The latest release from the musical project of Varg Vikernes, 2014’s ‘The Ways of Yore’, is a sharp contrast from the extremity and brutality of earlier Burzum records. It continues the direction seen on the most recent predecessor, ‘Sôl austan, Mâni vestan’, but seems to be more stripped down and less spacey. Vikernes is one of the most notorious figures in all of music and furthermore, Burzum is the extreme black metal act by which most other bands under the broad extreme metal blanket seem tame in comparison. Vikernes’ catalog is about as fringe as things get, which is precisely what makes it so alluring. You can say what you want about him, we aren’t here to debate his personal life or his beliefs. There’s no denying that he’s artistically gifted.
From the start of this record one word instantly comes to mind to describe it: hypnotic. The opening two tracks, “God from the Machine” and “The Portal” feed into one another effortlessly as it becomes clear that this isn’t a metal record in the least; this is an ambient Medieval folk record. The track “Heill Odinn” is probably the most traditionally tuneful track in Burzum’s catalog. The hypnotic vibe set in place from the very beginning of the record doesn’t ever change direction. You could almost call this meditation music; late-night music; even spiritually-enlightening music. It’s primal, instinctive music that seems to exist on a separate level than our modern conceptions of reality will naturally acknowledge. In fact, it’s the track “The Reckoning of Man” that has the most convincing conditions on the record. The last notable track to mention is “Autumn Leaves”, which is without a doubt the record’s prettiest track. You can very easily lose yourself in these songs due to their spell-bounding nature. As far as influence and sound is concerned, this record has more in common with records like ‘Songs from the Wood’ by Jethro Tull or ‘If on a Winter’s Night…’ by Sting than it does anything by Mayhem or Immortal. Even any semblance of mid-period Burzum which took a lot of influence from the likes of ambient industrial music is largely gone.
It goes without saying that this record is a far cry from past Burzum classics ‘Filosofem’ or the self-titled record, but this serves as a testimony to the versatility of Vikernes’ influences. It does make one wonder if he has permanently moved away from black metal or if he will make a return someday? Another thing that is worth noting about Vikernes is that the mystique and, in the eyes of some, frightening idea of who he is hasn’t dimmed in time. Over the course of time, music has seen many of its notorious figures reduced to nothing more than silly cartoon characters. This isn’t the case with Vikernes, even if he isn’t as wild-eyed and angry as he was in his younger days. As for the overall quality of this record, it’s only real flaw is that certain sounds and sonic patterns tend to be pressed to their limits and can drag on a bit. However, this is a very good record and features some of the most possessive music in Burzum’s catalog. This one will definitely receive the Varg Vikernes Seal of Approval.