Style: instrumental, symphonic metal, dark ambient, Norwegian
Label: Dead Ringer
Members: Varg Vikernes ~ synthesizers
1996's Filosofem is a fascinating Burzum album. It was composed over time but recorded in one final sweep before it's composer, Varg Vikernes aka Count Grishnackh, went to prison for fifteen years & was banned from using real instruments, though not released until after his incarceration. The album was a big unpredictable step forward from Burzum's roots. It was not a harsh listen with heavily distorted guitars & rough vocals but a droning quasi-symphonic landscape more in common with industrial than black metal. What was recorded next would be a bigger surprise, yet at the same time picked up what was put into place with Filosofem. The resulting Dauthi Baldrs ranks up there with Filosofem as two of the most fascinating albums under the name Burzum & maybe in the early black metal world as a whole. Dauthi Baldrs might even be just as influential to later bands as the early Burzum albums considering the amount of later black metal that sounds like this. If it wasn't influential in a strict timeline sense it certainly helped to build bridges between death metal, industrial & dark ambient genres. Vikernes recorded & released two albums in prison that utilized only a synthesizer dubbed into a standard tape recorder, the only equipment he was allowed. This meant a complete facelift of the Burzum sound with the result being symphonic death metal before the genre existed & industrial & dark ambient when the genres were still more underground than not. It's the best of the droning emotive notes of Filosofem but now with a heavy melodic development that moves like gentle waves painting lonely landscapes with simple minimalist lines. Perhaps early Burzum included all of this, but it was lost under the distorted guitars. While the instrumental approach means the focus, or distraction depending on what you hear, of the vocals now gives way to the melody which is far more developed out. It's such a hypnotic outcome I was disappointed when Vikernes got out the jail & went back to the jagged distorted guitars. "Dauthi Baldrs" or "The Death Of Baldr" includes crashing percussion with sounds emulating violins. Vikernes pulls a lot out of his limited palette & the percussion aspect is particularly exciting. "Hermothr A Helferth" ("Hermothr An A Journey to Hel") feels like a harpsichord, whereas both "Balferth Baldrs" ("Baldr's Balefire") & "Moti Ragnarokum" ("Towards Ragnarok") feel like symphonic ensenbles with the later having piano interludes. "I Heimr Heljar" ("In Hel's Home") has an interesting percussive aspect. "Illa Tithandi" ("Ill Tidings") is a ten minute meditation that feels like classical composer John Adams or industrial a la early Nine Inch Nails. One could talk about the classical strains, the folk motifs, the connection to traditional music forms contained here. One could even discuss the psychological aspects of the music given how far away this is from early Burzum. But, for this blog, that might be missing the point of how enjoyable this is. What could be a strange experimental album sacrificing enjoyment for the art, this straddles both worlds pleasurably. There is a simplicity here in the simple lines, but at the same time complex arrangements that are anything but haphazardly thrown together. The album tells the story of Baldr, the son of Odin in Norse mythology, but without lyrics or English liner notes, most will neither hear nor perceive the story. "Hermothr A Helferth" ("Hermothr An A Journey to Hel") feels like a harpsichord, whereas both ("Baldr's Balefire") & "Moti Ragnarokum" ("Towards Ragnarok") feel like symphonic ensenbles with the later having piano interludes. "I Heimr Heljar" ("In Hel's Home") has an interesting percussive aspect. "Illa Tithandi" is an alternative version of "Decrepitude I" & "Balferth Baldrs" is an ambiant version of the main riff from "Jesu Dod", which both appeared on Filosofem. The title track would be remade as "Belus Dod" on 2010's Belus, the first post-prison album.