The Meaning of Burzum, and a study of the music
("When they ruined my anonymity I had to give up that idea, and I eventually stopped using a pseudonym. I wanted Burzum to be well-known, not me, but that obviously didn't work out the way I had planned." (1) This statement does I think validate my decision to focus on the music not all the particulars of Varg's life, and his extra-musical activities. Check out my w/u of him at Varg Vikernes for a little bit of that information.)
"These rivers of Will and Hope run throughout the landscape of Burzum. This is the spirit of Burzum; new life through death, creation through destruction, light through darkness, peace through war, warmth through cold." From "The Spirit of Burzum" by Varg Vikernes.
Burzum was created with the intent to create a sonic space to surround the listeners, to give them a place to escape into, a musically fantasy world. "While playing in Old Funeral I had kept my interest for RPGs and was still heavily inspired by the magic of fantasy. I think I have said that Burzum had an occult concept, but it is more correct to say it was a magical concept, or a concept built on fantasy magic. Everything with Burzum was out-of-this-world, even the name."(1)
To do this, he created his music, from the very beginning, with ambient structure. Although the first two albums Burzum LP and Det Som Engag Var were fully of the black metal style becoming known from Mayhem, etc. the albums are also original in their use of ambient structures (and songs) put together with minimalistic guitar riffs. From here, as would be repeated in later music, there is a common theme of a slight switch from major key guitar riffs to minor key riffs, to create an unease, and also to slightly change the mood of similar sounding riffs. Changes of the strumming of these minimalistic riffs also created a slowly changing evolving motif. Most songs used only a few motifs throughout, but would structure them together to form a whole, most songs sound like fully organic constructions, barely human. When later Burzum albums featured 14 to 25 minutes of ambient material, or was made up solely of ambient material, they would be structured in the exact same fashion, only with keyboards and without vocals. The fact is that these repeating simple motifs are very difficult to ascertain any reasons for why they are so atmospherically evocative. But, Varg states that in Burzum he was attempting an "Occultic" or "magical" creation. Basically by putting his whole mind and soul into the creation, much of himself was snapped into place within the music. This is my theory for a reason how such minialistic music can create such strong feelings, thoughts, images and emotions.
"Burzum was supposed to be such a symbol. Burzum was an attempt to create (or "recreate" if You like) an imaginary past, a world of fantasy - that in turn was based on our Pagan past. Burzum in itself was a spell. The songs were spells and the albums were arranged in a special way, to make the spells work. Burzum was not intended for live-shows, but instead it was supposed to be listened to in the evening, when the sunbeams couldn't vaporize the power of the magic, and when the listener was alone - preferably in his or her bed, going to sleep. The two first albums are made for the LP format, meaning each side as a spell, so they don't work on CD unless you program the CD-player to only play the tracks of one side of the LP at the time. The later albums were created for CD, so they don't work as well on LP. The first track was supposed to calm down or rather "prepare" the listener, and make him or her more "susceptible" to the magic, the next song or songs were supposed to exhaust the listener and put him or her in a trancelike state of mind, and last track should "calm down" the listener and carry him or her into the "world of fantasy" - when he or she fell asleep. That was the spell, the magic that would make the imaginary past, the world of fantasy, real (in the mind of the listener). If You take a look at the Burzum albums and how they are built up You will see what I mean. The last track of the "spell" (LP side or CD) is always a calm (often synthesizer) track. Whether this works or not is of course another question, but that was the idea anyhow." (1)
All albums, like I have said, are perfectly orchestrated and put together. However I do not know the fullness of how Varg created the music. I don't think he just made it up on the spot, for the creation does seem human enough to seem reasoned out beforehand, however the constructions have none of the humanistic jerkiness of most metal (particularly death metal, before and after) before it. This is true of 90% of True Norwegian Black Metal. All of these bands seem connected due to an otherworldly fluidity of creation. Burzum is perhaps one of the most fluid. Very few musicial projects could so sucessfully combined black metal with ambient music and made it work as well as Burzum, and that is just on the first album. On the last two albums, the combination became one, to the point that not only did the ambient tracks seem like a organic piece of the whole, they were accepted by black metal fans (though to be truthful mostly those who were already Burzum fans) fully.
Burzum LP and Det Som Engang Var
"The message of Burzum is really all summed up in the lyrics of the first track ("Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown") on the first album. That was all I had to say really, and the rest of the Burzum lyrics are only like footnotes to this one."(1)
On the first album it was obvious that Varg himself was still under the influence of his old metal albums, and also perhaps Euronymous and Mayhem. But I think it is truthful when he states that "In 1991 most of the metal musicians in Norway believed Euronymous was a so-called cool guy, but in mid or late 1992 most of us realized that he was not" (1), for around this time it is easy to notice that Darkthrone (who had dedicated A Blaze in the Northern Sky to Euronymous) were also feeling (or at least all members except Fenriz) that the "black metal scene" was in many ways a scam (they state a lot on the Peaceville reissues of the first four albums that black metal wasn't really a true scene until around 1994 or 1995, interestingly around the same time Anus.com says black metal died). I am not sure of other bands, and nor am I totally sure of Darkthrone, so I will not go down this pathway any further. What I mainly meant by quoting that is that I think that Varg by the time he recorded the next album was attempting to divorce himself completely of Euronymous' influence on his music. However, on the Burzum LP it is easy to notice the influence of Euronymous' guitar playing on a young Varg, listen to the guitar riffs of the opener or of "Ea, Lord of the Depths." But there is one main difference, whilst Euronymous was seemingly attempting to create as cold and dismal an atmosphere as possible, Varg was attempting to create a musical world within the confines of an LP. Like a Visionary poet (or perhaps a Surrealist one) Varg is attempting to draw us into a dark, fertile world of night visions, terror and perhaps a distant light. The over-whelming Nihilism that is so often seen in this disc would only come from one source; a feeling that this world has no magic. Yet it is stated that Burzum is to create magic, so though the lack of magic in the current world is crushing, Varg is fighting his way out to create his own imaginative realm of darkness. This is why there is a seperation between younger Burzum (or 1992 Burzum) and mature Burzum (or 1993 Burzum), whereas in 1992 Varg was still heavily influenced by the Nihilism of Euronymous and Death Metal, in 1993 somehow he had managed to crawl out of this dismal hole and into a fertile verdant darkness to create his major masterpieces and works of art.
"As far as I was concerned he (Euronymous) didn't exist anymore. When he phoned me to ask me if they, the guys in Mayhem, could stay at my place when they were in Grieghallen sound studios to finish the Mayhem album, I said no. Nobody else in Bergen wanted to give them a place to stay either, and they had to rent a room at a motel. Nobody had anything against Hellhammer, the only other Mayhem member at the time, but we just didn't want anything to do with Euronymous. I have always had a good relationship to Hellhammer, and he wasn't very impressed with Euronymous either, so to speak. In 1992, when we recorded "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", he even made jokes that we should kill him!" (1)
Hvis Tar Lyset Oss and Filosofem
One big thing which should be noted is that from January 1993 to June 1993, Varg spent his time in jail, due to an investigation because of a joke interview with a journalist, who had become so scared he had asked the Police to put Varg in jail (they did so, for an "investigation"). Once Varg was out, in one and a half months he recorded his last two black metal albums and the Aske EP. In August he killed Euronymous.
"He had made a fool of himself. Further, when the media wrote all that crap about me it made him feel less important. Suddenly he was no longer the "main character" in the hardcore metal scene. As he saw it, that too was all my fault. This is probably the reason people claim the killing was a result of a power struggle between two leading figures in the scene, but the truth is that this was only important to him. I couldn't care less about this. I didn't even socialize with that many metal people, and when I went out I preferred to go to house parties and to an underground techno club in Bergen, called "Føniks" (Phoenix), while most of the metal guys went to some rock'n'roll place. In fact I went to the techno club to get away from all the new metal people, because I didn't like the attention from them. I preferred the attention of nice girls, so to speak." (1)
I disclose this in relation to this article, mainly for the last part. Why? Because it is hard to not see that Hvis Tar Lyset Oss and Filosofem are influenced by the deconstructive and minimalistic beat of techno (which was already fairly apparent on the first two albums). This influence would also be strong in Darkthrone, where Fenriz was a DJ at a Oslo techno club at one point. Euronymous and Hellhammer were also interested in techno and trance like music, Euronymous was supposedly a great fan of Kraftwerk. So aparently is Varg. (It makes sense that Mayhem did their Grand Declaration of War album in this light).
These last two black metal albums (and in many ways the last two albums of Burzum, the ambient ones) are effective in comunicating their message due to the deconstructive, repeating and circular patterned riffs and structures. They are not telling a story musicially, they are not descriptive, they are ambient, the lyrics are used for one main purpose, to create metaphors (metaphors relating to the concept of the music) and correct verbal ambience to fuel the musical ambience. This is why they are "mature" works of art, because they are so effective in their communication (at least to people who are wired to accept this form of mostly non-verbal subliminal communication. While the first two albums often relied more on popularly accepted notions of metal and of black metal, while fully unique to Varg's word-view and desires, the later two are fully a unique creation of one man's art and one man's powers.
Daudi Baldrs and Hlidskjalf
Both albums are fully keyboard ambient creations. Daudi Baldrs (the death of Baldur) was recorded very shortly after Varg's imprisonment. It is evocative of his own studies into Norse mythology, and his pagan past. All of which also influenced and inspired his black metal work, but on here becomes descriptive of a story and a situation. The death of Baldur, by his blind brother Holdur's hand, in the form of a mistletoe dart aimed by Loki who had become angered at Baldur's invulnurability to nearly all things harm, this happened in this way. The mistletoe, being so young at the time that Freyja had recieved oaths from all the things in the three worlds to protect Baldur (the veritable trumpet of Ragnarok), had been forgotten/over-looked. Loki knowing this took one and sharpened it to a dart. When all the Gods, amazed at Baldur's invulnurability were throwing many things at Baldur, Loki, unseen, guided Holdur's hand to pierce Baldur in the breast. Baldur died, as was foretold, and Hel would not give him up, for his time to come again would be after Ragnorok, when he would take Odin's place and aided at his right hand by the Courage God Tyr would be the new All Father. This myth is at the heart of the entire known Norse mythos, and is deeply important to the main teaching of their Mythology. That is, after Ragnarok a new world will be born from the Ashes. This, as we should know, is the very basis that Varg states Burzum was built from. (Think of the Aske EP, which basically (as we can tell by the picture of a burned Church) is named for the rising out of the ashes of the Christian world a new Pagan one, from the healing cleansing fires will come something better (read the top quote)).
So this is a deeply important album in terms of the Burzum mythos, yet is also perhaps the most hated, and at the very least, the least liked Burzum album by most Black Metal fans. Why? Because it is entirely in keyboards as I have said, and also not really good sounding keyboards. Yet I personally am just as moved by Daudi Baldrs as any Burzum album, because the intense emotion of the work still exists as it always has. Also I myself as very very moved by Baldur's myth, and by the teaching it tells us, so perhaps it is not an objective like I have.
Hlidskjalf (Odin's seat in Asgard) can be construed as a more natural, more understandable Daudi Baldrs, however that wouldn't be doing it enough justice. Each song is a meditation upon a situation which Varg states in the book. For example one is about a happy Pagan people dancing with the summer light, yet it is also sad for they are actually ghosts, so the ghost like melodies filter into the listeners brain, creating at least in my head the exact image stated by the book. Another is a continuation of the previous album, and is decriptive of Freyr's tears watching her world die, most likely because of her sons foretold death, which is also the beginning of the end of their world.
Each song is descriptive like that, and not long either, which is interesting, for it is really the first time that his ambient work has been shorter since the first two albums. But, they are more intense, for each is constructed to be more intense, more personal and in it's descriptive nature more ambient. They feel fleshed out and like complete neo-classical pieces. This is perhaps because Varg at this time became less interested in "ambient" music, and more interested in neo-classical, which is, I believe, how he describes Hlidskjalf anyways. I think perhaps the appeal of the last two Burzum albums (reportably to be the last Burzum albums ever) might be lost on those of you who know little to nothing of Norse mythology, or of the Nordic viewpoint. They are fully born of the Norge or Norse mind, and are probably difficult to understand if you share nothing of this heritage (though I'm trying to not be rascist). Myself am not of Norwegian blood, but instead of Germanic/Finnish/Swedish/Scottish blood, and I have a feeling that that is not too far off. Varg himself writes much of his work in German, and seems to basically consider his music not just for Norwegians, but for all German or Northern European peoples. I will not use his term, Aryan however, for I find that a revolting term, and particularly in the way that he, and most other "Aryan appologists" would use it. Personally the appeal of Burzum is almost totally the Pagan, Anti-Christian but not Satanic viewpoint of the music, and the fact that somehow, Varg managed to create one of the most evocative Pagan atmospheres I have ever heard in music.
I Finish this article with a quote from Varg, that I think describes best the soul of everything ever recorded by Varg under the name Burzum:
"The magic was necessary only because I wasn't satisfied with the real world. There was no adventure, no fear or trolls, dragons or undead creatures. No magic. So I figured I had to create the magic myself. It was very sad to see that this magic was ruined or at least reduced in 1993, when the media started to write about it, and a lot of former country, rock and Death Metal bands in Norway suddenly dyed their hair black and started to wear corpse-paint and play Black Metal; to become famous, to make money and to get laid - and not to change the world. They didn't seem to think about magic, that is for sure, but in their defense I must say they weren't shown much magic either. The media twisted everything beyond recognition, like they always do. The new bands made Black Metal become a part of the modern world, rather than revolt against it, like they should have done. Maybe they felt attracted to it because the magic worked, because they felt attracted to something that was special. I don't know. I just know that I don't appreciate what it has turned into; just another unimaginative "sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll" subculture in and a part of the modern world. It has become part of the "bread and circus" of the oppressors - it has become a part of the problem.
My hope would be that Burzum could inspire people to wish for a new and better reality in the real world, and hopefully do something about it. Maybe revolt against the modern world, by refusing to participate in the rape of Mother Earth, by refusing to participate in the murder of our European race, by refusing to become a part of any of these artificial media-created "rock'n'roll" subcultures, and by building new and healthy communities, where the Pagan culture - and magic if You like - can be cultivated." (1)
All quotes with (1) after them are from A History of Burzum by Varg Vikernes, which is mandatory reading for any Burzum fan. You can read it at http://www.burzum.org