"There's more chaos, war, pollution now than ever before in our recorded history. Of course, we might have known a period with worse conditions, but the Christians burnt all the records that could tell us about it."
Such a nice young man, that Varg...
Burzum is a one-man studio project by Norwegian black metal musician Varg Vikernes, notorious within music history for church burnings, the killing of Mayhem
's guitarist Euronymous, and being a white nationalist. Burzum is also the Trope Maker
for ambient black metal.
Founded in 1991, Burzum initially played raw black metal, and quickly became prominent within the Norwegian black metal scene. Burzum was signed to Deathlike Silence Productions
, the record label run by Øystein Aarseth (aka Euronymous); Vikernes released four albums before his arrest in 1994 for the murder of Euronymous (whom he stabbed, allegedly over a contract dispute), as well as the arson of several churches in the area. While in prison, Vikernes recorded two dark ambient albums, which had a more mixed reception from the metal community than the rest of his albums.
Vikernes was released in 2009 on parole, and started recording the album Belus
, his first metal album since his arrest.Studio albums:
- Burzum, 1992
- Det som engang var, 1993
- Aske, 1993
- Hvis lyset tar oss, 1994
- Filosofem, 1996
- Dauði Baldrs, 1997
- Hliðskjálf, 1999
- Belus, 2010
- Fallen, 2011
- Umskiptar, 2012
- Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, 2013
- The Ways of Yore, 2014
Varg Vikernes and his music provide the following trope examples:
- Badass Bookworm: Varg has previously expressed his admiration for many different authors. The most famous example is probably J. R. R. Tolkien, from whose work Varg takes Burzum's name.
- Bilingual Bonus: While he has a few English lyrics, most of his songs are in his native Norwegian. Also, the most commonly used versions of the song titles on Filosofem are all in German, although the lyrics themselves are in English ("Dunkelheit", "Erblicket die Töchter des Firmaments") and Norwegian ("Jesus' Dod", "Gebrichlichkeit I"). There are German translations of the song lyrics in the liner notes, though.
- Black Metal: Dauði Baldrs, Hliðskjálf, and Sôl austan, Mâni vestan are straight-up electronic albums, but the rest of Varg's material is black metal.
- Brown Note: The music is intended as a real life example of this trope - Vikernes envisions each Burzum album as a kind of "spell" to be listened to while the listener is lying in bed, such that by the end of the album they will be sent to sleep. YMMV as to whether he succeeded in this goal.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: This is particularly evident at his trial. The faces he makes in the file photos don't look like he's taking it very seriously.
- Epic Rocking: About half of the songs he's recorded. Hvis lyset tar oss, for example, is comprised of four tracks, the shortest of which is nearly eight minutes long.
- Genre Shift: From black metal to dark ambient. And back to black metal again with Belus. And then back to dark ambient again with Sôl austan, Mâni vestan.
- Harsh Vocals: For the most part. Clean singing/spoken word is used sparsely.
- Heavy Mithril: Quite frequently.
- I Am the Band: As stated in the opening sentence, Varg Vikernes is the only member of Burzum. Considering how well his last attempt at playing in a band with other people went, this is probably for the best.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: As a rule when the lyrics are screamed (although a Norwegian speaker might face less difficulty).
- Leave the Camera Running: "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" is the most obvious example. Some of his other songs probably qualify as well.
- Loudness War: Everything he's done since he got out of prison is painfully clipped. He claimed that Fallen was going to be mastered "as if it was classical music", but it got a dismal DR6 (worse than the preceding album Belus' DR7), which begs the question of what kind of classical music Varg listens to. It doesn't help, either, that the vinyl edition of at least Belus used the same master as the CD. Reissues of his old stuff remain just as dynamic as they ever were, however (a typical score on one of his '90s albums being DR10).
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: The black metal material mostly sticks to a 9 or a 10. The dark ambient material can't really be measured on the scale due to being purely electronic.
- Multiple-Choice Past: He changes his story nearly every time he recounts how he killed Euronymous.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: His Genre Shift to dark ambient came about because for the duration of his sentence the prison guards refused to allow him record with guitars and basses, only allowing him a keyboard. Yes, prisons in Norway do allow inmates to record dark ambient albums that because in most of Europe detention is meant to be rehabilitative rather than punishing/torturous.
- Refuge in Audacity: Varg claimed to have stabbed Euronymous in self defense at his murder trial. Euronymous had 23 wounds on his corpse.
- Although he claims that many of Euronymous's "stab wounds" were actually inflicted by broken glass he threw him down upon (not entirely implausible, considering several of these wounds were on the soles of his feet).
- He also put a picture of the burned down Fantoft Stave Church on the cover of his EP Aske (Ashes). And this worked. He was convicted of burning down 3 other churches, but found not guilty of burning down the Fantoft Stave Church.
- Self-Titled Album
- Soprano and Gravel: While most of his vocals are the typical Harsh Vocals of black metal, there are occasional sung or spoken parts thrown in for variety and effect.
- Spoken Word in Music
- Stage Names: Originally, Varg was known as "Count Grishnackh".
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: The ambient instrumentals.
- Three Chords and the Truth: All of Burzum's music is extremely minimalistic, stripped-down and repetitive - most songs are just cycles of two or three recurring riffs. The same principle extends to the production quality, which is deliberately bare and lo-fi - for the recording of the Filosofem album, he even forwent using a guitar amp, instead plugging his guitar into the speaker of his brother's old hi-fi.
- Title Track: Somewhat confusingly, Det som engang var does not feature the track "Det som engang var": that song didn't make an appearance until his next album, Hvis lyset tar oss.
- Trope Maker: For ambient black metal (as mentioned above), alongside Ildjarn.
- Ur Example: For ambient and depressive black metal, arguably.