Monday, February 2, 2009

Burzum - Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994)

Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (English translation: If The Light Takes Us) is often regarded as one of, if not the, greatest achievements in black metal history. Not only has the album been a major influence to many different bands (not just black metal), but it is also admired for depicting the black metal genre in its purest and rawest form.

To better understand Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, we must first take a brief look at the man behind it all, the infamous Varg Vikernes. Varg Vikernes, also known as Count Grishnackh, is the former bassist for black metal pioneers Mayhem. In the early nineties, Varg was convicted of arson upon numerous churches throughout Norway, most notably the Fantoft Stave, a historical building that had been around for centuries (a photograph of the church after it was destroyed was later used for the cover of Burzum's Aske EP). His most notorious crime however, was the murder of Mayhem member Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth. While his motives for the murder are still relatively unclear, Vikernes himelf claims that he was only acting in self defense and that Euronymous planned to kill him first. His conviction of the murder landed him 21 years in prison, a sentence that he is still living out to this day. And although Vikernes is a self-proclaimed Pagan and an advocate of nationalism and anti-theism, none of these sentiments directly influence the album itself.

While bands like Ulver brought a lighter, folk-influenced sound into black metal, Vikernes chose to go in the opposite direction. The first three tracks of the album are bound to be some of the most morbid and unrelenting songs you will ever hear in your life. The first track, "Det Som En Gang Var," is the backbone of the album and arguably one of the best black metal songs ever recorded. It starts off slow, setting up a dark, gloomy atmosphere that will remain for the duration of the album. Then, it continues to build in intensity until you're faced with a haunting, atmospheric, raw wall of sound and presence that does not let up until the final song of the album. Vikernes is also one of the most terrifying vocalists I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. What he lacks in technical ability, he makes up for with raw emotion. His tortured voice pretty much embodies the pure, raw emotion and feeling of black metal. The album continues in this general direction until the forth and final track, "Tomhet." "Tomhet" is the track that brings everything back down and concludes the album. Instead of invoking the same feelings of death and despair as the rest of the album, "Tomhet" creates a calm and peaceful atmosphere with its droning ambience and soothing keyboards.

The ability of Vikernes to convey so many different emotions throughout one piece of music never ceases to amaze me. On the surface of Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, you'll hear some of the most brutal and despairing music ever. But below its dark and depressive shell, you're likely to discover an atmospherically beautiful album full of raw passion and emotion that has yet to be surpassed. It's certainly not for everyone, but anyone with an open mind should check this out.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post.

Louis C. said...

off 4 while now!!! what takes so long to re-up, man?