The Fallen

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Varg Vikernes' real-life rehabilitation for murder may have taken close to two decades (in case you've been living under a rock, he's that Norwegian black metal dude who stabbed that other Norwegian black metal dude in 1993), but the creative rehabilitation of his lonesome black metal enterprise, Burzum, took just a few years. Yes, loathe him or loathe him there was simply no denying the return to musical form exemplified on 2010's maddeningly brilliant Belus album, and the same is almost but not quite true of its quickly recorded and suggestively named successor, Fallen, which arrived in stores by early 2011. Here, once again, Vikernes methodically assembles a series of mid-paced, gradually developing black metal movements (see "Jeg Faller," "Valen," "Enhver til Sitt," "Budstikken") out of multiple layers of interlocking riffs and melodies over which he can then improvise additional guitar runs and grunt or shriek or murmur or whisper his Norwegian lyrics to his dark heart's content. The resulting hellish hymnals are at once hypnotically successful (for the most part, barring some odd vocal choices and iffy repetitions) yet also border on predictability by now, and for all their individual merits, all of them uniformly fall short of career-defining precursors like "Stemmen Fra Taarnet," "Jesus' Tod," or even Belus counterpart "Glemselens Elv." For anyone who's wondering, Fallen's only blastbeats are housed in the otherwise like-minded "Vanvidd," and the biggest surprises are found in the meaningless percussive twaddle (some drums, some mysterious stringed instruments) that bookend the album as intro "Fra Verdenstreet" and outro "Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen." This combination of staying the course and failing to impress when risks are taken ultimately gives Fallen something of a leftover taste and suggests that Varg might want to invest a little more time in conjuring Burzum's next opus…after all, he is now finally free to do so at whim.

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