1996's Filosofem is often hailed as Burzum's finest hour, which is quite ironic for an album filled with musical leftovers. Allegedly composed at different times but recorded simultaneously in March 1993 (hence the unique mix of Norwegian and English lyrics), these sessions were later compiled and released two years into their creator's 15-year incarceration for murder! But, since Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes notoriously held onto his work for months on end before unleashing it on the public, first time listeners will find that Filosofem‘s overall musical aesthetic is not dissimilar from preceding cornerstones of his career, like Det Som Engang Var and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. Hauntingly dawdling opener "Burzum" (literally, the first song Vikernes wrote for his fledgling musical project) and, later, the two-part "Gebrechlichkeit" contrast filthy buzz-saw guitars with chirpy electronic melodies, topped with examples of both Vikernes' desolately unemotional narrations and tormented howls (possibly proving that no prisoner this schizophrenic was ever going to feel entirely alone with himself). Striking within their midst is, arguably, the pièce de résistance of Burzum's entire catalog: "Jesu Død" ("Jesus' Death") -- a blastbeat-driven array of layered, treacherous guitar parts -- as hair-raising as it is hypnotic. And in the 25-minute "Rundtgåing av Den Transcendentale Egenhetens Støtte" ("Walking Around the Transendental Pillar of Singularity"), Vikernes assembled his weightiest musical tome -- literally, if not creatively -- since its endlessly repeated electronic patterns (resembling a sparse classical canon) have no metallic quotient whatsoever and therefore weren't for everyone. This does nothing to diminish the fact that all of Filosofem's musical ambitions (including short stories penned for the CD booklet by Vikernes, to frame song meanings) were accomplished almost entirely on first takes, without so much as a studio or even serviceable recording equipment, for that matter. Instead, Varg simply plugged his guitar, fuzz pedal, and in his own words, "the worst possible microphone" he could find, directly into his brother's stereo to achieve the album's distinctively bleak, lo-fi sound. What he achieved was unique, alright, and historic to boot, as Filosofem continues to figure among the most seminal works in black metal history, despite its creator's checkered personal life.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia