album review : Umskiptar (2012) – Burzum

album : Umskiptar

artist : Burzum

genre : Black Metal, Ambient

year : 2012

The story so far…

By now you know everything about this one man who single-handedly annihilates every description of black metal. Google would help you, and not your god, to get to know Varg Vikernes better. The most read articles on Absurd History ever are the reviews of links : Belus and Fallen which are Burzum‘s last two releases. You can even go through them to get an idea about this man who should be the only person commenting on true black metal. But if you have noticed he has never opened his mouth or spoken about his music. That’s says it all about him.

Three years have passed by since Varg Vikernes a.k.a. Burzum (also known as Count Grishnackh) was released from prison. During and before the Hliðskjálf years, Burzum had already usurped the throne of metal’s most underground genre and moved on ahead. In 2010, the man with the dark touch was ready to burn down every established black metal act. Belus happened, and lives changed. The formula was repeated in 2011, and Fallen brought out the black clouds out of the sky yet again. Now, we are in 2012, hearing Umskiptar. Can you feel your erect hair everywhere on you? It is an indication that the bell has been rung, and the year’s most awaited release is here to show you how important your time is.

Umskiptar (2012)…

So what do we have here? Another masterpiece or a strong man’s silent efforts to make everybody obey him? We are looking at a fully charged and matured musician out with his tunes where he reads out verses from a Norse poem, Völuspá. When he said vocals are going to be the most important aspect of Umskiptar, he bloody meant it. What you hear in abundance are the words performed entirely in Icelandic. And if you’re thinking that there has been a compromise in music then let me assure you, my friends, that Burzum has taken himself out of his own boundaries to compile a release that will trample albums without any efforts.

Be very scared of the intro that is named Blóðstokkinn (meaning ‘Soaked in Blood’), for if you do not obey the master you are in for a thrashing which follows in about a minute. For the first time Varg speaks on his intro music, which has chilling beats in the background. Jóln (meaning ‘Deities’) pulls the cloth and we are already participating in the yearly Burzum ceremony. Bring out your dancing attires and robes, because the music is in established Burzum-style. Lush riffs, persistent guitaring and entirely thematic in its approach, there is no difference on song number two and what we know this man for.

As you spend six precious minutes of your life breathing in Varg‘s breath coming out of your speakers, lined up next is a totally unexpected piece of piano intro. It’s called Alfadanz (meaning ‘Elven Dance’). The piano is then transformed in exact same fashion into guitars and drums, carrying the story forward with more determination. I did not realize the nine and a half minutes that passed by during Alfadanz. That happened due to a plain fact that even though you are three songs into Umskiptar you are still reeling under the pleasant shock as to how poetry, folk, darkness and the instruments are all woven together into one record. This song goes slow, and at places releases loads of energy at once with some tricky benders.

Song number four is Hit Helga Tré (meaning ‘The Sacred Tree’). Progressing at the same rate as before, Hit Helga Tré ushers some more grimacing facets and it has harmonies that should be respected for they pause the proceedings in your mind. On the next two songs Burzum talks about honour and esteem. I don’t need to add separately that these qualities have already been showcased on Burzum‘s previous records. Æra (meaning ‘Honour’) and Heiðr (meaning ‘Esteem’) are short, to-the-point, final words on the two qualities which are less about the music and more about the concrete meanings.

Fold your hands as the next three songs are prayers. Valgaldr (meaning ‘Song of the Fallen’), Galgviðr (meaning ‘Gallow Forest’) and Surtr Sunnan (meaning ‘Black from the South’) take you into a fantasy world and to understand what I’m saying you need to just translate the lyrics. Do that much. With consoling twin guitar work and almost no-drums, Varg isn’t in a hurry, as he croons the passages gently so it reaches us. The album’s longest song, at over ten minutes, Gullaldr (meaning ‘Golden Age’) is a one-sided conversation where we, the audiences, gain Norse wisdom. Beautifully put together, the entrancing epic phrases are unfolded, so this one’s about the ambience. The album sealer Níðhöggr (meaning ‘Attack from Below’) mixes and matches various instruments to produce sound that makes sense as the doors to Burzum‘s ninth full-length are seen closing.

Not the ultimatum, the tale continues…

Although many around would see this as a black metal ultimatum being issued by Varg, but it is only a matter of another year or so before he will come down heavily with another biggie. He does not make an appearance, nor does he comment on anything unnecessary. He only enters the studio, records his albums, and gives them to us lowly creatures so we can continue discovering the meaning of our lives. Far from the disturbing world, in one corner of the planet we have this person named Burzum who caters to the known as well as the unknown aspects of the glorious nature of black metal. Bow down.

Rating : 4.5/5

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About Itihas Shetty

Is a verbomaniac. And a human being. And that's where the problem begins. View all posts by Itihas Shetty

4 responses to “album review : Umskiptar (2012) – Burzum

  • Chenille Robes

    I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours as of late, yet I by no means found any attention-grabbing article like yours. It is pretty value sufficient for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will likely be much more helpful than ever before.

  • Darketh

    but umskiptar has transcended black metal now, as in, it is now a new genre. if you look it up on the internet, it’s listed as skaldic metal…

    • Itihas Shetty

      Yes, Burzum has added another dimension to black metal and it is indeed listed as skaldic metal everywhere. Having said that, isn’t black metal too a branch of the metal tree? Similarly, Umskiptar has skaldic elements in it’s music, the way Falkenbach (Germany) and Hel (Sweden) have it in theirs. So, being a true black metal lover I would want to remember Burzum as a band that provided me with unadulterated one-of-it’s-kind black metal music. Skaldic stuff happened along the way much like how he experimented with ambient metal a few years back.

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