Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

Twenty years ago, following a short stint under the moniker Old Funeral, the Bergen born and raised Kristian Larsson Vikernes decides to form his own Black Metal project, ntitled Burzum. The story of this one man band has become known in the four corners of the earth and the reasons, as most of you are pretty aware, have not always been music related. To this very day, people’s opinion of Burzum’s music and its figurehead has been equally divided between those who support the recently released from prison Norwegian in his musical quest and those whose hate towards him is so strong that the prospect of being associated with his music is simply out of the question. One thing, however, that both sides ought to acknowledge and accept, is that Varg is not a man that knows how to give up and the proof is in the release of his ninth studio album “Fallen” – one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year.

Following the release of the ambient and minimalistic in its approach “Daudi Baldrs” (1997), there were quite a few statements made by Varg which thoroughly explained his decision to completely abandon all those Black Metal elements that helped define the band’s style in the early 90s, to the point that any return to such forms was impossible to imagine. Thankfully for the fans of Burzum’s early work, Varg seems to have reconsidered his stance, as both “Fallen” and its predecessor “Belus” (2010) herald a return to ‘classic forms’, thought from a more mature perspective. Varg’s statement that “Fallen” will appeal to fans of albums such as “Det Som Engang Var” is indeed accurate, however what must be stressed is the fact that Burzum era-2011 is much more daring and confident in its musical approach. Bathory’s influence on the dominance of simply-crafted melodies is once again audible. However, this time, the atmosphere is further enhanced through the contribution of a far more dominant bass guitar and layers upon layers of clean narrative vocals and chanting/choral refrains, all of which ensure that listening to this album’s prolonged compositions is nothing other than a massively enjoyable experience.

Following the short and quite eerie intro “Fra Verdenstreet”, the listener will come across the fast-paced and riff orientated opus “Jeg Faller” – one of the absolute highlights of the album. The main melody upon which the song is based is truly epic. Varg’s throaty vocals are much more aggressive but somehow fairly comprehensible and when combined with the short narrative themes and choral refrain, the end result is truly amazing. The nine and a half minute “Valen” may work at a slightly slower tempo but its approach is quite similar, featuring another epic sounding and quite memorable refrain, while the aggressive riffs of “Vandidd” alone should suffice to bring Burzum back into the very centre of the attention of the Black Metal community. In “Enhver Til Sitt” you get another classic sounding Burzum opus which, however, moves at a much slower tempo than its predecessor, while the ten minute monster “Budstikken” is a testament to Varg’s musical ingenuity as I cannot think of another Black Metal song that is as simply crafted and easily accessible as this, but which, at the same time, features a variety of different elements and rhythmical motifs. The conclusion to this album comes in the shape of “Til Hel Og Tibake Igjen” – a five and a half minute opus that is predominantly based on a simple tribal drum theme and which incorporates an array of whispering vocals and guitar samples, all of which help create one of the most bleak and enjoyably disturbing compositions ever found on a Burzum album!

One of the benefits of listening to Metal music for as long as I have been is that you eventually learn to treat each body of work as an entity that is separate from its creator – an entity that has a life of its own. There are no political, social or moral reasons that are responsible for me liking Burzum’s music; it is a simple case of appreciating what I consider to be good quality extreme Metal music. To me, Black Metal is all about passion and atmosphere and there isn’t a single composition on this forty six minute album that does not meet those very basic requirements and, most importantly, each time I place “Fallen” on my CD player and I press play, I somehow manage to lose track of space and time. Isn’t that what we are all looking for in any good album?

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)

The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 26 September. This marked the start of a new monthly series. Josh’s next session is Sunday 31 October.

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 26 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 28 September 2021.

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Featured Albums w/c 18 October 2021 (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 TAO Prophecy (Tarot Label Media)
12:00-13:00 LEVERAGE Above The Beyond (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 JOE TILSTON Tightrope (Our Records)

Power Plays w/c 18 October 2021 (Mon-Fri)

ABOVE SNAKES Nothing To Lose (indie)
FRANKIE AND THE WITCH FINGERS Cookin’ (Greenway Records)
LEADFINGER The Fall Of Rome (Golden Robot)
FEMEGADES Stealing Numbers (Regent Street Records)
TIGERSIDE Any Contact (indie)
INDYA Love Like Champagne (indie)
EDGE OF DESTINY Forsaken (indie)

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