Burzum: Hliðskjálf

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Burzum: Hliðskjálf
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Burzum: Hliðskjálf
Ambient Black Metal
Misanthropy Records
April 26th, 1999
Release length: 33:42
Website
Who doesn’t know the band Burzum or Varg Vickernes, the man behind it all, by this time in metal history? Even the newest members of the metal universe have been schooled on this band, or at least heard the name, even if it was sparked by a parody in the Adult Swim cartoon Metalocalypse with the fast food burger joint “Burzum’s”. Hliðskjálf marked the sixth full-length effort under the Burzum name, as well as the final release prior to the dismissal of the project by Varg., continuing where the previous release, Dauði Baldrs left off, but correcting some huge mistakes that found that release being torn to shreds by even the most loyal of fans: Utilizing keyboards for ambience instead of MIDI files. This correction leads to a fantastic farewell, though not one of the act’s better albums and still faltering from the limitations presented at the time of the recording.

Ambience has always been a huge part of Burzum‘s material, but with Hliðskjálf, it’s essentially all the material. The entire album was composed solely with keyboards, leaving behind much of the Pagan based Black Metal style that was commonly associated with the band. However, the good news here is if you enjoyed the ambience presented on the earlier material, then chances are good you will find this release to be quite enjoyable, as well as a very haunting departure from sanity at times. Hliðskjálf is simply music, there are no lyrics, though the package comes with a lyric sheet, which should be utilized moreso to help you understand the proper ambience associated with each song. This move actually does help out greatly, as there are some songs on this release that would leave the listener getting the idea, but wonder why it was on this release in the first place.

The best example of some musical confusion would be the track “Frijôs Einsames Trauern”, which is actually a very empty sounding song, and sadly, one of the worst tracks off the release. It is essentially just a simple keyboard chord beind played with some other keyboard sounds being hit in the background. While this gives a bit of a mysterious ambience, one that would be associated with such things as pixies, faeries, or even elves playing in the forest, taking it as far as to say after a recent spring rain with the mist of the drops still dropping from the leaves, it actually greatly contradicts the story imposed on the song from booklet. The actual feeling to the song is to be one of deep sorrow, as it is about a mother who lost her son, and how she no longer has the strength to carry on. These issues do wind up appearing in some of the tracks, and sometimes, like with this song, it’s best to not know the true intention of the music being played in the first place, as your imagination can sometimes make this material far more enjoyable that way.

However, there is no denying some of the stronger tracks of this release. While the latter half of the album doesn’t really seem as strong as the first half, and sometimes can feel tacked on at times to extend the album’s duration, there are solid tracks here that fill the listener with emotions of fear, and even dread. “Tuistos Herz” and “Der Tod Wuotans” are perfect examples of this, bot having very dark and brooding atmospheres set by the keyboards being played, though the latter generally just sounds better, and overall is a much more epic song that feels like a medievil war march that one might here in a fantasty-based film with a higher budget, but the kind of song that gets abused through the film, as if it were one song making up the whole score in classic b-movie fashion. It’s just sad that not all of the songs have this kind of impact. Sadly, this makes up much of the first half, but the latter half has more of that fun pixies playing in the forest feeling that is outlined with “Frijôs Einsames Trauern”, and for the most part it becomes repetitive and boring. While “Einfühlungsvermögen” is still an enjoyable track, it winds up being the two following tracks that close the album that show a repetitive nature by mostly mimicking the sound and chords of the keyboard during “Frijôs Einsames Trauern”. While these two suit the closing of the album, they wind up just being nothing all that special.

One of the biggest drawbacks to this release, however, is the keyboards. While the MIDI files that appeared on the previous album have been dropped in place of a newer, more realistic sound through keyboards, there is still no denying that the quality sounds bad at times with certain effects utilized. “Tuistos Herz” features some really off tone keyboards during it’s slower moments, and throughout the album you can hear certain keys just jutting right in, as if the first second had been cut off for wome reason. The quality, sometimes, can be rather bad too. While the latter songs on the release are a lot lighter and featurer a more simpler approach to the keys that make them sound nicer through the chime effect used, it’s the earlier songs that are darker that suffer from this, such as “Der Tod Wuotans”, which just sounds a bit chunky and unnatural in any sense. Of course, given the restrictions imposed on Varg at the time of the recording, one would argue this is meerly an imposed limitation that couldn’t be overlooked based on situation and time, which is true and should be taken into consideration when taking a spin through this release.

But, either way, Hliðskjálf makes for a fantastic album that the listener can lose him or herself in for a good majority of the recording. Luckily some of the lighter, more empty sounding songs don’t last too long, but video game fans may find delight in them due to the atmosphere placed (and outlined above), which may drum up memories of the Golden Axe video game series, and the transition stages where the gnomes run across the screen and you must kick them for potions and health before the next chapter. Aside that, there’s plenty of atmospheric goodness on this release that really does play on the listener’s emotions well enough to warrant repeat listens, even if Ambient music isn’t your thing. For the “final” Burzum release [at the time of this review, Burzum has reformed and put out a new album], it makes for a nice conclusion.

01. Tuistos Herz – 6:13
02. Der Tod Wuotans – 6:43
03. Ansuzgardaraiw̡ Р4:28
04. Die Liebe Nerþus’ – 2:14
05. Frij̫s Einsames Trauern Р6:15
06. Einfühlungsvermögen – 3:55
07. Frijôs Goldene Tränen – 2:38
08. Der Weinende Hadnur – 1:16
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Burzum (Band)
Burzum (Logo)
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.