358: BURZUM

From perhaps the most famous band of the black metal movement, to undoubtedly it’s most infamous. One of the best examples of needing to separate the art from the artist, Varg Vikernes’ work as Burzum stands as some of the most undeniably influential black metal in history.

Vikernes efforts to create raw, yet minimalist black metal, integrating folk and ambient elements, made Burzum a progenitor for ambient black metal (a hugely popular subgenre in subsequent years). Each Burzum song was heavy on repetitive, simple yet hypnotic passages, as Vikernes saw them as a type of ‘magic spell’. The intent was to instil an almost trance-like state in the listener, creating a more powerful listening experience.

While Vikernes was imprisoned for the murder of Euronymous and access to instruments was limited, Burzum released two synth-heavy ambient folk albums, before returning to his black metal origins upon release. While his post-prison albums are still amazing black metal, the genre-defining influence of Vikernes’ early work can not be overstated.

Burzum’s fourth album, ‘Filosofem’, recorded shortly before he went to prison (and released during) shows Vikernes really expanding upon what he wanted Burzum to be. The hypnotic, simple motifs are heavily utilised, as well as ambient elements, and an overall experimental nature. By the time ‘Filosofem’ was released, Burzum was far and away experimenting the most with the black metal sound.

Varg Vikernes is a murderer. That is unavoidable. But, again, sometimes we must separate the artist, and if you avoid listening to Burzum because of the person behind the music, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. There’s a reason Burzum’s music hasn’t fallen into obscurity, and it’s not (just) infamy.

Infamy aside, Burzum is one of the most important black metal projects in history. The Burzum influence on modern black metal is simply beyond reproach.