Sound: Whatever anyone has to say about Varg Vikernes, let it never be said he can't pull of surprises. A notable contributor to extreme music in more ways than one (I'll leave your imagination up to that), this new record Fallen is a sign of renewal on his part and could very well signify something big. But what's 'Fallen' all about?
At a glance, it's not too different from previous album Belus but it has many signs from Burzums earlier, darker albums. Most notable of all is the production: Although its as black metal as it can get, the recording, mixing and mastering is more dynamic but still sounds contained within the listeners space. Varg always has a huge melodic sensibility in his work, the title track 'Valen/Fallen' being a prime example on this album: its filled with traditional metal riffs, arpeggiated chords and a post-rock style build up of melody between the guitars and bass (yes, audible bass, a revelation). Although vocally Varg could probably up his game a bit by now, the sound of Fallen is more about interlaced textures through notes rather than if a guitar sounds like shit or not, etc. This basically is me saying, he knows how to write it, its just pulling it off is what he needs to work on. Bands could have the most top notch production yet bore the trousers off your legs with bad songs (like Arch Enemy) but Burzum really flips that idea around. // 8
Lyrics: Lyrically, Varg's always going to get plus points for this. Although written and sung entirely in Norwegian (as far as I can tell), Varg comments that the themes are self-introspective and more focused existential issues but still having some ideas from Belus providing a philosophical undercurrent. Its all well and good having music written in an artists native tongue, its just a shame not everyone understands Norwegian in that respect. Makes this listener feel left out (sad face).
Having commented on Varg's vocals before, more should be said. Although he could perhaps improve his cleanly sung vocals to a degree, as they sound buried behind guitars in the mix even when they had layered choral chants, his harsh vox are as foreboding as a Monday morning (we all know that feeling of dread, or most should anyway) and compliment the sound of Burzum as well as they have ever done, if still stifled a little by mixing. // 7
Overall Impression: Well as Burzum is Burzum, saying it sounds like Burzum is a bit pointless. But you'll be glad to know it sounds like Burzum. Seriously though, its actually 'nice' to listen to in some bits, particularly midway through 'Budstikken' which for no reason just makes me think of Fear Factory. If Belus was ever in need of improvement, then this strumps it. That said, the entire 'ambient' bit of Burzum seems to be strangely missing. Although the melodies are somewhat transcendent (quite surprisingly), only two of the songs are fully ambient and the main chunk of the material has barely any Burzum-ish ambience at all, which may or may not hurt the fans to know.
But still, given the fact that this was done in 2 weeks with some fairly standard equipment (save an instrument or two), its pretty good, although not spectacular.
Songs to look out for: 'Jeg Faller', 'Valen', 'Vanvidd', 'Budstikken', 'Enhver til sitt'. // 7