Well another year, another Burzum album. Which is somewhat odd, coming from the guy who swore up and down that the more obscure something is, the more it defaults to being “better” than most things based on that simple fact alone and that less is more for many years. Maybe there’s a contract inked somewhere even with his own label imprint saying that more is all of a sudden a good thing, who knows. It’s not QUITE the black metal scene it was once upon a time, now is it? He’s even gone back and re-recorded one of his early albums to make it sound the way he “originally envisioned it”, which I’ll kindly pass on as there’s absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever with the original recordings, thanks. Well, let’s see what The Bad Boy Of Black Metal and his rock star ways have conjured up for us this outing, before the next album inevitably hits us 11 months (or heck, maybe even less than that!) from now.

“Umskiptar” here delves further into all those obscure “Norse-Germanic” (does ANYBODY else use those two terms concurrently except Varg?) myths and legends that Vikernes adores so much, only this time the songs tend to linger into the realm of the slow. Not doooooooooom metal sloooooooooow, but a bit more riffy, and a bit more melodic, and not nearly as hypnotic as previous Burzum efforts. Based on a poem called “Völuspá” that apparently appears in Varg’s book “Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandanavia” (which I didn’t read, so is my black metal street cred somehow now in question? Aw crap!) and in the Old Norse tongue, something I don’t happen to speak. The liner notes are replete with artwork portraying the usual “sad” and “forgotten” themes Vikernes likes to address with every breathing moment. Varg takes it all into folky territory too, with more clean vocals and spoken word parts to give Henry Rollins a run for his money. There’s also some mellow piano segments and the album wraps up with horns blaring (which I’m sure must be made from animal parts, in keeping with that fine pagan tradition!) and Varg speaking, one of many instances to indulge the listener in some newfangled Varg-isms. It may try to mesmerize somebody, but it hardly has such effect.

What is does do effectively, however, is give us a new perspective on Burzum, a new pedigree of experimentation and unorthodox black metal, or even Burzum, turf. Does it work? Absolutely. Will it possibly turn off a good portion of people? Even more so. For those who have decried the direction Varg has gone since his release from prison, this will only exacerbate those emotions. Go into it with an open mind and just tell yourself it’s another offering from a mad genius, and you just might welcome all the change. I know I sure did. Varg may wander and journey all over the place in his quest for more attention and publicity (after all, what else does he have?), but he sure does know how to deliver quite the exquisite and eyebrow-raising package, however self-indulgent it may be. (FA)