Controversial Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes gained a new method of being divisive, which is that his recent tracks “Mythic Dawn” and “Forgotten Realms” are sparser and more circular than his earlier work. This invokes criticism of his ambient music work, specifically his most recent album, The Ways of Yore.
While this album strikes me as a quality work, it also has a feeling that parts of it are rushed, and as a result the full conceptual depth of a Burzum album has some rough edges. I present the following listening guide for those who want to experience his newer work at full intensity:
02. The Portal
06. The Reckoning Of Man
04. The Lady In The Lake
05. The Coming Of Ettins
08. The Ways Of Yore
10. Hall Of The Fallen
13. To Hel And Back Again
11. Autumn Leaves
Arrange the tracks in this order. Some are missing; those can be listened to another time. Prepare yourself with the most silent circumstances you can find, which is usually late at night. Turn off the computer, the lights, the TV, the videogames. Slow your breathing until it is regular and you are relaxed.
Place into your mind the vision of a descent down a large spiral staircase. You will be going into a place that is not dark or light, but a place where what we think of as good and evil have been suspended for something far greater than individual humans. This is a space for epic warfare, battles of the soul and perhaps mystic wisdom.
Then, ignore the spoken lyrics. However this album is meant to be experienced, it is best as a piece of music without worrying about meaning outside of the organization of sounds. Ignore the name Burzum. Clear your mind of everything and listen.
Most of the above is generic advice for any listening, but it allows this album to present itself in a new context, which is that of a lack of the two intrusions that normally cloud human vision, namely the self and the distracting world. Settle down into this one and see where it leads you.
One-man black metal inspired ambient music band Burzum has released its latest track, “Forgotten Realms,” a rough cut from an upcoming album. Using many of the same effects as last year’s The Ways of Yore, the new track shows a slow descent into a reality that more mysterious than dark.
Dreams have swept me away.
Into a long forgotten realm.
Down into the depths of the Earth.
Into a hidden cavern.
Into the world below.
I walk into the forgotten past.
« Do not turn around ! »#
« Never look back ! »
Fathers and mothers from ancient times.
Ghosts from a forgotten world.
With wonder they look upon me ;
« What took you so long ? »
I wander not in darkness.
I am not lost, nor bewildered.
The path is not hidden.
The tracks are not old.
I was here a moment ago.
I am home.
I am home.
I am home.
Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes demonstrates a long history of crossing over between worlds. With Burzum, he crossed black metal with the cosmic space ambient music (RIP Edgar Froese) that defined the best of the previous decade, and now with his newer folk/ambient work he crosses over between the world of role-playing games, philosophies that get bast the postmodern thought-loop which has stalled humanity for the past century, and the inspiration in warfare, wizardry and medievalism that distinguished the aesthetics of his black metal.
In releasing the new track “Mythic Dawn,” Vikernes shows us a work in progress with a somewhat sparse but distinct track in the style of the second half of The Ways of Yore, specifically “Autumn Leaves” for the shimmery distorted background guitar effect and “The Lady of the Lake” for the plodding slightly offtime loop of neo-tribal drums over a simple bidirectional chord progression. As a work in progress, the new track is naturally sparser, but the chord progression seems very basic and song structure less integrated with its own purpose, which suggests this is a very early conceptualization of this track without the traditional Burzum “magic” being added. As musicians age, they often retreat into the realm of techniques and textures such as specific samples or types of melody, and this can adulterate the material that in their younger years they would have agonized over until all of it had an intensity of its own and none fit within a template, even if of their own making. With some luck and gumption Burzum will not avoid that fate.
As part of the video, Vikernes reveals pages of his Myfarog role-playing game (similar to Dungeons and Dragons, usually abbreviated “D&D”) and in the text on the background image of the video describes its appeal to those who, like Vikernes, have rejected modernity not just as an experience but as a concept entirely and seek alternatives outside of the realm of what modernity can describe. The game looks complex, and the song is promising for its initial stages although it looks like it will require some work, and so the audience looks on with interest at this evolving event and hopes for more.
Cosmic ambient band Khand keeps deep roots in the metal community. Unknown to most of its fans, the compositional power of Khand was forged long before the first synthesizer tracks worked their way into the minds of listeners. Like most things related to this mysterious project, these metal roots remain incognito.
The band first emerged in the mid 2000s and began recording a series of demos which it release through a Creative Commons license via information-wants-to-be-free label HiArcTow. Gaining audience momentum for its journeylike compositions with a total lack of the usual smarm and pander of ambient music, Khand raised the skull chalice with its 2013 release, The Fires of Celestial Ardour. Since that time, the obscure project has kept its silence but recently, broke that quietude with a new teaser and new interview.
For those who dislike ambient music, Khand avoids the pitfalls of a genre where it is only too easy to lay down a beat and layer odd sounds over it until it feels “deep” enough for the greeting card buying public to swoon. Khand takes advantage of the depth of range and texture available to electronic music and uses it to produce unearthly compositions that take the listener on an adventure far from these mortal, material zones.
Metal comprises both a concrete format and an idea. That idea, like pollen on the winds of a tempest, spreads far beyond its original home and takes root in other landscapes. One venturer in the recent hybrid style of metal-influenced cosmic ambient is Khand, whose shadowy personage spoke to us through an encrypted Skype communication over a private anonymous “darknet” network within the internet.
Where does the name Khand come from and what does it symbolize to you?
The name Khand comes from The Lord of the Rings. It is a mysterious land southeast of Mordor. Tolkien didn’t say much about Khand so my interest was piqued. Given the frequent usage of The Lord of the Rings band names it was refreshing to see one that had not been used at the time. Out of the whole universe Tolkien created, Khand still remained mysterious. That notion is also influential on the mindset I take in creating Khand’s music, regarding fantasy and science fiction.
What’s the name of this upcoming Khand release and when will it be out, and where will we be able to get it?
The name of the release has not been decided yet. That is usually the last thing I come up with after everything is recorded and mixed. That said, the song titles are completed for this release, so once they are finalized and ready to go, it will give me a better general idea of what to ultimately call the whole thing. The release will be available to download for free, most likely on the wonderful HiArcTow creative commons page that has supported myself and others throughout the years. Beyond that, I ultimately hope to release this on some sort of physical format… whether it be cassette again, CD, or even vinyl.
Will there be any differences to past Khand work? How do you see the band evolving with this release?
There are a number of differences with this newer material. I have always felt that this project has lacked some sort of direction and organization; it was as if the past two releases were a bunch of random songs thrown together with no real end in sight. With this release, I have decided to focus on one idea only. The release will be a chronology of events that take place during humanity’s first trip to Mars. It seems that we will most likely see this venture at some point in our lifetime, so the imagination runs rampant with all the possible scenarios we may face. Musically speaking, I have upgraded my equipment and have decided to use some newer synth sounds for this release. Everything will have a “spacey” feel per se, taking the listener on a trip with the crew to Mars. These recordings will not have any medieval/fantasy inspiration like some of my past works, though I am currently working on a few songs in that regard which may end up being used as a demo or split release of some sort.
What other artists are you listening to / reading / watching / observing during this time?
Art exists all around us; you just have to look for it. As an inspiration for this release, I am obviously looking up to the night sky, imagining what the future holds for the human race. There is no greater influence to me than that of nature and science itself, as it is the only real constant we know of. We are mere peons on this bloody planet, yet our potential is limitless if we free ourselves of bonds. I’ve always felt that artists and musicians see the world differently than most. During this time, there have been a number of artists or musicians which have been inspirational. The biggest influences for the music of this will be that of Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Varg Vikernes, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, John Carpenter, and Vangelis. Though not really a prominent influence on this release’s music itself, I also feel certain classical music has a profound influence on our perception of the emotions that coincide within music, so there has been inspiration there as well.
Do you think there’s a strong community for metal transplants into ambient and atmospheric music with epic themes?
Yes and no. It seems there should be more of a community than there currently is though it certainly feels like it has started to pick up steam. In my opinion, there is a strong correlation between ambient/ atmospheric music and metal. Both have the ability to create worlds within worlds, something more than most other kinds of music can say. They dig deeper into the human psyche than your average pop song. The possibilities with ambient music are endless. Like metal, there are many different styles and takes on the sub genre. So as one door opens, another swings open. I always tell people that it is good to start with the classics. Like those of metal, the forefathers of ambient music had laid the foundation and built the canvas. It is our duty to pay them respects and listen to the worlds they’ve created and find inspiration in their limitless contributions to the music we know and love.
Renowned post-metal band Wolves in the Throne Room have returned with a companion album to their 2011 release Celestial Lineage. Entitled Celestite, the new album shows the band moving the synth and acoustic components of the previous album to the foreground and thematically expanding upon them in a total divergence from metal instrumentation and structure. This release has less in common with Lord Wind or Burzum‘s prison albums, although some relationship could be established between Celestite and Ildjarn-Nidhogg’s synth work, in addition to Neptune Towers and perhaps various Beherit projects. Celestite primarily takes its inspiration from artists which are tangentially related to metal rather than derived from it, with Eno being the primary source.
Showing more heritage from avant-garde scoring than other ambient/neo-classical projects, Celestite reveals multi-dimensional composition winding its way from the beginning of a piece to its conclusion without a grounded climax or resolution. Microcosoms of intensity provide linking points to connect various melodic strands together, which along with blending recurring tones with expanding timbrel variance provides enough solidity to congeal central parts within the fluid nature of the album. Melodies are introspective and restrained, though the elongation of their motion increases the importance of each progression. When the album reaches its striving heights, sensation is heightened appreciably whilst still retaining a contemplative essence. Carefully considered, the contrast between the light synth aura which is the operative timbre of the album’s framework, the overlaying of organic winds and lighter keys, and the almost oppressive, technologically demonic and bass-heavy force that intrusively invades the melody and flattens it temporarily before returning, embodies a sonic portrayal of the struggle between the forest and the machine.
The artistic duality of nature versus mechanism constitutes itself again in our times in an art form which is dependent upon the modern and yet wary of it. Celestite may find a re-grounding point for Wolves in the Throne Room, and be an inspiring blueprint for all who seek to move beyond black metal in a backwards-looking yet inexorably-forwards direction – upwards, towards…
Neoambient gains another stronghold. This genre — constructed of film soundtracks, Dead Can Dance style medievalism, neofolk and dark ambient with some structural ideas from black metal — rose out of the ashes of black metal, with bands like Beherit, Neptune Towers (Darkthrone), Lord Wind (Graveland), Danzig (Black Aria) and Burzum leading. On The Ways of Yore, Burzum integrates organic sounds like vocals and guitar into the cosmic ambient that defined the last album, Sôl austan, Mâni vestan.
The Ways of Yore creates within the same spectrum of music stretching between Dead Can Dance and Tangerine Dream that marked the previous album but with even more of an ambient feel. Songs rely on repetitive patterns with layers of instrumentation and song structures that shift to develop melody or make dramatic contrast enhance the imitation of their subjects. As in ancient Greek drama, poetry and music merge with sole musician Varg Vikernes‘ spoken and sung vocals guiding the progress of keyboard-sample-based music. Melodies refer to each other across the length of the album through similarity and evoke themes from past albums, culminating in “Emptiness” which previously made itself known as “Tomhet” on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, the album that ended black metal by raising the bar above what others could imitate.
Somber moods prevail throughout this work which mixes melancholy with a sense of reverence for the past. Hearing Varg sing and develop harmonies with his voice shows room for expansion by this creative musician who previously let the guitars do the talking. Guitars show up on later tracks, distorted in the shuddering but mid-tone texture that gave Filosofem its otherworldly sound. Even though songs begin with simple note clusters, they expand to full melodies which match to a cadence and regulate atmosphere. The result demands attention through its conquest of empty space with the barest of sounds but over time reaches an intensity of expectation that resembles a ritual.
What makes people love neoambient is that it obliterates the pace of modernity and replaces it with a reverent, transcendental atmosphere. Burzum takes an approach that aims at a sound older than medieval, a primeval cave-dwelling primitivism that strips away the pretenses of developed culture. Its striking Nordic imagery, including songs to Odinn and Freyja, add to this mystery and the Burzum mythos as a whole. Escaping black metal, while controversial, granted Vikernes a chance to explore the development of melody in silence, and the result serves to expand atmosphere beyond our age to something that is both ancient and futuristic.
Former extreme shoegaze/indie band Wolves in the Throne Room released a lengthy track from their upcoming album Celestite Mirror. This time they follow the path of cosmic synth bands like Tangerine Dream, Neptune Tower and Jääportit. The new Wolves in the Throne Room uses of the flexible and grand sound of synthesizers to write sci-fi symphony that invokes a celestial world above our head.
Unlike Tangerine Dream and Neptune Tower, Wolves in the Throne Room demonstrate a clearer melodic pattern. Through the method of successive repetition and progress like a serial of logical thoughts, the music maintains the organizational strength of metal music while adding melodic development and an expansion of mood beyond the intense surging power of guitars. As a result, Celestite Mirror advances the heritage established by Tangerine Dream and Neptune Tower.
Whether Celestite Mirror emerges as a strong fusion of metal and cosmic ambient or not, it merits our anticipation. Metal possesses a will to catch up with classical music and always has, which is what the core fans of this genre expect and hope for too. The new Wolves in the Throne Room might fulfill the vision we dreamed of all these years.
Norwegian-French one-man black metal/ambient act Burzum released the cover and tracklist for its 12th album, The Ways of Yore. This album continues in the ambient style of previous Burzum ambient albums, but adds variations in style and vocals. Perhaps this will be closer to the recent Lord Wind, Ales Stenar, or some of the newer early music/neofolk/ambient hybrids from Europe.
Burzum released the following statement: “The Ways of Yore is my first step towards something new, which at the same time is as old as the roots of Europe. With The Ways of Yore I try to transport the listener to the days of yore, to make them feel the past, that is still alive in their own blood.”
Twenty years on, Burzum is still awakening the fantasy of mortals, one step at a time.
01. God from the Machine
02. The Portal
03. Heill Odinn
04. Lady in the Lake
05. The Coming of Ettins
06. The Reckoning of Man
07. Heil Freyja
08. The Ways of Yore
09. Ek Fellr (I am falling)
10. Hall of the Fallen
11. Autumn Leaves
13. To Hel and Back again
Like Justin Broadrick project Final, or post-Napalm Death project Lull, Suuri Shamaani attempts to shape sound itself using overlapping drones and ambient noises to create internal harmonies. Mysteerien Maailma (commonly called the “mysterious mailman” album for its resemblance to that phrase in English) represents a more ritualistic and ordered vision of that approach.
Those who enjoy the later music of Beherit, especially Electric Doom Synthesis, may appreciate the extension of ideas here. Like other post-black metal ambient project Neptune Towers, Suuri Shamaani discards what we recognize as music to shape an adventure or topography out of sound.
It is more like poetry made with discovered noise organized into a music-like language than it is composed music as we know it. Because its sonic texture is lighter than that of booming guitars or bright keyboards, Mysteerien Maailma requires a quieter listening environment and more investment of attention from the listener.