Style: black metal, experimental, Norwegian
Label: PHD Music
Members: Varg Vikernes ~ all instruments
Varg Vikernes has become a death/black metal icon for serving 15 years in prison for murder of a fellow death metal musician, but if history was different he might have become more famous for his one man band Burzum pushing the boundaries of black metal to its limits & beyond then his non-musical efforts. His friends/peers in Mayhem might have been moody, dark & devilish with slashing guitars & screeching vocals but on Filosofem Burzum did it with an approach that is more akin to dark ambiant music than death metal. For those who are only familiar with the early Burzum albums, that are in the same vein as Mayhem, only to be surprised by the classical feeling of Vikernes two keyboard-computer albums produced while in prison where he was banned from using real instruments, this collection of earlier unreleased tracks is an important bridge that puts everything into perspective. Recorded in March 1993 it wasn't released until 2 years into the incarceration, when for many Burzum was no longer a music making entity, so it didn't get the recognition it might have received in other circumstances, plus its a partially incomplete album that was released because of the fanfare around Vikernes not because it was ready to hit the shelves. If prison hadn't gotten in the way & if Filosofem can be taken as a sign of of natural progressions, Vikernes probably would have gone the classical direction anyway which very well could have lifted him to a position as a trendsetter in the Norwegian music scene, let alone the scene would be different if the media fanfare & criminal activity had never happened. Filosofem lets us into a alternative reality Norway with progressively hypnotic music that is far more mental than aggressive with 8 minute songs relying heavily on long instrumental parts with guitars so distorted they almost become drones with distant equally heavily distorted vocals. Many have called Filosofem a highlight of the Burzum catalog. With two versions of the same song ("Gebrechlichkeit I") with & without vocals & a 25 minute instrumental ("Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Saule Der Singularitat") that's only a repeating keyboard bit of 8 simple notes it's a bit of a heavy statement & might misrepresent the album to the casual fan. In terms of being an introduction to Burzum it's nothing like what came before or after or even after prison. But, in terms of progressive thinking it says a lot more than what had come before & in that way is a highlight. Filosofem is a look into one musician's pysche, plain & simple, away from any preconceived notions of what the outcome should sound like. This is desolate, lonely & instrospective. Actually, its very reminiscent at times of the Velvet Underground's own 30 minute live moments with "Sister Ray". Today, post-prison, Burzum has returned to a more slash & burn style then continuing along hypnotically mystical laid down with Filosofem & developed out in prison. Being that these are the more difficult albums of the Burzum catalog it is no surprise Vikernes would want to return to territory more comfortable to most listeners. The physical CD includes short stories by Vikernes to frame song meanings, making it more of a concept album than most black metal bands at the time would probably have dared do & showing some far-reaching musical creativity. Though, this is sadly lost in the download age where the booklet doesn't get downloaded.