Burzum – “Thulêan Mysteries” (Byelobog Productions)
Battle Helm Rating
Uh oh. Definitely one of the most feared names in metal (and for good cause) the name of Varg Vikernes has its place in history, either rightly or wrongly, even garnering attention to this day through 2018’s “Lords Of Chaos” movie. Vikernes’s history is well documented, along with his music that has continued both during incarceration and afterwards right up until 2014 when he released “The Ways Of Yore”. Then silence, until now. “Thulêan Mysteries” is essentially a 23 track compendium of everything Varg had not released on CD before but recorded between one and five years ago. When I say ‘recorded’ however, think of a 10 year old Mini-Mac, a lyre, a mobile’s microphone and for a ‘studio’, Varg’s VW van with a ‘drum’ sound made up of him tapping his foot on the floor of it! That said, this is Varg Vikernes we’re talking about and in his own way, and in his own time, he has taken his own early pioneering DIY style and fashioned “Thulêan Mysteries” into something quite remarkable in being able to arrange minimalist sounds to great effect from simple melodies to the use of hypnotic repetition and inducing dreamlike atmospheres that are truly captivating. As such, the aforementioned foot tapping on the ‘The Great Sleep’ is anything but a bore, rather adding to the rustic atmosphere enriched by Varg’s own Nordic folk singing to the sound of the lyre being delicately plucked. Influenced by his MYFAROG role playing game with the cover art depicting a Nix creature that could be found in Thule, “Thulêan Mysteries” is reminiscent of “Det Som Engang Var”, which I believe translates to ‘that which once was’. Indeed, one of the songs ‘Skin Traveller’ is a re-recording of ‘Han Som Reiste’ (‘he who travelled’), here given an ambient string / keyboard interpretation somewhat less dungeon like that its original but possibly reflecting a man whose passion has shifted to restoring ‘..the forest that once covered our continent from East to West, North to South. Our natural habitat..’, but whose fiery passion in the Norse concept of ‘hamingja’ is very much at the center of this piece in illustrating ‘…he who left, and came back..’. Elsewhere, like on ‘ForeBears’, it’s the delicate but incredibly moving guitar work that makes this instrumental a true heart breaker in its melancholia, again attesting to its simplicity yet undeniable power. Likewise, the pagan drumming and ritual chanting on ‘Heill auk Saell’ also has its place here, adding to the overall trance while taking the listener to a more primitive age, as do the futuristic keys and deep dark bass bass melded with animal sounds on ‘Jotunnheimer’. Thinking of RPGs, then ‘The Ruins Of Dwarfmount’ with its acoustic guitar and piped sounds perfectly brings to life a picture of these short, folkloric creatures busying themselves about their business while on ‘The Road To Hel’ the raw, icy guitar instantly takes you back to Burzum’s oldest albums in complete contrast to beautiful bliss of the title track ‘Thulêan Mysteries’ where different flowing guitar sounds evoke a powerful sense of being carried away to the escapist fantasy world that Varg sought to create all those years ago given his dissatisfaction with the real world. Taking in a breathtaking range of song lengths ranging from 55 seconds to 15 minutes I guess what has made this all work is the arrangement of the songs to not just flow, but add to the compounding effect via each composition, attesting once again to the man’s brilliance, like him or not. Certainly older and perhaps wiser, and despite his statement that ‘..Burzum is dead..’ and he has ‘..no interest in playing music..’ and that indeed, this is an ‘accidental’ album, “Thulêan Mysteries” is still very much ‘Burzumic’ and so too is the beast that created it.