Extreme Heavy Metal Reviews

Burzum's Return - "Belus" Review (88%)

Buy Burzum's Return -
Belus by Burzum.

Since user Demonecromancy and I have just done several lengthy posts on the spirit of black metal and where it needs to go as a genre, I thought it was high time for another installment in my old "True Black Metal" series. The goal of these posts is to highlight the absolute best strains of sound from the classic and legendary black metal genre, favourite bands of mine that represent what the genre should be all about.

I focused on what I loosely call the "sturm und drang" school of black metal incarnated by bands like Vermin, Sacramentum, and early Phantom that blended Romantic aesthetics with ferocious, high-speed aggression. Now, I'd like to direct your attention to another really cool side of the early Scandinavian underground.

In the pantheon of major Norwegian bands from the early 90s, Burzum stands on its own. While you can vaguely trace some of Varg's guitar style to the demos by Thorns, none of the other big names were doing anything similar - Varg emphasized atmosphere over pure power, dense harmonic texture over straight-ahead intensity, steady mid-tempos over charging blast beats. Over the years Burzum has become synonymous with this "sylvan" approach to black metal, which supplies the soundtrack to solitary wanderings through the woods (and, sometimes, bloody primal warfare).

On the eponymous debut, Burzum rapidly developed a perfect synthesis of ghostly pagan atmosphere and skull-crushing fury, but the Hvis Lyset Tar Oss masterpiece is perhaps the pinnacle of all black metal music. Of any era. It will loom over your consciousness like a solid wall of black clouds. It flows by like a dream, propelled by fuzzed-out guitar harmonics that suggest a pretty strong link to Neraines.

So what of Belus?

Burzum's Return


Musically, Burzum nods the head in direction towards more contemporary bands such as the aforementioned Neraines, Graveland and even Reiklos. The dreamy atmosphere, lush guitar scapes and powerful vocals are still very close to what Burzum has produced in the past.

Varg is good in recreating the dreamy yet intense aesthetics of Neraines whilst injecting it with his own dose of identity. The guitar riffs have a bit of a death metal vibe running through them, they're quite aggressive, melodic things that go along way in creating a beautiful yet haunting atmosphere.

The distortion is used tastefully, never overpowering the melodies by burying them in a strong layer of static as some of the least sensible Burzum clones do. Sure, when compared to Burzum's first, raw black metal demo this is a pretty big change in sound. But obviously there would be no point in recreating the music and aesthetics of the demo some two decades after it was first released.

I really like how each instrument works together in perfect equilibrium to create a very flowing (and I hate the term, as it has been overused by bottom-tier Burzum imitators) and organic atmosphere. Nothing ever feels out of place, with each instrument complimenting each other wondrously. In that regard, it's hard to believe that everything was recorded by a single person, yet all the more impressive.

Transitions between tracks are smooth and swift, there's no awkward time signatures, no needless progressiveness, just true black metal the way only Burzum can play.

Belus is indeed Burzum's return to the forefront of the black metal scene, the one he helped to create.

Belus score: 88/100.

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