Tanner Babcock

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Burzum (Mayhem)

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Year Title Rating
1987 Mayhem - Deathcrush 6.5/10
1990 Mayhem - Live in Jessheim .../...
1992 Burzum 7/10
1993 Aske 6/10
1993 Det Som Engang Var 7/10
1993 Mayhem - Live in Leipzig 7.5/10
1994 Hvis Lyset Tar Oss 7.5/10
1994 Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas 7/10
1995* Mayhem - Dawn of the Black Hearts 6/10
1996 Filosofem 8/10
1996 Mayhem - Out from the Dark .../...
1997 Mayhem - Wolf's Lair Abyss .../...
1997 Dauði Baldrs 7/10
1999* Mayhem - Live in Zeitz 1990 .../...
1999 Hliðskjálf 6.5/10
1999 Mayhem - Mediolanum Capta Est .../...
2000 Mayhem - Grand Declaration of War 6.5/10
2001 Mayhem - Live in Marseille 2000 .../...
2004 Mayhem - Chimera 5/10
2007 Mayhem - Ordo Ad Chao .../...
2010 Belus 7/10
2011 Fallen 6/10
2012 >>Umskiptar .../...
2013 >>Sôl Austan, Mâani Vestan .../...
2014 Mayhem - Esoteric Warfare .../...
2014 >>The Ways of Yore .../...

Review last updated: March 24, 2018


"Okay Tanner, what's the deal? Where did all of this interest in black metal come from? You've been the avant-folk and psych guy for like 4 years."

Burzum, solo project of convicted murderer and arsonist Varg Vikernes, is possibly the greatest, most perceptive, and most consistent metal artist, and one of the best rock artists I've listened to. This music is so desperately bleak, shamefully meditative, and cosmically atmospheric. While I am generally more a fan of cerebral, vivid, colorful music, this atmospheric black metal has hypnotized me and subdued me. Black metal is my favorite kind of metal because it is morbid, textural, and psychotic. The music of Burzum especially employs a number of avant-gardist ideas and ambient, textural, melodic sensibilities, to music with momentum and nervously-twitching gristle. Black metal has intrigued me mostly because of its tone and distinct melodic tragedies. Many types of metal, and rock music, are considered joyous, spiteful, energetic, triumphant - this is what many music-listeners are looking for. The black metal of Burzum and Mayhem is mournful, tragic, carelessly depressive, almost apathetic. This is not music that riles me up, or gives me release when I'm angry. This music subdues me and enchants me. The deeply disturbed growls and violent decimated guitars contribute to an enormous woolly mammoth of a composition.


Now here's a remarkable heavy metal album. Reading about Burzum's masterwork has only enlightened me to Varg Vikernes' aesthetic and conceptual innovations. The guitars on this album were not engineered with a traditional rock amplifier, but rather a cheap, homely, stereo setup, giving them a hiss and a glow that resemble a death rattle or an earthquake. The vocals were recorded through a cheap detachable headset mic. This was the album that got me into black metal. As I'm making my way through this underworld of chaos and borderline occult mysticism, I am expecting the thrill and the vigor of Filosofem to wear off, but it hasn't, it has only become stronger.

If you're an actual black metal listener and not just a filthy casual like me, you've probably dismissed this as "entry-level" or "generic" or even pretentious. But how many metal albums are mixed like this one? How many rock albums are mixed like this one? The one thing I like about black metal that even the trve kvlt doesn't seem to care for, is the lo-fi decimated sound quality. What would Live in Leipzig sound like if it was recorded with a higher budget? Not nearly as menacing, I guarantee you. Filosofem takes this indulgence in the failure, the downfall, and the decay of recording equipment, as a perceptive and prominent musical idea, rather than a regrettable flaw in production. The best black metal albums are the lo-fi ones.

"TANNER WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU. Why do you enjoy music made by a murderer? Why do you support a homicidal criminal, a horrible person?"

Ah yes, the good ol Woody Allen Louis C.K. Brand New career-busting accusations have infected the appreciation of yet another great talent. I seem to be one of the seldom music and film appreciators who can separate the art from the artist. It is possible for a bad person to make a good work of art. One should never let the personal lives of the men and women behind a great work, to tarnish the work's emotional and social ideas.