Burzum – Sôl austan, Mâni vestan

burzum-sol_austan_mani_vestanAfter a hiatus of some years, Burzum returns to the path that is intuitive and natural for composer Varg Vikernes, who drifted through a triplet of droning black metal albums before discarding the genre. Sôl austan, Mâni vestan picks up where Hlidskjalf left off, except that this new album uses a wider range of sounds and also covers a wider range of emotions.

The title, meaning “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” encompasses the cosmic music nature of this album. While the sounds are thoroughly contemporary, the spirit of this album is in the stargazing music of the 1970s that attempted to find divinity even as the world around it seemed in a state of total doubt. Having explored the darkness and alienation of the past, Vikernes increases his palette here to include the playful, mystical, mysterious and placid, and works them in contrast to one another so that no one dominates and becomes background noise, but he pushes right to that limit with not only direct repetition but allusion to very similar themes across songs. The result is like a hypnosis into which the listener slides, unaware that through this mundane noise a vision of great beauty and even metaphysical significance will be found.

As Vikernes said in a blog post, “We are all lost souls in a dying world, so to speak, stripped of all spiritual life and energy by the societies we live in, and left to find new spiritual life and energy on our own. We stumble, we fall and we get up again, as we progress, and black metal, although empty and hollow like most other things in this world, is actually a good gateway to the Divine Light. If nothing else black metal has been a way to find true meaning, a positive direction and new life for many.” This attitude pervades through Sôl austan, Mâni vestan which consistently uses simple and catchy sounds to introduce themes which gradually develop into something revelatory of the sublime, like a flower opening from a bud hidden under dirt.

Burzum showed its affinity for 1970s relaxing and New Age style music with classics like “Tomhet,” “Rundgang” and the cheerier parts of Hlidskjalf. This new album picks up from that influence and goes further, fusing the classic Burzum sound with a full range of moods as one might find on a professional ambient album from the heart of that genre. Unexpected technique, including duets with guitar and bass through which keyboards and sampled tones dive like seabirds in flight, and flair borrowed from rock, ambient and jazz, offset these fundamentally simple tunes and embed them in the kind of texture and nuance you might expect from an Autechre or Aphex Twin album.

In the meantime, although not only the black metal aesthetics but also the black metal voice have been cast aside, the uncanny sense of pacing remains which Vikernes uses to engage us, lull us, excite us and finally bring all of these things into collision. In many ways, this music is more black metal than his post-prison guitar albums because it has such a range of emotions, and such a vivid journey from start to finish. In that sense, Vikernes has returned, and has found his natural voice after many intervening years. It’s not black metal, but who cares? It’s excellent and relentlessly intriguing.

16 thoughts on “Burzum – Sôl austan, Mâni vestan”

  1. bitterman says:

    I found this album to be rather bland. It seems like an hour long version of the melancholic side of Hliðskjálf. Even Dauði Baldrs wasn’t as bad, even if that Final Fantasy esque midi makes it sound painfully cheesy. It seems those releases and the Neptune Towers albums said something through their music, this is just Varg demonstrating (and/or reiterating) an aspect of his early ambient works and much less a journey through sound. Seems to me a more static ambiance that wouldn’t feel out of place being relegated to video game background music or documentary movie soundtrack.

  2. archibald says:

    This album is uninspiring, I don’t see how our esteemed reviewer can find anything of spirital inspiration in it. It consists of one mood in its entirety, so reviews of bands like Drudkh etc should, on pains of consistency, entail some similar criticisms here. There is no overal project here, just sparse wafflings of single notes in a scale. Texturally it’s mostly boring to, unlike Hliðskjálf and Tangerine Dream et al.

  3. metal bob says:

    also found it bland and not journey-like. it felt more like a burzum album at least.

  4. -=U=- says:


  5. -=U=- says:

    ^^ The album I mean.

  6. Robert says:

    The one problem I have with Burzum’s ambient output is that it’s never consistent…. Nor is it very atmospheric. When I listen to ambient, I want to feel connected to nature and have a feeling of ease and calmness wash over me. Varg’s ambient stuff, while not bad, doesn’t really connect on that level. I think Fenriz did a better job with Neptune Towers and of course great artists like Steve Roach and Edgar Froese from Tangerine Dream fame.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that Varg should aim to use less melody and more obscure sound that opens portals to other dimensions. The lame, hipster band surprisingly did a wonderful job at making great dark ambient music.

    Check it out:

  7. Concerned Citizen says:

    Burzum – Der Tod Wuotans:

  8. Going by how he has released one bad album after another for the past few years, this is probably just self serving mood music to accompany his role playing game.

  9. Claire says:

    I think you guys are missing the point. This album is about “mood”, not anything definite. It’s the transition man’s transition. Play this back to back with that new Nocturnal Poisoning album and maybe throw in some Peccatum interludes and you’ll see what I mean. It’s not supposed to be what you think it is. Prison does a number on your butthole, bros.

  10. Antonio Espinosa says:

    I dig it. Better than anything he’s done since he left jail. The second half particularly is pretty hypnotic. Further listens are required but there could be something here.

  11. Syd says:

    Good but could have been done way better.

    Better than previous rush-job metal albums he has made.

    Still get a sense of it being a bit rushed.

    Maybe room for growth.

    Who knows.

  12. GarageTroll says:

    Many times it sounds like he’s preparing for the next album.

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