I was over at my friend Tristen’s house last year and noticed he had a bunch of metal CDs that I didn’t have in my collection. Some of them included Scum by Napalm Death, Agent Orange by Sodom, Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods by Carpathian Forest, Stop at Nothing by Dying Fetus, Symbolic by Death, and Filosofem by Burzum. I already knew who Burzum was, I already loved his music. Before Filosofem, I had his 1994 album, Aske [EP], and his self-titled album. Honestly, I think that Filosofem is a one-of-a-kind black metal album. It has many sides, which makes it so that you never get tired of listening to it.
I personally think that Burzum was responsible for influencing other artists to start what is now known as ambient black (or depressive black metal). Obviously, one of the first of these ambient black artists is one of my all-time favorites, Xasthur. And ever since I heard Xasthur, I’ve been absolutely hooked to ambient black metal to the point where it’s become one of my favorite genres of music. For those of you that already know of Xasthur but want to know about more ambient black bands/artists, there is also Woods of Desolation, Blutklinge, Gris, Lamentations of the Ashen, Saol, and Lost Inside. I also have many other ambient black artists on my favorite bands list. But we’re not here to discuss ambient black metal; we’re here to talk about the masterpiece known as Filosofem!
For those of you that already know about Varg Vikerness’ history, you can just skip this paragraph. But for those of you that aren’t very familiar about Varg, this is something that you should definitely read. Varg was originally the bassist for the Norwegian black metal legends Mayhem (whom I’m not particularly fond of) for two years. He was kicked out of the band for murdering lead guitarist Euronymous. At this time, he had just released his Aske [EP] under the name Burzum, which on the cover is a photo of a church that he allegedly burned down. Because of that, he ended up getting a 10+ year prison sentence. No one except for Varg himself knows the reasons behind these actions, or if Varg even did them. In a video capturing the judge happily giving Varg his sentence, the camera zooms in on Vikerness as he produces a smile as if saying “oh what an interesting fate”. He was then released from his Norwegian prison cell in 2010, since then, he has released two amazing albums, but Filosofem was before the prison sentence.
Burzum is considered to be part of the original set of the first black metal bands. Some of those bands include Mayhem, Darkthrone, and Immortal. Burzum is also one of the most respected black metal acts in history, gaining more respect and fans than Mayhem, Gorgoroth, and Carpathian Forest. Although it may seem rare for a one-member act to have live performances, Burzum has actually played a couple of live shows throughout Europe.
Now I’m going to be honest and say I don’t know how to pronounce any of this stuff (i.e. the song names). I can speak Finnish fluently, but I can’t understand Norwegian. So you can just pretend that I’m pronouncing the names right as you read them in this review. My absolute favorite thing about this album is the sound of the guitar distortion; it’s probably the coolest sounding distortion I’ve ever heard. It sounds really wide and almost metallic, with a bit of a crunch to it. The overall sound is very ambient and mystical with some songs having more of a heavier black metal sound with faster tempos and trembolo picking on the guitars.
The best song on this album is definitely the third song. This is definitely one of my favorite songs of all time, mainly because it has a lot of an ambient black sound. It has a much slower tempo, but with a really solid beat making it the perfect headbanging song. The lyrics of this song mainly revolve around winter and depression, probably from stress from some of the things he did in the past. This is a song that always makes me smile and one that I will never get tired of listening to. If you haven’t heard this song, definitely look it up and listen to it at least twice or so, satisfaction is guaranteed.
Jesus Dod translates to “Jesus’s Death”. I don’t know any of the further lyrics because they are all in Norwegian. This song has more of what we know today as a “traditional” black metal sound; with trembolo guitar picking and double kick drumming creating fast tempos. Even though it has all of this, it still has the same ambient and atmospheric sound that the rest of the album represents. The rest of the songs off of the record are more in between. I chose to mention these two songs because they are the opposite extremes of the mood of Filosofem.
Burzum has expressed a true masterpiece that has won my full support. I know that some of you chose not to support him because of the things he has done in the past, but I will say that you can think what you want and that I’m not going to take part in that argument because it doesn’t change the fact that he did what he did and he created the music that he did and that he has no plans on stopping the production of his music. I could go on and on about this album, but I don’t like spoiling things for people, I like to encourage people to look things up and hear it for themselves. But obviously you’re reading this to hear my opinion, and my opinion is: this album is one of the best representations of perfection.