Burzum-Aske(Misanthropy - 1992)
I will purposely avoid any remarks on the man behind this band and his politics/philosophies. This release includes his first LP 'Burzum' and the EP 'Aske' without the old version of 'A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit'. The music consists of buzzing guitars, simple drumming and harsh black metal screams. Each element needs a more detailed description though: The guitars play good, moody textures that are repeated often. This technique is to be more accentuated in later albums, but here the sound is not as repetitive and hypnotic as it has snippets of typical black metal melody and it is quite dynamic in some songs. But the expected 'atmospheric' Burzum sound is still here (some songs more than others), merged with the more standard old school black metal sound. The drumming is simple and either a slow, primal rock beat or a faster, not-quite blast-beat, and even the rare blast beat doesn't sound like it's blasting due to the lack of aggression and a crisp sound. The vocals are harsh, raspy black metal screams that are cold rather than full of emotional content. Two dark atmospheric tracks are included (one keyboards, one effects). The more repetitive and atmospheric sections serve effectively as a mind-subjecting mood-setter; this is neither a powerfully emotional album nor a technically fascinating work. Fans of Burzum's more immersive works may dislike the standard fare here, and fans of black metal may get annoyed with the repetitive and slow aspect of some of the music. I personally enjoyed the mixture of the two and hold that this way, the boring aspects of both styles are avoided. Some lackluster tracks, but overall, it speaks to me enough to justify its purchase. A good raw album - his best according to some.
Det Som En Gang Var(Misanthropy - 1993)
With this release, the sound quality has improved and is therefore fuller, and the music has acquired a more austere and slightly unique sound. The general moods and instruments have remained similar though. Some clean vocals are used here and both those and the harsh, scratchy screams often portray demented desperation. Drumming is similar to the previous album but contributes much more due to the improved production. The Count's talent for churning out simple yet gripping guitar textures shines here on two or three of the tracks, but unfortunately, the same can not be said for the rest of the album. I can sum up the album like this: One great track with some really aggressive moments (Key to the Gate), two moderately good songs, one long monotonous song, two atmospheric tracks, one boring keyboard track and one uninteresting instrumental. That's about 3 filler tracks too many on an eight-track release. Not enough here to merit a purchase at all.
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss(Misanthropy - 1994)
Four tracks clocking at 45 minutes and now with a completely unique sound. As you can imagine he is going for deeper immersion and atmospheric effects here with such long tracks, and he does this pretty well. This does not mean that it is a soft atmospheric album. On the contrary, the first three tracks contain a lot of fast beats and full sounding music, albeit without aggression. The only question is whether you can stand such punitive repetition and immerse yourself in the mood of the music rather than what the instruments are doing. Keyboards are used together with the music this time, lending it a fuller sound and a less raw feel. Guitars are pretty much the same, only they aren't as prominent obviously, due to the keyboards. The raspy vocals are set even more in the background. The music is repetitive yet always shifts very subtly, drawing the mind in deeper. Masterful composition was used in the first track, effectively creating deep dark vibes and changing often enough to keep things interesting. The next two tracks employ much more repetition in the beats yet somehow draw you in and paint hellish and nihilist images in the listener's mind. The last track is the only disappointment, containing only keyboards and clocking at 14 minutes. The first 2 minutes are bearable, then it gets very annoyingly boring for the rest of the time except for maybe 3 minutes when it gets softer. It may have been a meditative track if not for the constant synth note being played in the first half and the light percussion in the second. In any case, a dull keyboard track that takes up a third of the album is uncalled for. The last track notwithstanding, this is a pretty good dark album to immerse yourself into but it will not appeal to many of you.
Filosofem(Misanthropy - 1996)
Continuing the 'immersive' trend from the previous album, the Count now opts for a softer and hypnotic sound and chucks away almost all of the fast beats and aggression. The harsh vocals are often laden with a 'noise' effect, adding to the background sound instead of actually doing something in the conscious foreground. The buzzing, repetitive guitars serve to drown everything into a swirling maelstrom as subtle shifts in the music reach out and grab you further inside. Keyboards are used here in two ways: Either as subliminal and ultimately unobtrusive filler sound, or as pinging effects that come out of the swirling, buzzing darkness like small fingers of light. All this applies to the first three tracks (24 minutes). We then have the fourth containing all of the above minus percussion - one long, but individual burning mood. The fifth song clocks at 25 minutes and yes, this is another soft keyboard track. But this time I actually don't disapprove, as it is a very effective 'meditation' track. It builds up a little in the beginning with subtle additions and changes, then gets progressively more repetitive. This cannot be heard in any usual way as it is perhaps the most boring song ever made and is enough to drive someone insane, but as an accompaniment to meditative states, it is superb. The last track is a perfect follow up, slowly building it up, drawing you out of a deep soft slumber, adding instruments, volume and sound slowly until you are back into a higher level of buzzing awareness. I would like to recommend this album to those of you who like this sort of thing, but for most, this release (or at least the latter half of it) will be considered as the ultimate bore. His best album in my opinion.
Daudi Baldrs(Misanthropy - 1997)
Yes, this is the one he wrote in jail using only synths and electronics. Having this information in mind, I presumed the worst and didn't expect much. Much to my surprise it isn't all that bad and is sometimes quite refined and interesting in an ambient way. The symphonics and electronic orchestral effects do not have the amazing quality as with Elend, but this isn't Mortiis either. No, it is obviously synthetic and some 'instruments' are more 'fake' than others, but taken for what it is, there are good points as well. No drums (unless you count the electronic 'orchestral' percussion); no vocals; no harsh elements. The only element of Burzum's music that remains here is the composition that is somehow both monotonous and fascinating at the same time. Two of the songs (one 10 minutes long) are very dull however, and the exclusive electronic sound starts to get on my nerves after a while. There is a lot more here than with Mortiis though and fans of dark ambient synth music should check this out. However, this one just doesn't impress me nor is this style of music alive and dynamic enough for me personally.