True Black Metal - "Det Som Engang Var" Review (84%)
While Burzum's self-titled debut focused on the more traditional approach to black metal seen in bands such as Mayhem, the album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in particular, Det Som Engang Var is a more atmospheric and avant-garde album.
The songs on Det Som Engang Var may be more repetitive than on the debut, it's actually a positive as Burzum's brand of repetition never gets boring, and it creates a cryptic, dark and glacial atmosphere.
In many ways, Det Som Engang Var is actually more aggressive than the debut, though not nearly as much as the two following albums, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem.
While the atmosphere is far more refined, it is also full of heavy riffs.
Tracks like Key to the Gates and Lost Wisdom might seem melancholic at first, but they hide a raw intensity behind their melancholy that has yet to be emulated.
Det Som Engang Var is not only one of the first black metal albums ever recorded and ever released, it's also the first truly atmospheric black metal album ever made.
Think about that for a moment.
This is the album that, for good or for bad, gave birth to an entirely new black metal sub-genre... and all of its derivatives (ambient black metal, depressive black metal, etc).
Det Som Engang Var is true black metal.
True Black Metal
It was clear that Varg Vikernes always had a pretty good idea of what he wanted the Burzum project to sound like.
He wanted the harsh and chaotic nature of raw black metal, in the style of early Phantom, with the atmospheric and almost cinematic nature of ambient music, while also incorporating the fantasy-based lyrical themes of J.R.R. Tolkien and various elements of Norse mythology (and not "Satanism", as the media claims).
This combination worked superbly on the debut album, and Det Som Engang Var just takes the whole concept even further.
But it would be wrong to label Det Som Engang Var simply as "Burzum Part II", as it is much more than that.
This album has the cold, harsh raw black metal sound, but very little of the old-school kind kind of thrash and death metal influences compared to the previous release and to other bands of the same era.
The ambient elements are much more defined on this album and the atmosphere is clearly intended to put the listener into some kind of trance.
Heading towards the end of this review I can only add that Det Som Engang Var is just a classic black metal record.
This album is probably the closest you can get to the "other planes of existence" mentioned on the track Lost Wisdom.
What once was, a true black metal classic.
Det Som Engang Var score: 84/100.
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