Sound — 8
There are so many elephants in this room that slaying them all would be impractical; talk, talk and more talk about the return of Varg Vikernes has taken the metal community by force, but there is only one piece of contextual information that needs to be mentioned for this review. I was not around for the release of the last Burzum album, and neither were the vast majority of you, the readers. So let us not pretend to be omniscient experts on the man or his music; I sit and write with iTunes and Microsoft Word open, and you sit and read using your browser of choice. Let's get down to business. Once the intro track (presumably Varg throwing rocks at prison walls and/or gypsy caravans) has come and gone, the ancient sound of his truest Norwegian black metal breaks through the millennial barrier triumphantly. The production on the album has clearly been attended to, if not polished, and since buzzsaw' sounds and suffocating mixes could never have the same mysterious effect that they did on Filosofem' or Hvis Lyset Tar Oss', this record instead benefits from clarity and a compelling synergy between guitars, bass and drums. The natural hypnosis that comes attached to the tremolo picked school of black metal riffery is used to the full here, particularly on the ritualistic Keliohesten'. Chordal riffs are also a strength, draping the album in a cold, wet mist that not even the greatest imitators could replicate. Exempt from this, however, is Sverddans', a bloodless thrash metal track that sounds like the result of Varg learning Angel Of Death' from a dodgy tab. Luckily it is half the length of any other song on Belus', and therefore doesn't really detract from proceedings.
Lyrics — 7
As I found out on the English version of Burzum's website, we have American imperialism to thank for the lack of English translations for the lyrics of Belus', but it is no matter. In fact, we can be thankful for the lack of professional translation, as the ever-reliable Google Translate has informed me that the track Belus' Dd' includes such lines as Onions are added in the linen and magic verse trolleys! I'm sure that was the gist of it.
Overall Impression — 8
A lot of people will already have their minds made up about this one. Some will reject it based on morality, some will be humping a leaked version, and some maniacs had already dismissed it based on thirty second samples. I guess these are the sorts of things to expect when dealing with a man like Vikernes - one of the very few extreme metal musicians to hold celebrity' status - and indeed when dealing with this, the most anticipated extreme metal album of all time. However, the appeal of the music is still there, and is still the chief reason why so many are drawn in. It is unlikely that Belus' will reach the hallowed halls of pre-Daui Baldrs' Burzum, but an altogether more refined performance (concerning the drums and vocals, in particular) and a handful of thoroughly excellent songs make it more than worth listening to, just in case curiosity hadn't already convinced you.