Sunday, February 21, 2010

Burzum - Belus

What is probably the most anticipated album in the history of recent black metal has finally made its rounds through the blogs and torrents of the virtual universe, effectively killing all curious speculation. Queuing it up and hitting play, we are treated to fuzzy distortion, casual, simplistic percussion, evanescent melodies and realize that, yes, we are indeed listening to the resurrected Burzum. Aside from the obvious similarities on the surface, however, Belus is actually quite different from any of its predecessors.

Every album should have a single direction, a fundamental idea, as it were, that the music must convey through whatever means necessary. Prior Burzum records are primarily concentrated on capturing a sense of the arcane, reveling in darkness, and emphasizing the juxtaposition between the Nordic mythos and Christianity; the sound and thematic development of each reflected this through a musical immersion into darkness, death, mystery and chaos, which can ultimately be said for much of the early black metal movements. Belus takes a firm step away from this.

Although it certainly retains the characteristic features of classic Burzum, the latest has been launched in an entirely new direction, which can be immediately be identified by simply learning the meaning of the god Belus (and we must of course remember the original title, 'The White God', which is essentially the opposite of the usual exaltation of the Dark Lord, or Satan), who represents beauty and sunlight, much like Apollo in Grecian mythology. This, and the lyrics which portray the eventual victory of Summer over the ghastly Winter season, help to demonstrate Belus' thematic departure from conventional black metal.

The music itself does not readily acknowledge the transformation of ideals, but it does not set out to do so, electing to remain firmly entrenched in traditional black metal. Belus aims to tell a story, and to put the final nail in the coffin of original black metal by effectively announcing the triumph of Summer and the birth of Apollonian beauty; yet, this Burzum album is not Summer; it is the falling of rain and the melting of snow.

In regard to metal, Belus is not as good as any of the original Burzum albums; the last song, for example, is almost as boring as Sunn O))), and Sverddans, while proving that even Burzum can play thrash better than most thrash bands since the eighties, is a musical anomaly on this record. It is no less successful than the others, however, in achieving what it wants to achieve; just as Det Som Engang Var emerged victorious in evoking the dramatic mystery and the danger of the depths, so too is Belus in narrating the mythological sequence that metaphorically relates to the enigmatic phenomenon of black metal. In closing, Burzum inspired new life with its transcendent compositional power in the early nineties, and now its vision has calmly laid that same spirit to rest at the beginning of this new decade, and still we may ask the pertinent question: is the Count Grishnakh heretic or visionary?

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