Review : BURZUM – ‘Umskiptar’

Burzum-Umskiptar-2012-cover

BurzumUmskiptar
Release: 2012May21
Label: Byelobog Productions
Rating: 1.5/5

I don’t really know what to say about Varg Vikernes. I’ve written and rewritten this introduction several times, in the hopes of coming up with something insightful to say about the man, but have yet to come up with anything worthwhile. I love him and hate him at the same time. He is both a gift and a curse to the metal world and some of his music is truly breathtaking. He’s been responsible for or at least involved in some of the finest albums put out over the course of the last 20 years. I’m always happy when he puts out something terrible, though, because then I don’t have to feel guilty about supporting the music of, as MetalSucks put it, a “murdering bigot fuckhead”.

Umskiptar is the first Burzum album to challenge Dauði Baldrs in its complete and utter deplorability. But the thing that made Dauði so atrocious was the fact that it sounded like some dude sitting in a prison cell diddling on synthesizers with absolutely no direction (oh wait…). What’s bad about Umskiptar is that it’s simply black metal taken to its absolute cheesiest, most pretentious point. Instead of the chilling repetition and atmosphere of Filosofem and Hvis lyset tar oss which has been explored on the other records Varg has put out since his release from prison, Umskiptar comes off as trying to be something that it absolutely isn’t; it sounds fake and hokey all the way through.

Umskiptar‘s lyrics are taken from an Old Norse poem called “Völuspá”. For the most part, Varg is speaking the words over the music as opposed to screaming or growling them. Granted, screams are aplenty here, but it’s the sound of a nearly 40-year-old disgruntled Norwegian man flatly reading some old Scandinavian creation story that is enough to make you want to gouge your eyes out. The music underneath is also some of the most uninspired metal I’ve ever heard, especially coming from a guy who’s made excellent music and been a powerhouse for 20+ years. It sounds more like some kid sitting in his bedroom with his new Squier Strat and a 50 watt Line 6 Spider III, trying to be kvlt by writing some disjointed, tremolo-picked shit.

I get it, artistic expression and all that jazz, blah blah blah. I mean, no one can say that Varg is selling out on this album. His music has never been accessible and this is no change. However, I feel the same way about Umskiptar as I did about Lulu last year, in the sense that an artist can be making the music they truly want to make and be expressing themselves while simultaneously sounding abysmal. When responding to criticisms like mine, people always say that “musicians have the right to change their style. They’re just exercising their artistic freedom!” (Go and read Lou Reed’s response to all the Lulu controversy) Well sure, that’s fine and dandy, but as a critic, I also have the right to rip apart useless music. Fortunately, I doubt that Varg gives a shit about what anybody has to say about him at this point.

FCC OK
Try: Nothing here is worth your time. Go listen to the new Mgła if you’re searching for good black metal.

01. Blóðstokkinn
02. Jóln
03. Alfadanz
04. Hit helga Tré
05. Æra
06. Heiðr
07. Valgaldr
08. Galgviðr
09. Surtr Sunnan
10. Gullaldr
11. Níðhöggr

~Willie Strausser

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