What more can be said about Burzum that hasn’t been said already? We all know the sorry tale of Varg Vikernes, what with the church burnings, murder of Euronymous and subsequent incarceration. Whilst early Burzum recordings, such as 1994’s “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and 1996’s “Filosofem”, are rightly regarded as massively influential classics of the black metal genre, Vikernes’ other metallic output has been dicey at best, although some still hold a torch for the clumsy early material.
Since being released from the nick in 2009, Vikernes has been prolific, releasing two sub-“Det Som Engang Var”-aping records, a re-recording of early material and with new album “The Ways of Yore”, a third attempt at dark ambient, the genre he first visited whilst in prison with the Casio keyboard based “Daudi Baldrs”. It’s also important to remember that Vikernes has maintained a public profile with his frequent politically incorrect rants on his blog and even finding the time to be arrested in France accused of planning an Anders Breivik-style massacre. This may hopefully put an end to this pantomime villain’s colourful career but if it doesn’t, “The Ways of Yore” may be the final nail in the coffin, for it is one of the most utterly dreadful recordings you are ever likely to hear.
Once again based on Vikernes’ imagined fantasy of Europe’s pagan past, where Aryan supermen crushed the ‘dark races’ in battle before settling down to study ancient runes whilst sat on their cosy sabre-toothed tiger rug, “The Ways of Yore” is essentially a Poundstretcher version of Wardruna’s recent “Yggdrasil” album. Guitars and any sense of rhythm and rudimentary song structure are ignored in place of out-of-time percussion, jarring stabs of synth and dull-as-dishwater folk motifs. Tracks such as ‘The Lady in the Lake’ and ‘Hall of the Fallen’ sound like someone dicking around with the ‘Create Your Own Track!’ feature that you used to get on mobile phones circa 2006 while the whimsical melodies of ‘Autumn Leaves’ would have been rejected from an Enya album for being too pussy.
Mercifully, the ‘dungeon ambient’ vibe of previous albums has been ditched in favour of a supposedly more ‘natural’ sound but Vikernes’ judgement of what constitutes as atmosphere is seriously wide of the mark, and with artists such as the aforementioned Wardruna really nailing this ancient, not-actually-pagan-but-probably-close sound, he comes across as completely out of his depth, outflanked by more talented and visionary artists. As for his vocals, the feral howl of before is gone, replaced by the off-key drunk campfire slur-along of ‘Heill Odin’ and the half-arsed spoken word of ‘The Reckoning of Man.’
Also included is an utterly pointless re-recording of ‘Tomhet’ and an extended version of 2011’s ‘Til Hel og tilbake igjen’ which only serve to bulk out the album to a bloated sixty-eight minutes. It’s almost a tacit admittance that this new material is way below par and that its creator has ran out of ideas, yet desperately wants to stay in the public eye. Well Varg, it ain’t gonna work. While there will still be a core base of fan boys who own too much camo gear and believe in the New World Order who will no doubt lap up the latest output from their prophet, for the rest of us this is yet more proof of the utter irrelevance of Varg Vikernes, artistically or otherwise.