Burzum. One of the pivotal bands of the early 90s Norwegian black metal scene, and one of the founding bands of the genre. They have achieved legendary status, as well as infamy. The mere mention of their name is enough to provoke passionate responses from fans and detractors. The band helped define the sound of traditional black metal and their earlier albums are considered staples of the genre. Burzum is a one man project by the infamous Varg Vikernes, also famous for church burnings, murder and Youtube videos that have led to countless memes. But behind it all there is the music. Renowned for adding for adding folk elements, and a unique rise and fall sound to the guitar riffs, albums such as the seminal ‘Filosofem’ have achieved iconic status. So it seems natural that bands influenced by Burzum would want to pay tribute. Antichrist magazine have answered the call with the release of A Tribute To Burzum’. The tribute has metal bands from all over Europe covering some of Burzum’s most famous songs.
First up, we have The Netherlands’ Yaotzin covering the song Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. The sound has that lo-fi ‘ fuzzy’ quality beloved amongst some BM enthusiasts, bit with some melody thread throughout then guitars. The vocals are an anguished growl that really sets a grim mood, the music urgent and driven. The band perfectly captures Burzum’s signature guitar sound with their own take on the Norwegian riff. The rise and fall of the almost symphonic riffs takes on different tones as the composition and the pace of the song changes. The different parts of the song change subtly and there is a uniformity to the sound. But the blast beats of the drums keep you in their grip. It is an excellent start. This is followed by the well known Jesus’ Tod by the German band Kahld. This also opens with that lo-fi recording effect, but there is an almost symphonic thread winding through the sound. Again we have the signature ‘rise and fall’ riffs punctuated with furious blast beats. The band really nail the spirit of the song and give their rendition melody and depth. This flows into Belus’ Dod by the Ukraine’s Atra Mors. This band launch straight into that dark, old school BM sound. The screamed vocals have an almost possessed feel that lend atmosphere, the music heavier with deeper tones. Like the songs before they pay tribute to the Burzum signature sound, but add their own twist giving it new life. Their rendition really grabs your attention and keeps it. They mix harsh brutality with a tormented and spooky element.
Aetranok (USA) then give us their rendition of A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit. This one is fast and gripping. They capture that early Norwegian scene sound, creating a wall of noise with the guitars. The drums are simple but effective and the vocals live up to the original. They never lose pace, elements of a doomed march leaking through. This rendition is true to the original in both sound and spirit. Then we have Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown by Mykyr Skogur of The Netherlands. This band add a harder, thrasher feel to tis track, harkening to the roots of extreme metal. The highlight of this track is the vocals. Different vocal tones thread throughout and provide something different and unique. A highlight of the album and keeps you wanting more. Next we fade into Stemmen Fra Taarnet presented by Wan (Sweden). There is an almost Bathroom like quality to this song, harder, edgier and far heavier. The guitars provide rocking riffs that grab you, and the vocals are deep and ghoulish providing atmosphere. The song lifts the album with something different. Next up Dynasty Of Darkness (Germany/Norway) get the honour of covering one of the most famous Burzum songs released, Dunkelheit. We get taken back to that early BM sound on this one. There is a slow winding feel, and more melody in the guitars. There is a synth sound that adds a dark folkish element. These slow synth notes interplay with the distorted riffs to create a dark, mythical atmosphere. An excellent take on a truly unique and lauded song. This is the stand out track so far, and deservedly so.
Mournful Winter from Germany immediately introduce a more doom laden sound to their cover of My Journey To The Stars. The guitars are distorted but the guitar solos more intricate than usual. The heavy blasts of the drums keep the track heavier, and there is a driven feel that is amplified by the desperate vocals. This is a fast headbanger track and is a refreshing change of pace. Distortion sounds punctuated by what sounds like a pan flute lead us into Han Som Reiste by the Ukraine’s Colotyphus. The instrumental track sounds almost like Medieval music but created on synthesisers. It is reminiscent of early Mortiis, but more stark and simple. There are some heavy guitar sounds and minimal drums that punctuate at points. Despite being made on modern programmed instruments, this track has an ancient, pagan feel. Then we change directions completely with the sudden and heavy start of Glemselens Elv by Unholy Baptism (USA). We are back to the old school black metal Burzum sound. Traditional Norwegian riffs take the stage, as the drums are more understated in this track. This is a close to original rendition of the track with the two different vocal sound sounding out the track.
Estonia’s Bestia give us Beholding The Daughters Of The Firmament bringing excellent musicianship to this classic. This is a slow dirge punctuated with powerful riffs and symphonic synth tones. The song is simple but the band really elevate it and give it new life. We are introduced to a more blackened death sound on War by Chaoscraft (Greece). Heavy crashing rifts and grim ghoulish vocals grab you by the throat. Power guitar solos inject life into the tracking the pace never relents. This tribute has a richer tone and less fuzz which really adds a new dimension to the song. This hearkens back to the early days of metal and is a welcome change.Thy Unmasked (Colombia) and their rendition of Vanvidd is more true to the original. The quickened rise and fall of the hitters, the blasting drums are all familiar territory. But the band add their own flair and lend the song a more dark and dire sense of urgency. The different vocals add an ominous feel at times. Uruk_Hai of Austria certainly make an entrance on Hermodr A Helferd. A crashing effect that sounds like lightening followed by a soft lyre like sound. Another synth instrumental, this one is lighter and more like a lullaby. More of an interlude than a song, we close with more lightning.
We get back on the black metal horse with Eclipse Of The Sun (Hungary) and their version if Valgaldr (song Of The Fallen). There is an epic feel to this song, and more intricate guitar playing is evident. There is a gothic sound to this track, deeper sung vocals and more melody. It almost veers into gothic rock territory, but keeps that heaviness. Slow and winding, beautiful and pleading, the vocals stand out as they implore. Almost ballad like but not soft in any way. En Ring Til A Herske by Imsar (Belarus) is next, and we are back to that metal sound. There is a goth element to this too, but the hard and heavy guitars take it to a new place. That symphonic, almost choral element is there and the song veers into doom territory at times. A heavy, building feel interspersed by keyboard tones that slowly fades out. The final track is listed as a special bonus. This track is as unique as the artist. Katarina Gubanova of Germany is a classical pianist who has covered black metal songs before. Extremely talented, she was even courted by Satyricon for a performance. The song Ea, Lord Of The Depths is a hard and fast traditional BM tune, but Gubanovas rendition is something that needs to be heard. Purely her playing the piano, she somehow layers sounds and notes to create more than the sum of its parts. She plays quickly and intricately , capturing the riffs with flourishes of the keys. It is hard to believe there is only one person playing at times. The mood is slower and softer to great effect. Brutality is replaced by heartbreak and we end the experience spent.
Overall, this tribute album has something for every Burzum fan. From faithful to the original covers, to tributes that bring something new. We are also introduced to some bands different to the usual who appear on black metal tribute albums. It is worth a listen for those who want a Burzum experience different than the usual re-listen, and also for those who are not as familiar. Each track is well chosen, and the whole playlist is cohesive and flows well.
You listen to the full stream of this Burzum tribute right here!