Written by: EW on 28/08/2012 23:11:30

One-man controversy machine Varg Vikernes long ago sealed his fate in the eyes of most but since his release from incarceration in 2009 the man has been busy - "Umskiptar", his third full-length, plus a rerecording of many of his earlier classics, says he is on a mission to make up for lost time. Similar to the first of those, "Belus", we are witnessing a more stylistically free Burzum than was ever the case in the early 90s, and one which backs up his protestations at having heard nothing from the genre he helped create by subtly pushing the boundaries of the genre. This is not done through sonic extremity or orchestral pomp, but by the simple, slow-paced organic nature of Vikernes' songs. It may be a tad one-dimensional at times but choose any song from this album and this plaintive, dare I say relaxed feel, is the quintessential offering.

The trademark Burzum recording dissonance is instantly apparent in first song proper "Jóln" although just as prevalent is his spoken word vocal style which across the album's span features more greatly than the hissed variant, the closest we get today to the hysteric shrieks of old. "Alfadanz", with a simple piano opening retains an earthy beauty in its uncluttered style and accessible song structure. As comparators fellow Norwegians Darkthrone come closest to matching the special kind of bleakness in "Hit Helga Tré" and "Æra" as their stripped-down production also similarly benefits the depth of feelings but this by no means suggests the two bands have a great deal else in common. There is no punky, heavy metal spirit to be found here - just the soulful laments of a man making music for his own sake with no aspirations of a return to premier BM glory (though such is the pull of his name that status could come looking for him).

By the time you reach "Galgviðr", "Surtr Sunnan" and "Gullaldr" the pace slows to a dissonant crawl, with percussion replaced by the clarity of Vikernes' Norse spoken word. I can't understand his words but carefully nuanced and laid out so sparsely gives them a cold, disconcerting edge. Burzum these days are not an extreme BM act but these songs help provide a dose of bitter sadness that trumps a good many conventional BM bands.

Less musically diverse than "Belus" but a more cohesive whole, "Umskiptar" actually does what few other 'reformed' metal acts have managed to do in recent times - expand on their legacy with new and worthwhile material without tarnishing the past. And whatever your thoughts on the man, that is a fact that cannot be argued with.

Download: Alfadanz, Jóln, Æra
For The Fans Of: Darkthrone, Forgotten Tomb

Release date: 21.05.2012
Byelobog Productions

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