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|1.||Det Som En Gang Var|
|2.||Hvis Lyset Tar Oss|
|3.||Inn I Slottet Fra Drømmen|
Review for 'Burzum - Hvis Lyset Tar Oss'
While some may argue that Burzum's success is based primarily upon the fact that it's creator and sole member, Varg Vikernes, gained widespread notoriety after being sentenced to 21 years in prison for the murder of Mayhem's guitarist and founder Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth as well as the arson of several churches across Norway, it actually goes a little deeper than that.
The truth of the matter is that Varg Vikernes played a vital role in defining what Black Metal means today both musically and ideologically, as well as single-handedly creating the Ambient Black Metal subgenre with the release of his first four albums, also laying the foundations for Pagan Black Metal while he was at it.
Furthermore, to remove any remaining doubts regarding his creative talent, it's worth mentioning that his first four albums, Burzum, Det Som Engang Var, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem, as well as the Aske EP, were all recorded between January 1992 and March 1993, with Varg Vikernes also playing bass guitar with Mayhem during the same period. Of course, it can't be denied that the crimes that Varg Vikernes commited have helped his music reach a larger audience over the years, but in the same manner, it can't be denied either that his music was ground-breaking at the time and has since influenced an endless amount of bands from all corners of the globe, spanning multiple subgenres of Black Metal. The Hvis Lyset Tar Oss album is one of the greatest examples of this influence.
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, meaning "If the Light Takes Us", is the third full length album to be released by Varg Vikernes under the Burzum name, and it was recorded at the legendary Grieghallen Studio in Bergen, Norway, in September of 1992, and released in April of 1994 through Misanthropy Records only a few days before Varg Vikernes stood trial for the murder of Euronymous.
I don't usually like doing song by song analysis for an album, but Hvis Lyset Tar Oss has only four songs, each superb in it's own distinct manner, leaving me no alternative. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss begins with "Det Som Engang Var", not to be confused with Burzum's album of the same name. "Det Som Engang Var" translates into "What Once Was", and if this cryptic title doesn't send your imagination off on a journey to time long since forgotten in some ancient realm of pre-Christian Scandinavia, then the music itself certainly will.
Pausing to think for a moment, it becomes apparent that "What Once Was" now has an additional meaning, as it currently stands for a blast to the past and an unintended nod towards the golden days of Norwegian Black Metal, specifically 1994, the year when Hvis Lyset Tar Oss was released along side several other great Norwegian Black Metal albums that are now regarded as classics, a time which marked a before and after in the evolution of Black Metal, or even marked the end of it as some of the more elitist and pessimistic self-proclaimed purists would see it.
Back to the album, "Det Som Engang Var" is an epic 14 minute trance-inducing beast, with the guitars building up the atmosphere ever so slowly, the tempo of the hypnotic drumming changing gears when necessary, and Varg's voice finally making an appearance after six minutes, all the while backed by some amazing synths that really give the song and the whole album a sense of ancient roots. Eventually, half-way through, "Det Som Engang Var" unexpectedly turns into something even more epic and larger than life, with some mesmerizing tremolo guitars appearing out of nowhere giving the song a whole new dimension. However, this effect does not overstay it's welcome, and once it disappears the remainder of the song is a nice back and forth alternation between all the elements that have been featured up to this point.
Next up is the title track "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss", starting straight away with a relatively more intense and slightly more traditional Black Metal approach to the guitars, drumming and vocals, but in typical Burzum fashion, just when you suspect that the song might continue in this manner for it's entire duration, the tempo suddenly changes to reveal a fantastic riff that has a captivating effect, not unlike the previous song. The overwhelming momentum of the guitars takes the listener even further back in time to the mysterious ancient land that Varg Vikernes seems to know all too well. By this point you will be forgiven for thinking that he had a time machine of some sort at his disposal for his inspirational needs, although something a simple as taking a walk through the Norwegian forests would probably also have done the trick.
"Inn I Slottet Fra Drømmen", which means "Into The Castle From The Dream" is the third track and the most aggressive and chaotic song on the album, or at least it appears to be chaotic before everything changes ever so slightly after a couple of minutes in, leaving only the aggression, until once again the song suffers a change in structure and the aggression also disappears along with Varg's vocals, leaving only the haunting guitar-work backed by some orthodox drumming and occasional synths until the song ends. To be honest "Inn I Slottet Fra Drømmen" ends a little too soon and therefore doesn't manage to captivate you quite as effectively as the first two tracks, and it could have benefited with an extension of the latter half of the song. That's the only real negative aspect about this album... one of the songs is too short.
The fourth song and the album's closer is the 14 minute track titled "Tomhet", which means "Emptiness". This purely instrumental piece is composed entirely of keyboards and synths, and doesn't sound as sorrowful or melancholic as it's title would have you believe. It's a very soothing and sleepy piece of ambient music, and doesn't show much variation for the first half, sounding similar to something you would find in the opening scenes of an 80s fantasy-adventure movie, but lengthened, minimalized and without the cheese. The latter half of the song is similar but even more stripped down and ethereal. Although the style of music featured on "Tomhet" is a rare occurrence in Black Metal, both old and new, it doesn't detract from Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and actually enhances the album's uniqueness and gives the finishing touch to the atmosphere that Varg Vikernes wants to transmit with the album as a whole.
Finding inspiration and creating Black Metal that revolves around nature and pagan themes isn't really a big deal for the bands of today, because the concept has already been pioneered and established, with the basic formula well known, leaving room only for minor improvement, perfection and experimentation, but at the time Varg Vikernes really had no-one to imitate and none other than himself upon which to improve, and this, together with the amazing music itself, is what grants Hvis Lyset Tar Oss legendary status.
What other albums sound similar to this?
Each of Varg Vikernes's early albums have their own distinct sound and approach to what he was trying to achieve, but they all have that unmistakable Burzum feel that they share with Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, so be sure to check out the Burzum / Aske compilation, and also the Det Som Engang Var album released in 1993, but most importantly you should go for his other defining masterpiece, Filosofem, released in 1996. Last but not least, do not ignore Burzum's recent albums, specifically Fallen and Belus from 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Collectively, Burzum's early albums gave birth to a whole new way of approaching Black Metal that many bands soon began to explore by themselves, and with Hvis Lyset Tar Oss forming an integral part of Burzum's early works, you can find similarities between it and many other Black Metal albums as well as Ambient Black Metal albums spanning the last two decades. The impact that Hvis Lyset Tar Oss has had on Black Metal since it's release 18 years ago is undeniable, with influence being found in the likes of Nargaroth, Helrunar, Drudkh, Wolves In The Throne Room, Walknut, Negură Bunget, and everything in between. In fact, many of the riffs and specific guitar tones on Wolves In The Throne Room's first albums, Diadem Of 12 Stars and Two Hunters, can be traced to the first two songs on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss.
Other essential Black Metal albums that can trace their roots directly to Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss are Bergtatt Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler and Nattens Madrigal by fellow Norwegians Ulver and For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike by Kvist, also from Norway. Other more evolved albums are Nargaroth's Herbstleyd and Geliebte Des Regens albums, Walknut's Graveforests And Their Shadows, and basically any early Drudkh album and all of Graveland's early albums. In recent times, as well as Wolves In The Throne Room, who can't be mentioned enough, be sure to check out Negură Bunget, Nokturnal Mortum, Wodensthrone, Winterfylleth, Marțolea and Zinumm, and for a more thrashier approach also check out Helrunar, Odal and Heimdalls Wacht. A great Ambient Black Metal album also worth mentioning is Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With The Stars by Blut Aus Nord, sharing some similarities with Hvis Lyset Tar Oss in the way the synths are used.
In a nutshell...
If there is one definitive Burzum album that shines ever so slightly above the rest, it has to be Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. While not containing as many songs or even as much variety as other Burzum classics such as Det Som Engang Var, Filosofem and the more recent releases Belus and Fallen, it certainly makes up for it with nothing but atmospheric and hypnotic Black Metal of the highest quality.
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