Sôl Austan, Mâni Vestan

Written by: EW on 18/07/2013 23:50:07

In terms of context for reviewing Burzum's 10th album, "Sôl Austan, Mâni Vestan", this is far from ideal. The blistering heatwave being experienced right now is hardly conducive to the listening of bleak, spacey ambient music, plus, more pertinently, the reported arrest and subsequent release this week of one Varg Vikernes for purpotedly planning a 'massacre' has only fired up the keyboard warriors intent on defining the man and not his music. To focus on the music should be the point of this review and thus no further mention will be given to recent occurrences in his new home of France.

Now on the fourth album in as many years since his release from prison, Varg has taken a leaf from the book of his 'incarceration-era' albums and gone totally ambient again, leaving no trace of his highly influential black metal sound to be heard. At 59 minutes long "Sôl Austan" is one drawn-out soundscape of keyboard 'rhythm' sounds and floating 'lead' noises that I'm sure is likely to appeal to even fewer than his traditional albums do.

The strong synth presence that has always been at the heart of Burzum has generated a spiritual bleakness when woven into fabrics of coruscating black metal but which when sat alone can feel inflated and struggle to maintain the same decrepit aura. Unlike the repetitive beauty of "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" from classic LP "Filosofem", the eleven tracks of "Sôl Austan" do attempt to keep moving, rather than rely on stagnating cyclical patterns, and provide a varying mood from track to track but the overall vibe of other-worldly majesty is harder to convey without greater involvement of other instrumentation. In the likes of "Rûnar munt þû finna" and "Sôlarguði" a deep, clean bass tone is useful in contrasting with the high-end spacey keys which dominate the affair but their attempt to breathe energy into the piece is akin to melting the ice-caps with a matchstick. "Hîð" and "Feðrahellir" showcase plenty of the vast, spacey sounds which drip into the depths of the record and return replete with the dust of far-away galaxies to form a pleasant listening experience, but one gets the feeling it is all a little simplistic in Vikernes' approach – as if merely setting the keyboards to the right tone is the method for creating such depth rather than the work of any great artistic merit.

For a sense of isolation, a theme that has been central to Vikernes’ life and music all these years, "Sôl Austan, Mâni Vestan" strikes the right notes. It sounds distinctly like the creation of a solitary man, cut off from the scene that rejected synthy ambience within black metal 15 years ago, plus I imagine it works well in darkened, lonesome appreciation. However, for such ambient-inclined moments I have the far more varied textures of Brian Eno to fall back on, and when the time calls for some Burzum, his more traditional works where the ambient and blackened dirges at married together. "Sôl Austan, Mâni Vestan" is a very interesting album from arguably metal’s most divisive character but is ultimately too lacking in a sense of dynamics to be troubling the top grades.


Download: Sôlarguð, Rûnar munt þû finna
For The Fans Of: Wardruna, Ulver, Brian Eno
Listen: Official site

Release date: 27.05.2013
Byelobog Productions

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