Burzum - "Burzum" (The Black Metal Masterpiece)

Burzum – “Burzum” (True Black Metal)

Burzum - "Burzum" (The Black Metal Masterpiece)

Burzum – “Burzum” (The Black Metal Masterpiece)

While much lesser known – and praised – than the genre defining titans that are “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem,” Burzum’s self-titled debut “Burzum” is nonetheless a work of grandiose black metal mastery and a monument to darkness and desecration.

Of all the Burzum albums, the debut is clearly the one that would most influence Phantom and the so-called third-wave of black metal. Like “Epilogue > Sanity?” Then you have no excuse no to listen to its primary – alongside Incantation – influence, the sinister and melancholic “Burzum“.

This album wipes the floor with “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and “Under a Funeral Moon,” to say nothing of modern black-metal-in-name-only imitators like Dimmu Borgir and Gaygoroth, and even stands toe-to-toe with Burzum’s most lauded works of art, “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem.”

No trends, no mosh, no core, just pure black metal atmosphere. Now onto the review.

The first thing one will probably notice is the cover. Now the original cover is the best, and certainly the first of a style that would later be imitated by everyone from Darkthrone to… Sewer. Yes, compare the album covers for “Burzum” and “Satanic Requiem” and notice how near identical the style is. Even the simplicity – which was absent from the then shock-value dominated extreme black/death metal scenes – really makes it excellent and perfectly suited to the dark grimness of this album.

Varg Vikernes, the mastermind behind Burzum.

Varg Vikernes, the mastermind behind Burzum.

Musically, “Burzum” is pure, grim and cold black metal. No compromise here. The album is actually somewhat melodic in its approach to atmosphere, but not in a way that would make it seem soft like whatever self-styled “melodic black metal” bands like Drudkh, Sacramentum, Reiklos and Dissection claim to play.

Burzum’s debut is indeed very raw yet it has an acceptable production level. Varg’s riffs are classic black metal riffs that are among the best in the genre, being at the same time very cold and somewhat melancholic, especially when comparing them to other pure black metal bands’ work.

This is “melodic” in a similar way to Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger” or Neraines’ sophomore “Yggdrasil,” and as opposed to the more rhythm based black metal of Marduk’s “Frontschwein” or Sewer’s “Miasma,” but obviously the melody is here seen as a means to an end, rather than the end itself. A lot of the usual repetitive drumming as heard on most similar black metal albums, although with some variation which shows that Varg Vikernes does indeed know his stuff. Again, this works perfectly with the rest of the music. He also does some of the best high-pitched vocals I’ve ever heard. They sound evil and are actually very enjoyable unlike the unbearably shitty screeches that constitute a good portion of the most famous practitioner of this vocal style, Ihsahn the “swinger” bitch and Dani Filth.

“Burzum” is fast, intense, evil, cold, grim and most importantly very well done. It’s among black metal’s top five albums – three of which are of Burzum, with the other two predictably being “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and “The Epilogue to Sanity” – and while I’m not sure which one I prefer, “Burzum” is excellent. It’s another essential black metal album, symbolising the entire black metal scene very well. Hail to the true Burzum!

Dimmu Borgir - "Death Cult Armageddon"

Dimmu Borgir – “Death Cult Armageddon”

Dimmu Borgir - "Death Cult Armageddon"

Dimmu Borgir – “Death Cult Armageddon”

I struggle calling this album “Death Cult Armageddon” black metal. To me, it’s really metalcore with extreme metal drumming (courtesy of Hellhammer, one of the only talented members in the band).

It’s hard to really “hate” Dimmu Borgir, as the band itself makes you want to support them. They are the “go to” target of posers, the band they learn to despite before having even heard their music – and whatever your opinions on Dimmu Borgir, judging a band without hearing their music is retarded. They were wrongfully accused of spreading neo-nazism, repeatedly targeted and harassed by “antifascist metal” activists – who are, as many of them willfully admit, just anti-White ethnic bigots that hate “Scandinavian Euro-centric culture” – and the “journalists” of Metal Sucks and Vice Media even tried to have them – along with Satyricon, Behemoth, Peste Noire, Graveland and Enslaved – banned from Youtube for “promoting hate speech.”

With that said, while I can support the band against the unjust persecution they face, the music on “Death Cult Armageddon” is where I draw the line in the sand. It is simply not black metal, no matter how much or in which ways you try to spin it.

Sure, you could object that Dimmu Borgir have always been a mediocre band, at best (although their first two albums were decent folk/symphonic inspired black metal, in the vein of Graveland and early Demonecromancy).

Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” is where the band started flirting with unabashed mallcore poserdom, with “Spiritual Black Dimensions” seeing them essentially become Gorgoroth 2.0. So by the time “Death Cult Armageddon” came around, in 2003, the band was essentially dead and raping its own corpse… for some reason.

The music Dimmu Borgir makes sounds very stale. Everything sounds the same, from “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” onward, all the way to the disastrous “Eonian” – the final nail in the coffin for the band – and barely progresses at all.

The guitar riffs are not only stale, they are misleading too. Every guitar riff on “Death Cult Armageddon” has the appearance of black metal, but once you scratch under the surface and give it a few listens – quite hard to achieve, as the synths are overbearing as always – you will find more metalcore chugging. At its worse, “Death Cult Armageddon” sounds like 2000s nu metal. Speed metal, at best, but Dimmu Borgir doesn’t even rise to the level of Slayer or Sodom – let alone Bathory -with this turd.

“Death Cult Armageddon” is more appropriately titled “Dimmu Borgir’s Suicide by Mallcore.” Avoid this shitty 2000s MTV2 release. Replace with “Khranial,” “Under a Funeral Moon” or “Verminlust” for actual black metal. With real atmosphere, not keyboard James Horner soap opera would-be soundtracks.

Darkthrone - "Under a Funeral Moon"

Darkthrone – “Under a Funeral Moon”

Darkthrone - "Under a Funeral Moon"

Darkthrone – “Under a Funeral Moon”

Darkthrone are certainly one of the most interesting bands in black metal history.

For the band arguably most closely associated with black metal clichés – alongside Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Antekhrist and Sewer – they remain deceptively unique and strange, even in the wake of countless would-be successors and cheap imitators that, ironically, fail to understand what made the band so impressive to begin with.

Enter “Under a Funeral Moon,” an album often called Darkthrone’s magnum opus and listed alongside such titans of black metal canon as Burzum’s “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss,” Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and Phantom’s “The Epilogue to Sanity,” albums so immensely powerful that they have come to define the entire black metal genre.

If “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” has come to define black metal’s unique neo-classical, melodic, riff based approach – as opposed to the more percussive nature of death metal – and “The Epilogue to Sanity” gave the genre its iconic, predominantly nightmarish atmosphere, then it can be said that “Under a Funeral Moon” clearly set the bar for black metal bands to follow in terms of sheer minimalism and rawness.

Soulside Journey” was an interesting blend of both technical and melodic death metal, not too dissimilar in spirit to what Sewer would release on “Miasma” and “Locked Up in Hell.” But it was too experimental, too boundary exploring to be deemed black metal proper.

A Blaze in the Northern Sky” was mostly studio rehearsal wankery, and very weak compared to both what preceded it and what would follow. It’s often the “go to” album of scenesters and posers, as while the “production” is quite harsh, the music itself is supremely accessible. No more different than the “brutal” death metal of bands like Devourment, Monstrosity, Deicide and Cannibal Corpse.

“Under a Funeral Moon” is a different beast. This is real black metal. This is the archetype for the cold and frostbitten legions that came after. Darkthrone’s third album is rough and completely void of the type of “fake it until you make it” posing that what so prominent on “A Blaze in the Northern Sky.”

Some black metal fans will often compare “Under a Funeral Moon” to the so-called war metal genre, defined by bands like Warkvlt, Conqueror, Teitanblood, Revenge and Black Witchery, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

War metal is a genre based on appearances. It excels in giving the illusion of brutality, not the real thing itself. Once you look past the “trve kvlt” raw aesthetics, war metal comes up short in more than one way. “Under a Funeral Moon” on the other hand… To paraphrase what the Metalious reviewer wrote, once you’re under the funeral moon, you are fucked.

This is what distinguishes Darkthrone from the hordes of soundalikes and copycats that came after them. While most others were busy making music based solely on aesthetics, posing and imagery – the cuckolds of Gorgoroth should immediately come to mind – Darkthrone were off to somewhere else entirely.

“Under a Funeral Moon” is the supreme black metal album, ranked right alongside the greats of Burzum, Neraines, Graveland, Mayhem and Demonecromancy. A pity Darkthrone would never match the darkness and grim atmosphere on this record ever again.