Burzum – ‘Belus’ – Editors’ Review

Three of the editors of Pantheon (Adam Barron, Max Rock, and Ryan Kirsch) sat down to discuss Varg Vikernes’ latest output, ‘Belus.’  The full, streaming audio of the chat can be heard below:

Adam Barron: I’m your host, Adam Barron. We have Ryan Kirsch and Max Rock here. We’re going to talk about Burzum’s newest album, Belus.

Ryan Kirsch: The first album from Varg since he was released from jail this past May.

A:  One of the things that I think surprised me the most about this release is that he recorded it so quickly after he came out of jail.

Max Rock: Must have had it all written out.

R: What, about nine months?

A: Mmhmm.

M: Well luckily he released it and he wasn’t dead!

R: Yeah, there was a little scare over the summer. People thought that he might have been shot because there was a newspaper article that mentioned his name.  Actually a Somalian guy who had gotten into a fight with Varg while he was in jail, and no one had translated it yet.

M: Well luckily he’s not dead because… it’s frickin awesome.

A:  So  obviously while he was in jail he put out a few sort of electronic/ambient albums, and this album sort of shows a definite shift back to his black metal roots.

R: Even though he said he would never record another metal album, this is definitely a return to his roots.

A: I think that he managed to incorporate a lot of his ambient work into the speed and the quality and atmosphere of the metal itself.

M: Well, especially those last two songs on the album.  They are almost drone.

A: Yeah, almost spacey to a point, sort of slow…

M: repetitive, drawn out…

A: drawn out riffs…

M: …but in a good way. The best way possible.

A: Definitely a good way.  I don’t know too much about the concept but it’s based off of this Norse mythology, about Belus the White God, and I think it’s sort of an amalgamation of a lot of different cultural stories both from Norse mythology and I think some other mythologies as well.

M: I’ve been trying to find it actually, but I can’t find it which makes me wonder if it’s real (laughs). I mean I’m looking, I’ve looked for the white god, Belus…

R: He’s got the sacred knowledge of all those tomes… (laughs)

M: Yeah, his own tomes!

A: And obviously we all know it caused quite a bit of controversy when he released the original title, which was the white god. A lot of controversy on Blabbermouth, I think.

M: That was so dumb. There were people who were trying to boycott blabbermouth, because they posted that.

A: Yeah because they’re a news organization that decided to post it.

R: Kill the messenger!

M: He obviously changed it, which I think is a good idea.

A: Do you think he changed it in response to the controversy, or because it was a working title?

M: Well I thought it was because of the controversy, but I guess it’s because it was unneeded controversy.  It’s a misinterpretation that could easily be avoided.

A: I’m willing to bet that after all of his time in jail he had this image of this kind of crazed white supremacist and I think a lot of people thought pretty badly of him. I think coming out of jail the last thing he wanted was completely unwarranted controversy. He wanted more attention on other things, like the music.

M: Well it’s essentially the same name. Belus is just another name for the white god.

A: So what did you guys think of the album art?

R: The up close shot of that tree, I was trying to figure out what it was at first.

M: Did you notice that on certain websites it’s almost a different color? It’s like bronze.

A: So this is his first album where he used photography instead of artwork?

M: Because the first two were, well the second one was related to dungeons and dragons…

A: It was like a castle or something.

M: Yeah and the other one was of that ghost.

A: What’s the artist’s name? Theodor Kittelsen? That’s the artist.

M: Yeah that’s the third and fourth albums, those are awesome. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t use one of those but it is a new era…

A: I think that partially that is the process of him reinventing himself.

M: It’s nice too because didn’t he say that the tree and forest were in his backyard?

R: Yeah, that’s a pretty awesome backyard.

M: But I think it fits the tone of the album too, because in my opinion I find the album’s tone to be really uplifting. Some of his prior albums I thought were really good to listen to at night, or when you’re in bed, maybe in winter. I thought this was an album to listen to more in summer.

A: I feel like that reflects in this album. You could describe his earlier stuff as more cold, in response to the production, the tone of his music. But this one seems a lot warmer.

M: Yeah it really is.

A: A lot more organic.

M: It’s really subtle though, it never gets cheesy or anything. But there is that one thrash song.

A: There is DEFINITELY a thrash song on there!

All (in unity): SKOGEN!

A: Guess we couldn’t get through this without Max saying skogen…

R: This has become the grocery song.

M: Yeah whenever we go grocery shopping, its skogen. There’s no reason behind it (laughs)

R: “TIME TO SKOGEN!”

M: Yeah, I think it’s very sophisticated compared to other black metal albums.

A: There have been a lot of recent black metal releases, both from upcoming bands and, in the past two years, bands who have come out with their “comeback albums”. It probably happens every year, but this past year I noticed it a lot more. Gorgoroth, Immortal…

R: They’re trying to redeem their sound.

A: A lot of second wave black metal bands releasing a new album. I think, out of all of them, this Burzum release is probably the most sophisticated, unique, and monumental, album of the year.

M: Especially with Immortal, I know we’re not really talking about that, but I thought that Immortal album was very safe, same with the Gorgoroth, both were not BAD albums by any means, but I think Varg is the only one who is really pushing things forward and I think that’s the way things are supposed to be.

R: You can kind of just tell, the difference between bands like Immortal and Burzum in the interview in Until the Light Takes Us, which we saw last night.  I could not stop laughing at Immortal, they’re just so ridiculous and had nothing intelligent to say.  Varg blew me away with how well spoken he is, and he has a sense of humor too!

A: Completely unexpected.

M: Seems like a really down to earth guy, intelligent guy.

A: And I think one of the main points of the film was this idea that black metal was essentially as counter-cultural as a movement could be.  The poor production values at the time were because GREAT production values were coming into play.

R: And they were extolled more than anything else.

A: Right, so the one thing they wanted to do was to rebel against this new music scene and create some of the worst production possible.  The waves upon waves of copycat bands that came after these initial ones…its really interesting to see someone come back from the initial scene and reinvent himself and his music.  It just goes to show the whole ideal of the original scene.

R: There was a lot of doubt about this album too.  People were expecting it to just suck.

M: Especially after people didn’t like those last two ambient ones.  I mean, some people did like them, obviously.

R: And he hadn’t had a chance to play guitar, in what, 8 years?

A: When they posted those sound clips before, and I listened to them, I didn’t like them at all.

M: Yeah, when it leaked on Amazon.  I was so disappointed at first.  It just goes to show that 20 second samples don’t do this album any justice.

A: Favorite songs?

R: “Belus’ Doed.”  For sure.

A: I’m going to have to go with the track immediately after that one.  “Glemselens Elv.”

M:  Mine would be the one after that, which I think is “Kaimadalthas’ Nedstigning.”  Either that or the second to last song, which is “Morgenroede.”  Those two songs, in my opinion, have the most uplifting moments.  In the fourth track, where he keeps repeating that one line and singing it at the same time.  Isn’t it about how he’s going to hell?  But the way he sings it seems so happy.  And then in the second to last song, where he says “Summer has come” and then there’s this really uplifting riff, and that kind of starts the whole drone/ambient part.

A: One of the things I want to talk about is the fact that not many of these riffs are typical black metal riffs.  They seem, I don’t know if it’s the rhythm, the rhythm is a little bit different.

M: There’s sort of a groove.

A: Yeah, kinda groovey!

R: You’d have to wonder what he was listening to right after he got out of prison that inspired him to create these riffs.

M: I wonder how much of this was written before, because I remember him saying that this album was made of stuff from before, during, and after prison.  Some of these songs, I think he said came from Uruk-hai.  It really is 20 years in the making, but I think it lives up to it.

A: What do you think of the production, because he didn’t go with the harshest production.  Obviously in Until the Light Takes Us, he was talking about having the worst production for his first few albums.

R: Using a headset for a microphone!

A: Yeah, and obviously he didn’t go with the cleanest production either.  Are you happy with it, unhappy with it?

R: I like a little bit of buzz sometimes.  Forest of Fog is one of my favorite low production albums.  I think he does it justice here.  It’s not heavy, but it’s effective in creating an atmosphere.

M: This was a mistake with Gorgoroth’s new album.  It was so clean that it hurt the atmosphere.  At the same time, with this, if it was too raw it would be an attempt…

R: Like he was rushing it out.

M: Right, or like he was trying to be like early 90s black metal.

A: I love Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal, but obviously that’s some of the worst production ever.  I’m glad he didn’t go with the worst production ever, because that would have been not reinventing himself, not pushing forward.  It would be a needless throwback to his early albums.  Showing that he stayed true to himself, but I’m glad he didn’t bend to that scene.

M: And I’d say it lives up, more than lives up, to all the hype. I think it surpasses it.

A: I would agree with that.

R: Very interested to see what he’s going to come out with next.

M: I feel bad already looking forward to it, since it has only been out for a week.

A; I think it’s just incredible considering how recently he came out of jail and got down to recording an album.

R: Especially being reunited with his family and dealing with that PLUS getting back into the business side of his music.

A: Picking up a guitar again… it’s pretty incredible to think that this album, which we all really enjoy, came out in such a short time. It really goes to show that if he sits down and is able to put even more thought into the next album, maybe take a little more time…

R: His vacation in jail really did some good!

A: Got to sit around and read books.

R: …got to think a lot.

M: It certainly paid off. But he did mention that if he ever does ambient, he’s going to be doing it under a different moniker than Burzum. Who knows, maybe we will be seeing a side project.

A: I wouldn’t mind that either.

R: This would be a great way to end the Burzum brand.

M: I would say so far, it’s only a couple months into the year, but it’s definitely my favorite album of the year.

A: But that new Sigh!

M: AHHHH, haven’t heard it!

A: Burzum’s Belus, its out on CD and vinyl, and it was a limited edition on both. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, you should!

R: Hit up the local shop!

M: Hit up your local… well… I’m sure Best Buy won’t have it! No one will have it, but import it. Import that shit.

A: You’re not going to get a chance to listen to an album that’s as important to the scene culturally.

M: Something as forward thinking as this is a must-listen.

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