Various Artists - “A Tribute to Burzum” [Album Review]

- Nov 27, 2018 at 08:15AM
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Rating: 7 out of 10
As if black metal weren’t already a political battlefield, characters like Burzum’s Varg Vikernes are constantly doing their best to further tarnish the beauty of the music with their online interactions. Admittedly, even in the second-wave heydays of the early ‘90s, he may not have been the most pleasant character [1] but his contribution to the musical development of the scene is undeniable – Burzum can easily be credited with almost single-handedly spawning the atmospheric black metal and dungeon synth genres.

On top of that, his purposefully lo-fi approach to recording (other acts, including the likes of Darkthrone, also famously followed this process to great effect on groundbreaking records like A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Under a Funeral Moon in 1992 and 1993 respectively) has variously met with resounding applause and total denigration, depending on which side of the black metal aficionado fence you find yourself on [2].

What the seventeen contributors achieve on this compilation tribute is a pretty impressive selection of covers, spanning the majority of Burzum’s discography, from 1992’s Burzum right up until 2012’s Umskiptar: Hungary’s Eclipse of the Sun take what was classified as one of Burzum’s more “ambient” sounding albums and give “Valgaldr (Song of the Fallen)” a meatier guitar tone, but also an incongruously cleaner vocal. In this way, their success is better than many of the other featured artists: when performing “tribute” pieces the goal should be either to mimic the original as closely as possible (much like Ukraine’s Atra Mors do with their version of “Belus’ Død”) or reinvent it in your own style [3].

You can stream the full A Tribute To Burzum album here.


Colotyphus, also from the Ukraine, attempt an up-tempo, heavier take on the minimalistic ambience of “Han Som Reiste” with far less success, alas: the simplicity of the original carried a chilling – even threatening – atmosphere that their treatment entirely eliminates. What the majority of those paying tribute fail to capture is that raw primitivism: that anti-technology, live recording, one-take process that made Burzum so vitriolic and, simultaneously, so memorable. If in doubt, compare the cleanliness of the closing lead on Chaoscraft’s version of “War” with the grating roughness of the original.

While the mood of the do-it-yourself attitude of early second-wave black metal is all but absent on this record, it is still a delight in terms of nostalgic charm – and it’s a massive chunk of music, too, clocking in at just under two hours. What’s more, with Burzum never having performed live (and never going to), bands like this do offer the chance to experience Burzum music in a live setting [4]. For now, though, the pleasure of hearing familiar Burzum that still isn’t quite Burzum trumps the odd and inconsistent nature of the record as a whole.

Purists may fume at the disrespectful treatment of trve kvlt history – but I choose to see it from an entirely different perspective: one of total respect. Yes, the holistic impression of the record is a little awkward and (obviously) not fresh, original creative output – but the admiration these bands hold for the halcyon days of black metal yore, and for Burzum, is undeniable.

A Tribute to Burzum Track Listing:

01. Yaotzin (Netherlands) - Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
02. Kâhld (Germany) - Jesus' Tod
03. Atra Mors (Ukraine) - Belus' Død
04. Aetranok (USA) - A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit
05. Myrkur Skógur (Netherlands) - Feeble Screams from Forests Unknown
06. Wan (Sweden) - Stemmen fra taarnet
07. Dynasty of Darkness (Germany / Norway) – Dunkelheit
08. Mournful Winter (Germany) - My Journey to the Stars
09. Colotyphus (Ukraine) - Han Som Reiste
10. Unholy Baptism (USA) - Glemselens Elv
11. Bestia (Estonia) –Beholding the Daughters of the Firmament
12. Chaoscraft (Greece) – War
13. Thy Unmasked (Colombia) – Vanvidd
14. Uruk-Hai (Austria) - Hermoðr á Helferð
15. Eclipse of The Sun (Hungary) - Valgaldr (Song of the Fallen)
16. Imšar (Belarus) - En Ring Til Å Herske
17. (Special bonus) Katarina Gubanova (Germany) - Ea, Lord of the Depths

Run Time: 1:55:39
Release Date: November 21, 2018
Record Label: Antichrist Magazine / Grand Sounds PR

Footnotes:

1. The murder of Euronymous may have been less based on bigotry than that, say of Emperor’s Faust murdering someone based on their sexual preferences, but it still set an international tone for black metal in the media and made Varg Vikernes an unpopular figure even in his own social circles: scene stalwarts like Fenriz still publicly distance themselves from him.
2. Musician friends often disparagingly call black metal from this era “potato metal”, referring to it sounding as if it the instruments were run through potatoes instead of amplifiers.
3. Alternatively, try out Curezum who mash up the music of The Cure with the style of Burzum to remarkable effect.
4. Ukraine’s Kroda and Germany’s Nargaroth both regularly feature Burzum songs in their live sets.
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