Burzum's long awaited comeback after 11 years of silence was a quiet one: 2010's Belus was generally well received but in many ways flew beneath the radar of most metal websites, failing to make most Album of the Year lists and just not getting a lot of buzz as a musical piece at all. Arguably this may have been due to the fact that Varg Vikernes was out of prison, he was taking interviews, he was willing to set the record straight one final time before turning his back on the past for good.
It's also possible that, in the rush to score the page hits these interviews would guarantee, the tendency was to overlook the fact that he'd just released the best Burzum album since Filosofem, at once reestablishing a black metal legend while handily cleansing the palate of the bad taste that the compromised Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf projects had left in many fans' mouths.
Either way, Fallen is upon us and quickly dispels any fears that Belus was a fluke, a decade-long accumulation of song ideas from which the best bits were distilled. In fact, Fallen represents the most uniformly consistent and diverse material in the Burzum canon, a moody, bi-polar exploration of Vikernes' fractured psyche which vacillates between epic, tremolo-picked riffs with shrieking vocals and calm, reflective moments of melancholic clarity.
This dichotomy is introduced right off the bat with "Jeg Faller": a nostalgic, traditional blast beat/riff combo anchoring the verses but segueing into a folk metal chorus that features Varg – swear to God – humming! (Note: in a concurrent interview I did with Varg he claims to hate Scandinavian folk music and that if anything the clean vocals on Fallen were inspired by his recent obsession with the Cure, but I'm sorry… there is definitely more of an indigenous folk strain here than anything resembling the goth-laced post-punk of the Cure).
Those looking for a more concentrated dose of the hateful, breakneck black metal that Varg cut his teeth on will find their patience rewarded as the album climaxes midway through with the magnificent "Vanvidd", a colossus of aural skullfucking that still manages to layer a catchy, mournful chorus in the mix without ever really arresting the pace much. Seemingly exhausted by the effort, Vikernes settles into a melodic, mid-paced groove for the remainder of the album, ending with the now-traditional ambient noodling that serves as little more than padding and will likely prevent guys like me from ever giving a Burzum album a perfect score.
Still, those first six tracks are some real gems, and even if Vikernes can no longer be said to be reinventing the wheel, he's definitely pushing himself to new heights within his fairly broad comfort zone.
Fallen will be released on April 5 through Candlelight Records.