varg’s mouth agape in laughter while in a Prison garb. I don’t know about you, but when I first saw that picture, I didn’t know who Vikernes was or what he did. To me, he looked like the nicest guy in the world. With that in mind, you look at the cover of Burzum’s newest album, Belus, and what do you see? An inviting forest? To me, it’s the kind of place that evokes thoughts of Rustic Norwegian Folk or perhaps some Traditional New Age. Compared to Burzum’s previous, sometimes disturbing covers, Belus looks like a light-weight.

Here’s the part of the review where I tell you about Varg and Mayhem and so on, but I don’t have to do that. Mason already has in his nostalgia trip, and everyone already knows. However, despite what Mason says, I actually enjoy Burzum. I think they’re (he’s more like) a talented, incredibly influential Black Metal band, without whom we wouldn’t get Revival-esque bands such as Wolves in the Throne Room or Krallice. Sure, Weakling and Absu were around (Absu still in a primordial ooze to be sure), but Burzum was the real show. However, Mason’s dislike and my interest in Burzum simply goes to show the crowd-splitting nature of Varg’s solo output.

Which brings me to Belus, the newest album from the newly-released convict. How does it measure up? Well, typically when a band gets back together after a lengthy absence, the results are simply disastrous, with the Zombies and the Stooges being the prime examples. However, every once in a while, a band like Portishead or Cynic show us it can be done. Burzum, thankfully, are one of the latter cases. Belus sounds like a time capsule of early-90s Black Metal, a complete departure from the Hi-fi and hay-wired technical aplomb of newer faces like the aforementioned Krallice.

It’s not just the songwriting and general structure that makes Belus so refreshingly old-school, but the recording itself; it sounds old. Weathered. Lo-fi. It sounds like it was released right alongside Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, and it’s all the better for it. Songs like “Kaimadalthas’ Nedstigning” and “Keliohesten” simply work under the context of a man who still lives in 1991. The entire album is a surprisingly brief affair, with only one song tipping the 10 minute scale, and the songs’ general air of brevity is thankful. To put it simply, Belus isn’t exactly the most dynamic of Black Metal albums. Hell, the thing can be down-right monotonous sometimes with the general atmosphere of the album being drenched in the foul Metal stink of every song sounding eerily similar.

However, given the general Black Metal conceits, this can be forgiven easily. Belus contains enough great material to forgive any type of repetition quirks, with highlights being “Belus’ Doed” and “Morgenroede”. The former is a typical opener, drenched in funeral mystique, but pulled off quite well, and the latter is a bass-warped, circular riff-centric piece that is as dizzying as it is well-paced. There aren’t any particularly weak tracks on the album, but one can’t help but feel Varg was playing it safe. Listening to his earlier output, it’s obvious that he’s lost much of his atmospheric edge, with Belus coming off as surprisingly accessible and easy to listen to. Hell, he doesn’t sound like he’s stabbing himself every time he speaks on this affair, sounding surprisingly reserved in comparison.

The trade-off for his typical horror show of an album is an accessible Black Metal album with plenty of great riffs spread out across a brief venture; it’s the easy way out, it’s the safe route, but in sacrificing or losing what made Burzum such a controversial hit back in the 90s has manifested itself with probably his most balanced album. Is it his best? No, but it’s definitely much more than any person can ask for after spending so long in gestation. Varg may not be totally back, but if Belus is any indication, it won’t be as big of a problem as you might think.

by Trevor “Bringing it Back” Johnson

1 Comment

  1. Burzum’s Belus is out. See how it stacks up! « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Burzum – Belus review by Trevor Johnson […]

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