(Copyright © 1999-2016 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Mayhem: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994), 6.5/10
Burzum: Burzum (1991), 6/10
Burzum: Det Som Engang (1993), 6/10
Burzum: Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994), 7/10
Burzum: Filosofem (1996), 7/10
Burzum: Daudi Baldrs (1997), 5/10
Burzum: Hlidskjalf (1999), 5/10
Mayhem: Grand Declaration of War (2000)

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Mayhem were among the pioneers of Scandinavian black metal. Formed in the mid 1980s by guitarist Oystien "Euronymous" Aarseth and bassist Jorn "Necrobutcher" Stubberud, they released the raw EPs Pure Fucking Armageddon (1986) and Deathcrush (1987), featuring vocalist Sven-Erik "Maniac" Kristiansen. New vocalist Per-Yngve "Dead" Ohlin (an original founder of Morbid who had joined in 1988) committed suicide in 1991 (replaced by "Attila") and Stubberud left the band, which began to indulge in pseudo-nazi postures. Aarseth was murdered in 1993 by new bassist Christian "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes, who played on the furious De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994).

While documented only on live and demo recordings (and one single), "Dead" became one of the most influential vocalists of black metal.

Before the murder, Grishnackh had already recorded his new project Burzum (1991). The debut album contains lengthy super-distorted nightmares such as Black Spell of Destruction (one of his most covered songs), Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown, A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit and My Journey To The Stars. Burzum/Aske (Back On Black, 2005) reissues the first album and the first EP.

While in prison, Grishnackh continued to record Burzum albums, that progressively shifted towards a more electronic/ambient sound. Daudi Baldrs (1997 - Back On Black, 2005) was the first album recorded in prison (although released only several years later) and arranged with keyboards only.

Burzum's suspenseful and otherwordly Det Som Engang (1993 - Back On Black, 2005) unleashed the epics of En Ring Til aa Herske (seven minutes), with its repetition of dull heavy riffs over a layer of catacomb-tinged murmurs, and Snu Mikrokosmos Tegn (nine minutes), with its three minutes of death-scream and frantic grindcore beat followed by a cold five-minutes wind of guitar distortion and macabre vocals before a stately melody finally surfaces. The agonizing hymn of Key To The Gate, imbued with horror spirituality, is screamed over a carpet of slowly-burning guitar tones and is emotionally ripped apart by a soaring romantic solo. Its counterpart is the relatively "lively" Lost Wisdom, thanks to an almost danceable beat and a more melodic bass line. The glacially surreal instrumental soundscapes of Han Som Reiste (a slow-paced sonata for keyboards) and Nar Himmelen Klarner (mostly a drum-less guitar solo) are cryptic footnotes to this obscure treatise. Besides providing the demonic vocals, Grishnackh played all the instruments, layered the instruments in a suffocating manner, and set the music to a demented rhythm that subverted the accepted rules of black metal. This album de facto closed the purely metal stage of Burzum's career.

A compositional leap forward, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994) contains only four massively droning glacial pieces and features electronic arrangements. After a brief keyboard-dominated overture, Det Som En Gang Var (14:21) sets about its business of anthemic extended distortion over steady drumming, accompanied by a nostalgic electronic melody. After seven minutes the guitar's tone becomes louder, sharper and sideral. The vocals finally enter after nine minutes: it's a terrible scream that dialogues with the stately keyboard theme, while the guitar takes the back seat.
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (8:05) pushes the boundaries of Burzum's noise. After a brief introduction of loud and dense instrumental chaos, the guitar intones a majestic melody although smothered into a layer of relentless distortion, while the screams get more and more desperate. Eventually the music returns to the original furious chaos.
For the pummeling rhythm of Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen (7:52) the guitar and the drums seem to compete in hysteria. The vocals do little to restore order, but suddenly a new guitar line emerges that is basically a modulated drone. This grows and establishes an actual melodic theme.
A feeble electronic line opens Tomhet (14:12), that for eleven minutes has absolutely no drumming. It is basically a quiet electronic sonata that could have been conceived for a new-age meditation session.
Burzum tried ever different avenues to pack its psychic force into sound, and, ultimately, conveyed a sense not so much of desperation as of angry impotence. Burzum's music can achieve a Wagner-ian intensity by simply repeating a slightly modulated distortion.

Burzum's technical masterpiece was Filosofem (1996), containing five pieces in the seven-eight minute range and one colossal suite.
Erblicket Die Toechter Des Firmaments/ Beholding The Daughters Of The Firmament has the steady, sinister pace of a voodoo dance. This time the burning distortion sets the stage for the counterpoint between the monk's choir in the background and Grishnackh's moribund lament.
In Dunkelheit/ Burzum guitar and keyboards intone a macabre litany over the massively distorted droning. The tense vocals that compete with them are reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails.
The search for an atmospheric sound (or at least an atmospheric structure) leads to the protracted unfinished suspense Gebrechlichkeit/ Decrepitude I. And the instrumental Gebrechlichkeit/ Decrepitude II is born at the intersection of casual electronic noises and a crescendo of guitar distortion.
Frenzy, on the other hand, can be a meaning (and a means) in itself. The galloping Jesu Dod/ Jesus' Tod does little to inject life into a virtually infinite loop of epileptic fits. Burzum's music is a frantically twitching carcass.
The 25-minute instrumental monolith Rundtgaing Av Den Transcendentale Egenbetens Stotte/ Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Saule Der Singularitaet returns to the drum-less riff-less drone-less format of Tomhet, just a sparse electronic soundscape. Indeed a philosophical ending to a brainy album.

This phase ended with the mini-album Hlidskjalf (1999 - Back On Black, 2005), the ideal end of the loop, again an all-keyboards work.

Grand Declaration of War (Necropolis, 2000) marked a new beginning, shifting the center of mass towards spoken vocals and keyboards.

Draugen (Back On Black, 2006) collects Burzum rarities.

Mayhem's Maniac formed Skitliv with Shining's Kvarforth and SUNNO)))'s Attila that released Amfetamin (Cold Spring, 2008).

Released after spending 16 years in prison, Burzum celebrated with Belus (Byelobog Productions, 2010) and Fallen (Byelobog, 2011), both mediocre attempts to return to his black-metal roots.

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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