Album review: BURZUM – Sol Austan, Mani Vestan

Byelobog Productions – Out Now.

Having paid his dues to both the Norwegian penitentiary system and society at large, Kristian Larsson “Varg” Vikernes has since been a very busy man indeed. Under his highly controversial moniker Burzum, and with the support of Byelobog Productions, the forty-year-old composer has managed, since 2009, to release one album a year, making him more productive than any other Norwegian Black Metal artist out there.

“Sol Austan, Mani Vestan” is the fourth album recorded during the second phase in Burzum’s career but, as this review will show, it is quite different from Varg’s more traditional/back to the roots releases, such as “Belus” (2010) and “Umskiptar” (2011).

What we have here is an eleven track release, created to provide a fitting soundtrack to “ForeBears” – a low budget film that the musician produced together with his wife and which is being described as “a spiritual journey back in time”.

A film with such subject matter can be supported and represented in various musical ways but Varg decided to look back into the late 90s and albums such as “Daudi Baldrs” (1997) and “Hlidskjalf” (1999) for inspiration. This time round, instead of having to rely on a basic synthesizer and a normal tape recorder, courtesy of the Norwegian government, Varg was able to work in an environment of his choice that resulted in “Sol Austan, Mani Vestan” sounding much more mature and balanced in comparison.

Even so, listening to Burzum’s tenth studio album can hardly be described as a ‘walk in the park’, appealing mainly to those who are either loyal Burzum converts or those who enjoy listening to all things dark and moody. Why?

Well, Varg’s use of keyboards is hardly conventional, indulging in minimalistic notations whose purpose is to create mood and atmosphere, not catchy melodies for the faint-hearted. That means that if your idea of enjoying music includes listening to your music collection during an open-top car drive on a warm summer’s day, then you should stay well away from this album.

If, on the other hand, dark, spacey keyboards and repetitive highly introvert sounds are your idea of heaven then songs like “Sun-journey”, “Forebear Cave” and “Death’s Darkness” will creep their way onto your sound system over and over again.

I have always been highly intrigued by Varg’s musical escapades and, though currently not quite in the mood for an album like “Sol Austan, Mani Vestan”, I am sure that the time will come when I will appreciate the music and understand the intentions behind this album.

Actually, I believe that my understanding of Burzum’s latest album will not be complete nor my evaluation truly substantiated before I have seen “ForeBears” – the film whose mood and feel this music is made to enhance. Till then…

John Stefanis

Rating: *** (3.0/5.0)


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