Thursday, April 16, 2009

Burzum - Hil∂skjálf (1999)

Once upon a time, Varg Vikernes, better known as Burzum, made horrible shrieking Norwegian black metal like so many other bands.But Burzum, not content to be one among legions of similar musicians, took things too far. He went and got himself arrested for murdering a fellow black metal practitioner, as well as for burning down some churches.

Now, even though Scandinavian prisons are world renowned for their soft treatment of prisoners, it just didn't seem like a good idea to provide Burzum with guitars, drums, microphones and all the other equipment he would need to continue recording. What they would give him, however, was a keyboard and a laptop. Hence, Hil∂skjálf.

Hil∂skjálf, which as we all know is the name of Odin's throne in Asgard, is an album of spooky yet majestic synth music. Despite its origins, it has a peaceful, organic quality that is at times quite beautiful. It calls to mind ancient and neglected Nordic forests, where perhaps there be trolls.

There are no lyrics, but the booklet contains written passages to accompany each track. These are largely descriptions of Gods, warfare and other traditional Viking concepts, used to express in allegorical fashion Burzum's anti-Christian worldview. While I by no means endorse any of his views (nor, for that matter, many of the artists I profile on this blog) I must admit that the music is compelling and well crafted. With the notable exception of some bad timpani samples, one often forgets that all the instruments are synthetic.

Burzum was released from prison in March of 2009, a full decade after this, his last album. As of this writing he has made no steps towards resuming his music career, which perhaps is for the best.

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