Metal Church - The Present Wasteland
The story of Varg Vikernes has been very well documented and is well known by all fans of Metal music through the years. In 2009, fifteen whole years after being first incarcerated for the murder of Mayhem’s leading man Oystein “Euronymous” Arseth, the quite recluse Norwegian decided to begin working on new material, culminating in the release of two highly acclaimed albums - “Belus” (2009-10) and “Fallen” (2010). At the same time as he was working on the compositions of the the latter, Varg decided to re-record a number of tracks which originally featured in Burzum’s first two studio releases. Was that a necessary move? Opinions will vary and debates will undoubtedly go on long after this review is posted online – the fact remains that a new Burzum album/compliation is out, one entitled “From The Depths Of Darkness”. So, what is on offer here then?

I have never been a fan of re-recordings and so I have to admit that I was not particularly looking forward to this release, however, I have to say that it only took a couple of spins to convince me of the album’s potential value to both old and new fans alike. My main concern was that any sound improvements attempted would result in the loss of the passion and atmosphere that made classics such as “Ea, Lord Of The Depths” and “Key To The Gate” attractive to most fans of the early-90s Black Metal era but that has, somewhat miraculously, been avoided! The guitar sound may be cleaner than that of the originals but it is still harsh and crisp, keeping the overal aggression on fairly high levels, but most importantly, Varg’s alternative vocals takes are, in most cases, much more fleeting in comparisson – something I never expected to experience.

The incorporation of introductions such as “The Coming” are quite fitting as they cleverly paved the way for the Celtic Frost influenced “Feble Screams From Forests Unknown”, whose newly acquired eerieness creates feelings similar to those of the original. It is another introduction, namely “Sassu Wunnu” which paves the way to the classic “Ea, Lord Of The Depths” – a simply crafted classic with many Punk guitar overtones. “Spell Of Destruction” sounds even more so convincing as a result of Varg’s ‘tormented’vocal performance, but the one track of the album which has certainly reaped all the benefits of the reworking process is the timeless masterpiece “A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit” – a song whose overal duration reached the eleven and a half minute mark! The one song of the album that stayed most faithful to its original version is “Key To The Gate”, something that cannot be said of “Turn The Sign Of The Mikrokosmos (Snu Mikrokosmos’ Tegn)” – another lengthy composition filled with harmonic guitar interludes of Bathory influence and orientation. The last composition of the album, namely “Channeling The Power Of Minds Into A New God” is another example of a song having benefited from this rerecording process as the ambient sounds and haunting trans-like vocals featured in its break are among this release’s absolute highlights.

So there you have it: another release by this highly controversial artist/band that is bound to keep Metal fora busy for the months/years to come. No one other than Varg really knows whether the reason behind this new Burzum release is purely artistic or economic in nature but I, for one, am not willing to waste my time on that question. What I do know is that “From The Depths Of Darkness” is a very enjoyable album which offers a new and quite interesting perspective on some of the most classic Black Metal songs ever recorded – an album that can proudly find its place next to the groundbreaking “Burzum” (1992) and “Det Som Engang Var” (1993), providing a very thought-provoking/alternative musical proposition.

John Stefanis

Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)