I must be a masochist because I keep reviewing Burzum albums knowing that Varg’s musical heyday is over. That said, The Ways of Yore isn’t that bad. Sol Austan, Mani Vestan, Burzum’s previous LP, was about as musically exciting as watching paint dry without the benefit of inhaling the fumes. It was dreadfully boring at best. The Ways of Yore, though, is far better. It still isn’t great, but at least it goes somewhere. It’s keyboard based, but it’s more in the Neo-Folk vein this time around. If you can imagine what early ’90s Mortiis doing renditions of his favorite Sol Invictus songs sounds like, you’ll have a pretty good idea how this album sounds. One of the hallmarks of Varg’s style is the level of minimalism omnipresent in the music of Burzum. At times, that minimalism creates its own atmosphere, keeping things simple, memorable and even trance-inducing. In other situations, the minimalism creates a void where other instruments or melodies could have filled the gap and made the song more potent. What really hurts this record far more than the musical minimalism is the vocals. Varg either needs to learn how to sing or hire a vocalist. He can shriek like nobody else, but his clean vocals are terrible. If you’re old enough to remember how the singing was on the old animated versions of The Hobbit or Return of the King (from the 1970s, I believe), Varg sounds remarkably like that. It’s that fucking bad. Even when he’s just talking, he sounds horrible. His spoken word passages are terrible because he sounds so congested that you almost want to go out and buy the guy some cold medication. If the music can be bumped up in complexity a little and Varg can sort out his vocals (or hire someone else to do them for him), he may be able to reinvent himself as a Neo-Folk artist in the vein of Death in June or Sol Invictus. I doubt they care about his Neo-Nazi affiliations because that scene also tolerates the likes of Blood Axis and others who have fascistic leanings. He’d probably fit in fairly well with those folks and frankly, his music is more in line with their scene than any of the sub-elements in Metal these days.
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