Burzum – Umskiptar

Since the first time I experienced, and truly “got” Burzum, I have been lost in its otherworldly void. The classics simply never grow old or fall victim to the strain of countless legions of bands that bled inspiration from Varg Vickernes. Other than several creatively luke warm synth releases, Burzum’s preservation is impressive and unbelievable. Perhaps a safety barrier was achieved due to the fact that this musical entity is often imitated, but never truly copied… a sad fate experienced by bands such as Suffocation and Cannibal Corpse who’s musical output was severely weakened over the years by blind (and accurate) musical idolators. Due to the inherently unique sound and vision Varg possesses and so effortlessly produces time and time again, Burzum remains pure and virtually unscathed by the passage of time and well documented years of hibernation. Such a long hiatus is often the death knell for any highly regarded artist as the allure of fan expectation pulls them back into writing music, and of course an all too common loss of inspiration finds them going though the motions. The day he entered prison, it was like he hit <> on the discman, only to return from where he left off all those years ago. The post prison releases “Belus” and “Fallen” have both been remarkable jewels in the Burzum pantheon of “essential” albums and sit quite comfortably alongside the greatness of “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem” respectively. Though his vocal stylings further drifted away from the despondent crying orc shrieks of his youth, the harsh throaty screams as first experienced on the song “Dunkelheit”, are further explored with success and perfectly uphold the melodious din of full chords and smart melodies that are the very trademark of pure Norwegian black metal.
After being thoroughly impressed by the expertly written and performed “Fallen”, I knew in the back of my mind that a change was coming. This was even more evident to me after Varg revisited tracks from the first few albums on the poorly received “From the Depths of Darkness”. Though many found the release pointless, I really connected with his vision for this album. Let’s face it… the source material is already great, why not take it for what it is and see what an older and (hopefully) wiser man can do with something forged in youthful fire. Surprisingly, the outcome was very reminiscent of the originals, other than the slight difference of a more scathing vocal performance. I found it interesting to hear that the years hadn’t changed him, or how he perceived his music. It all had come full circle. Enter “Umskiptar”…
My initial take on the album was poor. I greatly disliked it. Tracks 2-6 felt like out takes from “Fallen” of songs that had sound ideas, but just weren’t quite there yet to make the cut. Tracks 7-11 moved further away from the traditional black metal and Burzum aesthetic finding clean singing/spoken narrative dominating the crawl of this material and song structures that rarely fluctuated from a 2 riff maximum. No drums. No carefully planned ferocity. The songs just sat there, resembling a children’s bedtime story set to minimal music. Fighting through the disappointment, I kept at it in spite of Umskiptar’s seemingly benign persona. Then the switch in my head was turned on. There was enough of that Burzum spark there to keep me interested and about the 4th time through this album, I found myself calmer and more open minded to receive and enjoy the material. The metal tracks still feel almost transitional and a bit uncertain of themselves, but with a crushingly impressive scream in “Aera (Honour)” and crisp dissonance emitting from the predominantly mid paced nature of these songs, the imperfections melted away and I found myself connecting with Burzum again. Revisiting the 2nd half of Umskiptar, the absence of percussion and distortion unlocks what can only be described as a quiet and haunting loneliness. Especially on the excellent and hypnotic “Gullaldr (Golden Age)”. The sound is introspective and bleak. 1 or 2 clean guitar lines. 1 voice. Reverb. Repeat. The depression that has always been a part of Varg’s musical arsenal is still present, but that mystical woodland atmosphere and charm has been purposely avoided on Umskiptar which has definitely angered the general Burzum fanbase. And yes… that is fine. Varg doesn’t owe you anything.
“Umskiptar” is for lack of a better term, “weird”, but still undoubtedly Burzum. Is that good enough? Yes! I respect him for trying something different and presenting it to a demographic of music fans not exactly known for being very open minded.Though I may not grab for this often when I desire the escape from reality that only this musical entity can provide, “Umskiptar” is the perfect companion for a quiet, candle lit room and Norwegian guided meditation. Who knows what stylistic direction Burzum will take at this point, but one thing is for sure, Varg Vickernes isn’t writing this music with your feelings and desires in mind. -Marty
Bylobog Productions

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~ by martyworm on September 30, 2012.

6 Responses to “Burzum – Umskiptar”

  1. I thought the second record was by far the best part of this album. Side A and B tended to remind me (like you) of Fallen. The new style Varg has introduced reminds me a tad of Tenhi. I really enjoyed this immensely. Great review.

  2. Thanks for checking it out!

  3. Contender for ‘best of 2012’ for me. Few musicians in this field of music create such highly original and uncompromising art. Visionary. The fact that Varg the man remains such an enigma, seemingly totally indifferent to the outside world only adds up to Burzum’s excellence.

  4. He definitely lives by his own rules in his own world. Perhaps this keeps his art pure. Either way I’m a fan. i dont agree with many things he’s into, but his music has always affected me….

  5. He definitely lives by his own rules in his own world. Perhaps this keeps his art pure. Either way I’m a fan. i dont agree with many things he’s into, but his music has always affected me….

  6. The man certainly has said and done some controversial (to say the least!) things… I don’t necessarily agree with his views and actions (and those promo photos on the Burzum site are downright ridiculous!) but his unapologetic stance and the way he doesn’t seem to force his views on anyone earns my respect. And of course the music… ‘Umskiptar’ makes me long for winter, snow and fire in the hearth (none of which are here alas hahaha).

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