posted on 5/2012 By:
If it were my goal to convince anyone why they should or shouldn't like the latest Burzum album -- or any album for that matter -- I'd be failing so miserably that I'd put Steve Urkel's dress sense to shame. That is not, and was never the point of exercises like these. I am, however, here to tell you that Umskiptar is not only a good album, but is also very much worth listening to. This is, of course, my opinion; and as such it can be taken, left behind, remembered, forgotten, spat upon, laughed at, argued with or ignored. Just remember that yours can, too.
First and foremost, it's important to realize that Varg's interpretation of songwriting and music in general is that it should be a reflection of the self. As such, a more honest and heartfelt production quality will usually result in an accurate and soulful portrayal of the composer, provided it's executed effectively. Vikernes' mastery of this practice is what has always set Burzum apart, especially as far as the music is concerned. Since most of the metal world has already made up its mind on who Varg Vikernes is and what he's about, i.e. a self-absorbed, rambling ex-convict who, although at times is capable of creating or saying something profound, lives primarily in the shadow of a small handful of great albums, and who was unfortunately brainwashed into thinking that people of other races are less intelligent human beings, should it be of any surprise that the more "in touch" with himself Varg becomes, the more his music will do kind of the same thing he does -- that is, to wander from time to time in order to eventually find small fragments of lost wisdom and enlightenment under the metaphorical rock or bog...? From the eternally long and meandering tracks such as "Rundtgåing Av Den Transcendentale Egenhetens Støtte" and "Tomhet," to long album beginnings such as the new "Alfadanz," self-portrayal through music is what Vikernes has always done, especially in his most brilliant moments of creativity. Umskiptar is one of those moments.
In a strange sense, Burzum has always been a very childlike project. Most children, given a marker or a crayon or a paint can or a piano, will simply do whatever the fuck they want with said utensil. Generally, it's not until the adults come in, criticize the shit out of what they're doing, tell them all the right and wrong ways to do things or just tell them that they suck and shouldn't be wasting so much time, that the children stop becoming children and start acting like adults. By this, I mean to say that they all start acting the same. The incredible thing about Burzum has always been that it sounds like nothing else. Aside from being quite skilled at playing a wide variety of musical instruments, arranging songs and sound production, Varg's unquestionable ability to simply not give a fuck what anyone thinks is, far and away, his strongest and most valuable attribute. Whether this prized characteristic is used as a strength or a weakness is all up to him.
Amidst the many arguments over which Burzum album is best, some people tend not to realize that Burzum, Aske, Det Some Engang Var, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem were all recorded within a year's time. Regardless of personal favorites, all of those albums are very different from one another, and Umskiptar is finally an album about which the same thing can be spoken. Two awesome characteristics that come into play right off the bat in "Jóln," the second track off Varg's latest effort, are his added emphasis on layering soft vocals and shrieks on top of one another (and the offsetting of the two), and his ability to write hooks capable of reeling in Moby Dick after just one attempt. After "Jóln," comes what might be the make-or-break song for many of the album's listeners, because the aforementioned "Alfadanz" is roughly nine minutes of anticlimactic folk music that Elves could only write if they were tripping on acid with Jerry Garcia. Remember, the wandering must come as a predecessor to the enlightenment, both for the artist and his observers, so don't go skipping over it. In the next handful of tracks, "Hit helga Tré" returns to Burzum-ic form with slow, dark and heavy riffs coupled with some serious tremolo melodies, as "Æra" takes the listener into what might be their final decline in interest before leading into Umskipar's latter and more consistent half.
Along with the next handful of tracks come a few more interesting attributes that help continue to make Umskiptar much more interesting than its post-prison predecessors. One unique aspect is the feeling of sacredness the album gives off. Most should concur that old Norse is a beautiful language, and the way Varg chooses to deliver his sixty-six stanzas of poetry gives off the impression that the lyrical content means a lot to him. Another attention-grabber is the way the bass guitar is incorporated into lengthier tracks such as "Valgaldr." Not unlike early Ulver, the long-prodding bass notes don't really seem to care about what the rest of the instruments are doing and, as a result, send the listener into a relaxing dream-like state. This hypnosis of hypnagogia doesn't possess the exclusively electronic programming of past albums, and instead is accompanied by some pretty slow, evil-sounding riffage.
Varg has said in the past that he typically uses album openings to tire the listener so that they may be more susceptible to the more spiritual and atmospheric elements of the concluding tracks. Though Umskiptar possesses nowhere near the amount of outward intensity of Burzum's past works, the attentiveness that is given to the record's first eight tracks really does affect the way the closing will be received. To put it simply, "Surtr Sunnan" and "Gullaldr" are packed full of pure emotional honesty that all point back to one thing: Varg Vikernes. Say what you want about him, but at least the man admits his many faults. He knows he's far from perfect, and that his music is as well. Quite frankly, that's the beauty and uniqueness of it, especially given that we live in a world where people just aren't comfortable with themselves at all. Some have an impossible time admitting their own faults, while others spend the majority of their day pretending that they have none. The truth is, whether we like to admit it or not, we hate. Other times, our actions simply aren't in line what we know is the right thing to do. If you take a quick view of the world in which we live, you're just as likely to see that this is undoubtedly the case as you are to witness hypocrisy that surrounds it all. We may be neither inherently good nor evil, but we are inherently dishonest. So what's to be done when someone comes along admitting all of this to himself and to everyone else? Do we shun him for not pretending to be perfect like the rest of us, or do we listen?
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From The Depths of Darkness