Burzum // Fallen
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —This ain’t your daddy’s Burzum
Label: Byelobog Productions
Websites: burzum.org |
Release Dates: EU: 2011.03.07 | US: 03.15.2011 (Not sure about this)
Hey, it’s Burzum time again kiddies. That generally means more serious reflections on Varg the man, the myth, the ex-con and all the drama, baggage and bullshit that comes along with him. Here at Angry Metal Guy, we pride ourselves on a firm no baggage/bullshit policy so we won’t even begin to go down that road. Let’s leave it at the fact that Fallen is his second “post-incarceration” Burzum release and follows very closely on the heels of 2010’s Belus. While some stylistic similarities carry over from the previous album, Varg has chosen to expand the core Burzum sound here on Fallen and he’s taken it in a few surprising and interesting directions. It’s definitely not what I expected and he seems intent on pushing the boundaries of what is traditionally a very static and cult sound. For that alone he gets some props from me.
After the mandatory, customary and obligatory creepy intro, lead track “Jeg Faller” kicks in with a nasty, nerve jangling trem riff, Varg’s trademark raspy croaks and a typically Burzumesque low-fi shit show of a production. The first surprise arrives when things corkscrew unexpectedly into clean singing/chanting for a jarringly melodic and yes, catchy chorus. While the guitar work keeps things anchored firmly in the realms of raw black metal, the vocals alternate between singing, spoken word and croaking segments. The striking dichotomy between the cold, jagged riffing and the clean singing is highly effective and it works in its own unique way. As on Belus, the riffs tend to lock in and drone on repetitively thereby creating an odd hypnotic effect after awhile. “Valen” unveils another surprise with guitar work that sounds less “black” and more NWOBHM style (or more precisely, a black metal band approximating NWOBHM riffing like what Darkthrone has been doing on and off lately). As clean singing arrives to accompany the more traditional metal riffing, I can imagine a lot of diehard black metal types shaking their grim heads in bleak confusion. Despite the curve-balls being delivered, the songwriting is solid and although the track drones on for a long time, it’s a very compelling piece of work. The rest of Fallen (it’s only five tracks if you discount the intro and odd ambient instrumental that closes things out) follows along in the pattern established by the first two tracks. A lot of droning, raw riffing while Varg alternates between rasps and singing. Later tracks “Vanvidd” and “Budstikken” both feature above average riffing and effective dynamics as well. It’s worth noting that even when Varg tries his hand at clean vocals, it doesn’t really sound “folky” in the normal sense. It just sounds like raw Burzum with singing.
This is an album with overarching cohesiveness and it should be listened to as a whole in order to fully appreciate what Varg is trying to do. Yes, there’s a lot of drone but just go with it. It has a chaotic charm when you sit through it once or twice and it’s oddly relaxing in a schizo way. It also has it’s share of memorably blackened riffs. Yes, it’s about a million miles away from Det Som Engang Var but then again, Varg is most certainly a very different person than when he wrote that album.
Much less traditional than Belus, Fallen is also superior as far as writing, accessibility and overall quality. Where I found Belus challenging to get into, Fallen clicked quickly for me. Despite the clean singing and experimentation with different styles of riffing, this is still recognizable as Burzum and most definitely still raw, ugly black metal. Varg is trying different things but he manages to merge the new elements into the established Burzum construct without totally reinventing himself or disrupting the style he’s been nurturing. It’s different but its a good different. I hereby dub it “new age black metal” and thereby incur Varg’s endless hate and eternal scorn. Whateves.