So, here we are in 2020 with a new Burzum album. I donít even know if there is still the debate over whether we should be listening to Burzum or not (because of Vargís political leanings, etc). Is that a thing anymore? It now seems so long ago since the last conversation I had about it. To be fair to this as an album, I just approached it as such. In fact, I think I stopped really listening to Burzum after the second ambient album in the 90s, so Iím a little out of touch with the latest albums before ĎThulean Mysteriesí. I was aware that Varg had created his role-playing game MYRFAROG. Iíve never played it but it seems to have pretty good reviews and this album is meant to be an accompanying piece to the game. In fact, to Varg, in an interview accompanying the press release with this album, Burzum is now all but dead and this album was created by accident. Or, at least, was created in bit parts over five years and finally became the album Iíve been listening to for the past week.
This is an ambient album. Letís just get that bit in right away. There is no metal so, if thatís what youíre after, turn back now! Itís quite a different ambient album to what I remember Burzum coming up with before. Although there is the occasional nod to dungeon synth it feels to share more common ground with the likes of early Tangerine Dream or Vangelis. You have to like morphing keyboard textures and soundscapes to like this album as thatís what youíll get. Itís an easy listen which can almost bypass you but, with more time, you start to find the depths. Track three, ĎForebearsí, for example, is where the use of textured distortion adds a certain dimension that grabs you rather than just washing over. In fact, the preparedness to use dynamics and distortion on the keyboard sounds on tracks like ĎThe Lord of The Dwarvesí and ĎThe Road to Helí is a great juxtaposition to the more mellow ambient sounds.
There is an undeniable maturity to this album compared to earlier ambient works. Think of Mortiis and where he went with ĎThe Stargateí compared to his earlier works. Itís that sort of jump. Is it welcome? Well, yes. Ironically, considering this wasnít music that was planned it sounds quite rounded in both composition and recording. There are some vocals by Varg on the album. The vocals remind me of Ragnarok UK - itís kind of shaky but, because of this, it really gives a folky edge. I mean this in the best of ways (for both Burzum and Ragnarok UK). We get the first vocals on track 10, ĎThe Great Sleepí, with more on 14, ĎHeill ”ūinn, Sireí. There are also some spoken sections like on ĎThe Land of ThulÍí and ĎA Forgotten Realmí, and the more I listened to the album the more I started to hear the broad range of tracks.
I think the physical release is split over two discs / vinyls of music but Iíve only got the download so it is all of 23 tracks. I do get the feeling you have to listen to it all as a full album rather than individual tracks. Ultimately, it works really well as a mood in the background and I think this was the desired effect, but as a complete feeling album Iím not too sure. But Iím not going to knock it too much on that account. If I want an ambient album to listen to I must admit it probably wouldnít be my first choice, but I appreciate this wasnít its original job. It did inspire me to dust down my own keyboards and have a play, though, so Iíve upped my original score of 7 to 8 as there was obviously something inspiring in it that made me want to be creative.
THUL AN MYSTERIES
Review by Paul Sims
6th March 2020
1) The Sacred Well; 2) The Loss of a Hero; 3) ForeBears; 4) A ThulÍan Perspective; 5) Gathering of Herbs; 6) Heill auk Sśll; 7) JŲtunnheimr; 8) Spell-Lake Forest; 9) The Ettin Stone Heart; 10) The Great Sleep; 11) The Land of ThulÍ; 12) The Lord of the Dwarves; 13) A Forgotten Realm; 14) Heill ”ūinn, Sire; 15) The Ruins of Dwarfmount; 16) The Road to Hel; 17) ThulÍan Sorceryl; 18) Descent into Niflheimr; 19) Skin Traveller; 20) The Dream Land; 21) ThulÍan Mysteries; 22) The Password; 23) The Loss of ThulÍ
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"You have to like morphing keyboard textures and soundscapes to like this album as thatís what youíll get. Itís an easy listen which can almost bypass you but, with more time, you start to find the depths."