Saturday, January 28, 2012

Burzum — Filosfem

Black metal is probably one of the most marginal musical genres. It is, not surprisingly, the genre that makes the most efforts to be marginalized. New albums are released on cassettes with photocopied artwork, sound is dirty and low-fi, imagery is morbid or shocking. Everything is calculated to make it as unpleasant as possible to the majority of people. Black metal has been in existence since the 80's. However, it is in Norway during the 90's that a little group of friends were to make the music known to the world. Murder, church burnings, satanic statements did the headlines of Norwegian press in the 90's.

Burzum is the one-man band of Varg Vikernes, one of the figures of 90's Norwegian black metal (later imprisoned for murder and church burnings). He released a few surprisingly good albums, different from what black metal was used to sound like at the time. This genre was later called atmospheric black metal.

Filosofem is my favorite Burzum album. It has a minimalist sound, often repetitive, very low-fi and dirty. Varg coined the term necrosound to describe it. Dunkelheit, the opening track of the album is pretty good and you can feel yourself transported to a nightmarish universe listening to it. It's a music that evokes nature and pagan rituals (like the beautiful artwork of Theodor Kittelsen on the cover. Towards the end of the album there is two ambient electronic music tracks, very simple, sometimes too simple but I like them. One of them is 25 minutes!

Musicianship isn't impressive but it is very expressive within the limit of the musician. A little bit like a children's drawing, naive art or primitive paintings. This album succeeds in being touching, with limited resources. Varg Vikernes isn't a great composer but he's an artist with a vision. Altough I prefer to enjoy his music and keep a distance from his ideas (an idiotic mix of fascism and paganism).

Surprisingly, black metal is getting fashionable nowadays (much to the despise of "true black metallers"). There is a new american black metal scene, sometimes labeled "hipster black metal", with a more artsy approach. But we can definitely hear in these groups the influence of Burzum (Wolves in the Throne Room and Liturgy).


  1. Black metal is not really my cuppa, but I do like Dunkelheit - thanks for introducing me to it, I wouldn't have heard it otherwise.

  2. I wasn't into black metal really before hearing this album. Then I discovered a lot of Burzum inspired bands that I love. I like the themes, the snow, paganism, the forests, the north etc. Not very much into more "violent" black metal.