|Ambient Black Metal
Back on Black Records
Release length: 1:12:39
This compilation takes material from a couple various sources, but mostly stem from official Burzum material, such as the out of print Burzum full-length, Aske EP, as well as the band’s self-titled first demo. However, some of the material here clearly did not, such as “Et Hvitt Lus Over Skogen” and “Once Emperor”, both of which came from the bootleg version of Svarte Dauen, with “Et Hvitt Lys Over Skogen” originally composed for the 1998 compilation Presumed Guilty. Either way, Draugen makes for an enjoyable romp through some of the more lesser known or heard material from Burzum, and for the most part, the material soiunds excellent. Of course, the tracks that come off the Burzum full-length and Aske EP sound well composed and have a great production quality to them to begin with, and wind up being nice little additions to this compilation. But, of course, for any fans, it’s not a few tracks from previously available material that lures them to most compilations, but the more scarce material, like demos and b-sides, which is where Draugen shines, but not quite that bright a shine one would expect.
One of the biggest issues for this compilation would simply be the track listing. Granted, it’s never a good idea to climp everything together in certain secytions, such as songs from one album in the original track list order, followed by tracks from the next album in the same order, then the third, then the fourth, etc., however, in this case, it would have been a bit beneficial. “My Journey To the Stars” comes off the Burzum full-length, and appears much later on the compilation between the Ildjarn song “Seven Harmonies of the Unknown Truth”, and “Lost Wisdom”. This would be a great move if this were a best of release and not a rarities compilation. In the end, this track, as well as all better quality studio tracks, should have been lumped together like the rest of the rare tracks included instead of being scattered about at the start and end of the compilation, to help ensure a nice flow between one song to the next.
But, track order aside, most fans of Burzum will probably skip by those tracks for one reason or another, and head straight to the more rare songs. The entire 1992 Burzum Demo I release is here, though not of the best quality. While the demo is fantastic to hear, it plays as if there is something wrong with the demo tape that they were taken from. It’s sad that the other two demos didn’t make the list, but it’s definitely interesting to sit down and hear this demo to see how far the band had progressed over the years, or how far back they were set in some people’s eyes. Outside the entertaining, but rather poor sounding demo tracks, there’s also he bootleg tracks from Svarte Dauen to listen to. “Et Hvitt Lys Over Skogen” was originally recorded for a compilatiom, as outlined above, but one wouldn’t think it with the quality presented on this release. The song itself sounds very hollow and often overmodulated, as well as comes off like it was transfered from a microphone to a speaker that was playing the song from whatever original source it came from. Infact, the high pitch static that adorns the track is often very hard to look past, and will easily give you a migraine over the nine minute time span of the song. The same goesa for “Once Emperor”. “Seven Harmonies of the Unknown Truth”, however, is a different story all together. It’s clear that it’s not even Burzum in the first place, but the audio to the recording sounds as muffled as the previous two recordings, it’s just minus the higher pitched static and other white noise issues.
Draugen actually comes in a nice black slipcover that houses a traditional jewel case that features the same artwork. Aside the thirteen audio tracks, there’s a bonus video included. Instead of opting for a two disc set, Back on Black threw the seven plus minute video track “Dunkelheit”, which was released on VHS in 1996 as a promotional video for the band, onto a dual-disc, an invention that simply did not last long. So, of course, the audio is on one side, and the vide on the other. The problem with that is some players cannot read dual discs due to a lack of modern technology in the drive, or because the disc is just generally too thick or heavy to fit in most players. This also deters this from playback in many CD players, such as car stereos that you feed the CD into thanks to the drive itself sometimes being too small to accept the disc. After searching for a player that would work, the video finally played, and it’s a nice addition to the compilation, and also brings a piece of Burzum‘s history into a modern age where more people could easily enjoy it (with the word easily being used loosely here), but the video itself still looks and sounds like you’re watching it directtly from the original VHS with some audio drop outs here and there to complete the package.
Really, this compilation is not a bad one. It’s only faults wind up being the static from the Burzum Demo I tracks and the bootleg tracks on this release. But, it’s unclear for the most part if that white noise is due to the transfer process utilized for this release, or if that is the genuine production quality brought on, as some of these recordings, especially the demo, did have a very low production quality to them to start with. Draugen proves to be a nice piece of Black Metal that pulls together some material Burzum fans may never have heard before, and for that it’s a great release to have in your collection if you’re a fan. However, the inclusion of an Ildjarn song, and that this does include material already released, though out of print, really takes away from more rare material that is present, especially since those who buy this more then likely already own the previous released Burzum full-length and Aske EP release. Plus, if you’re going to put material that’s already been released on a rarities collection, and take two thirds of that release into it, why leave out the final piece? Sadly, this is the case here with the Aske EP, which has two of it’s three songs featured, which makes no sense whatever. Draugen definitely could have been treated better, and definitely could have been placed on a two disc set to make life easier for some listeners instead of a crappy dual-disc, but in the end it accomplishes what it sets out to do, for the most part.
01. Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit (Burzum)- 9:10
02. Stemmen Fra Taarnet (Aske) – 6:09
03. Dominus Sathanas (Aske) – 3:04
04. Lost Wisdom (Burzum Demo I) – 4:52
05. Spell of Destruction (Burzum Demo I) – 4:58
06. Channeling the Power of Souls Into a New God (Burzum Demo I)- 4:00
07. Outro (Burzum Demo I) – 1:57
08. Et Hvitt Lus Over Skogen (Svarte Dauen bootleg)- 9:08
09. Once Emperor (Svarte Dauen bootleg) – 6:14
10. Seven Harmonies of the Unknown Truth (Scarte Dauen bootleg) (Ildjarn)- 3:09
11. My Journey to the Stars (Burzum)- 8:10
12. Lost Wisdom (Det Som Engang Var)- 4:38
13. Dunkelheit (Filosofem)- 7:05
14. Dunkelheit (DVD) – 7:16
|Overall Score: 5.5/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by Back on Black Records.