Hliðskjálf [Remastered; Not Released ]

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Burzum's sixth album, Hliðskjálf, is issued here by Dead Ringer for the first time in the U.S. Its packaging is on higher quality paper and the quality of sonic reproduction is far higher due to a new master. There is also a significant differences from Daudi Baldrs, Burzum's Varg Vikernes' fifth album. For one thing, there are English translations for the liner notes in the booklet, exposing Vikernes' neo-Nazi brand of false paganism for what it is; musically, it is more sophisticated than any of his preceding recordings, and Vikernes has become even more adept at composition and music theory and at being able to mask his voluminous hatred of society in a musical vision that is fairly quiet, intensely melodic, somewhat majestic, and ethereally beautiful. It has nothing whatsoever to do with black metal musically, but expresses a more ideological affinity with its tenets of the destruction of Judeo/Christian society, racism, and an espousal of open war as a spiritual practice (this time a worship of the Norse gods Odin or Wotan rather than Satan). It is very appeasing musically and repugnant in its anti-societal view. If one did not know its origins and motivations, it is likely one would mistake this solitary pseudo ambient work as one associated with progressive new age music. Although there is nothing new age about Vikernes' intent, his notions of extended harmony, Gothic and Nordic melody, and dynamic tension make for compelling listening -- unlike the knob twiddlers and key tinklers that are his peers, such as Mortiis. That said, in analyzing this music, it is important to look deep into the source of the sound. Here, Vikernes is very careful to associate everything purposefully: Packaging, liner notes, and sound are all elements of his message. No matter how striking, beautiful, and even stirring this music is, it is careful to examine what the listener is being stirred toward. Modernist ideas about art standing apart from its creator are crap when the art is as focused, as this is, on creating and articulating a cultural and aesthetic ideology no matter how insane. This is a new form of classical music born of the ruins of popular culture, and, indeed, now despises it. It is deeply influenced by Wagnerian tropes and black metal's malevolence and misanthropy. It would be easily dismissible if it weren't so stunningly well crafted. For this reason, because of its obvious quality as a technical and artistic artifice, it is dangerous music that should be heard and duly noted if, for no other reason, than to keep knowledge of the enemy's wiles close at hand. Burzum's music does not merely play with anti-Christian paganism and Nazism, and this recording was not released for its shock value. This is conscious, considered as an honest -- and twisted -- artistic expression that regards fascism and racism as elements of beauty and truth. Like the films of D.W. Griffith and Leni Riefenstahl, and like the music of Wagner and the poetry of Ezra Pound (not that Vikernes is as great an artist, but these people weren't always of that stature either when their ideologies were formed), the temptations to apologize for something beautiful -- no matter how insidious and full of hate -- can be great if one does not consider the entirety of its message. Pay attention.

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