Album review: BURZUM – The Ways Of Yore

Byelobog Productions – Out Now.

Since his release from prison back in 2009, Kristian “Varg” Vikernes has found himself in a truly creative mode, with every passing year witnessing the release of another new Burzum album.

His first recordings as a free man witnessed a return to music forms of old but in 2013’s “Sol Austan, Mani Vestan” the forty one year old Norwegian is more interested in minimalistic keyboard-focused ambient forms.

Burzum’s eleventh studio release “The Ways Of Yore” continues on a musical path similar to that of its predecessor, however, comes across as a better balanced album in comparison.

Varg’s first two ambient releases under the Burzum moniker, namely “Daudi Baldrs” (1997) & “Hlidskjalf” (1999), were impressive artistic endeavours but were clearly products of necessity rather than choice, as the Norwegian had limited access to basic musical instruments while incarcerated.

“Sol Austan, Mani Vestan” may have been a far more mature release by comparison but, having appeared a good fourteen years after the above-mentioned releases, it mainly served to re-introduce a certain side of Vikernes’ musical character in further need of exploration instead of helping him make a strong artistic statement – a statement that has now been clearly made by “The Ways Of Yore”.

From a technical and compositional point of view “The Ways Of Yore” is a pretty simple affair but it is Varg’s unique skill in adorning these catchy melodies with epic narratives and haunting choral chants that makes his latest studio album such an irresistible musical proposition.

No two compositions could sound more different than the medieval “The Portal” and the chant-like ode “Heill Odinn”, but it is when they are placed one after the other that one realises how much they blend and complement each other.

While listeners are guaranteed to enjoy the dark futuristic keyboard passages in songs like “The Lady In The Lake” and “The Reckoning Of Man”, and eventually will succumb to their trance-like qualities, they will recognise Varg’s unique compositional credentials in atmospheric narrative-style jewels such as “Heil Freyja” and “Ek Fellr (I Am Falling)”.

In the closing duet “Emptiness” (note: reworking of “Tomhet”) / “To Hel And Back Again” (note: reworking of “Til Hel Og Tilbake Iglen”), the enigmatic Norwegian not only offers two of the lengthiest Burzum compositions to date but, from an emotional point of view, adds another twist to this eleventh hauntingly beautiful epic tale.

Politics and personal philosophies have informed and influenced the way Burzum’s music has been perceived since the early 90s  and one can only feel sad in the knowledge that, as a result of that fact, an album of the quality of “The Ways Of Yore” will be rejected outright by a significant proportion of the world-wide Metal community.

Those of you, however, who will choose to treat this thirteen track release as a piece of art will enjoy an album of unique atmospheric quality – one that can become an ideal companion to one’s introspection.

John Stefanis

Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)

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