Sunday, June 26, 2011

Burzum - Hvis Lyset Tar Oss

I have nothing to offer you that is real. This isn't a review of a record. It will neither confirm nor contradict your bias as to the quality or character of "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss", Burzum, or the person behind these names. You will not leave Poetry of Subculture any more secure in your preconceptions, nor will you feel wiser & tolerant for having briefly weighed a different point of view against yours.

It's startling to me now, when I allow myself to consider the reasons people write about externalities such as rock and roll records on the internet. It wasn't always so, naturally. I have just forgotten. As a teenager reading Metal Hammer magazines and fanzines the intent and function of the reviewing process was automatically clear to me: I am reading this because I trust the writer's taste and I have this pocket money to spare on a couple of records, eventually. I might not buy the record this particular review is raving on about, but I am at least massing relevant information to the genres of interest to me and building a cohesive internal map of Heavy Metal. I am domesticating this wilderness. Decades later I will be drawing up little historical/aesthetic maps of Heavy Metal and posting them on the internet and in the comments there shall be a discussion about Judas Priest and irony. But years before that, my scavenging in reviews will not only lead to purchases and the primary enjoyment of music, but also to a secondary boon in self-characterization. If I know so much about Heavy Metal, then surely that's worth something in some social circles. My hair has become very long and my stare austere. What do you mean you haven't yet listened to Ostrogoth's "Full Moon's Eyes", you pretender? Do you realize that men have died so you can sing that chorus? Return to me when you are of a higher level.

The reviewer also I automatically understood, once: they are communicating their love for their field of study - empowering in itself, for a love unrequited becomes a stone on which paranoia will build. "Do I really feel it if I cannot express it?". The love's acceptance is so intoxicating in fact, that it may outlive the love itself. One may become a professional in writing love letters. I have received this promo CD, it is not bad nor it is especially good, yet something inside me compels me to write pretty words about it. People will respect me for it, I shall hate myself for it.

The reviewer is also reaping the social benefits of being learned in a field, in any field. Most people know even less than nothing, so, longhair'd dark-eyed gazers in the dark, you'll do for teachers too, perhaps for a while. They're exerting power over their students, they're reaping the benefits of many lonely days spent searching in warehouses full of moldy LP's and poring over mail-order lists. Do you realize the sadness in a man in his forties writing record reviews about new metal cds? Someone has to do it! I concede to them that the trade of some power for this sadness is a fair one.

So I became a knowledgeable person in Heavy Metal also and I reaped, perhaps, some similar benefits for my risky commitment, a trade for a small sadness. It has been a few years since I last thought of myself (and of the reviewing process) in this light. I have forgotten the use of all of that because I realized that life's running out and the risk of being "a record reviewer" is too large for the dubious benefits left to be gained. It is because my love for Heavy Metal is true that I felt I had to stop. Abandonment of something loved being a source of much pain for my particular psyche, it could never be a choice I could be proud of, so instead of dropping the whole thing, I re-purposed my efforts in my love for this music outwards and initially became a commentator on foreign blogs and forums (where I thought, I had no power), trying to achieve communication that stepped aside from the usual social gaming that metalheads engage in in open forums. My alias of "Helm" was never meant to become a persona, it was meant as a diversion from the ego. I didn't want to make new friends (who call me "Helm" instead of Telemachus) or to be respected for my knowledge or opinions on all things Heavy Metal. I wanted my output to provoke response on a specific level, one I found lacking in the discourse surrounding metal music. I wanted exposition and risk. I wanted people to talk about their own truths, not the communal truth. This was to be a small return for past power and some social integration granted to me for wasting so much of my childhood internalizing Heavy Metal records. I think I've had a couple of girlfriends that liked my metalhead looks and austere gaze, after all.

I succeeded for a time but failed, ultimately, in this endeavor for 'metalhead expressionism' for various reasons having to do with that I am after all somewhat socially impaired and a difficult person to extend good will towards. It became clear that what I was attempting to do was doubly difficult to achieve on foreign soil and that I should instead pretend as if I have built a castle like all the other reviewers do and have the faithful flock to me (after all when you click on through to the blog, you are preemptively giving me a position of authority). I find this funny and sad because it is a diversion. There is no wisdom here, there is only an open question and I require your answers. What is Heavy Metal to you? This is what it is to me. Please let me know. That's what this blog is here for.

This is a reminder then that I am not a grand wizard, I have nothing true to say, and I do not need admirers or antagonists (pretty much the same thing). If you've read up to this, both in this text on on Poetry of Subculture on the whole, you probably suspect as much. I hope you can forgive me every time I speak with a voice of authority and still remind me that you exist and are different to me. I have created this blog not for gathering of power but for the discourse of it. I am a man with just a lantern for possessions, I sleep in a tub, so on. I will not carry the allegory further, cultured ones.

There's nothing to say about this record. It doesn't exist. It has never existed. I have forgotten the stories surrounding it. I do not know the name of the one who summoned it, nor do I know where he's from. I do not listen to it and see, in my mind's eye, treetops of a northern sort or any other cataloged flora. I see spectral leaves, iridescent in the darkness, lit as if from inside, stretching towards the stars, pointing towards the unknown. All your life you have been taught you are a mirror that reflects the radiance of authority and educators, that your societies give you meaning and purpose. That your imaginations and dreams are byproducts of your socialization. Art such as this stands perfected, dead, forever, a testament to the fallacy of that modernist model of life and the radiance of inner ambition. What you desire is what all life has desired, you have been taught nothing in your waking hours but appropriation, construing and deconstruction in a confused tongue.

We look at the tree bark and we touch it and we can discern a volume and a presence, but as we are ephemeral we can only measure worth in ephemeral ways as well. How will this tree serve me in my lifetime? It may provide some shade today. Tomorrow it may be firewood. My body can be nourished by this and all other products available to me while my mind wonders in increasing horror towards the end. This record also, I hear a racist murderer recorded it. It may provide entertainment for me today, and tomorrow I shall have an animate discussion on the internet about whether such a racist murderer deserves my hard-earned patronage for his artistry. I measure myself in ephemeral currency, and I shall soon be dead.

The trees I dream of when I listen to this record have existed for so long, they are from before time, before 'to exist' has been the sought prize of the lightbringer, he who taught men to measure all things in terms humane by stealing from the gods. The notes, a length of string cut from the thread of destiny. The harmonies like quantum reverberations, in many universes alike but different only slightly (and noisy!): not one might gave this any conscious thought, they are just there. And rhythm, at last there we find the man, endlessly restless and driving towards something, some destination. What is that destination? Tomhet.

There is no desire that this music communicates besides the quest for teliosis, the love of death itself, the shedding of the ephemeral. There is nothing real here. The naked screams that tell tales, so blatant as to be rarely mentioned in 'reviews' and almost never directly referenced by the legions of followers of the product dubbed "Burzum", never seemed to me the voice of human anguish. They originated there, surely. But now, millennia after this art has existed, if there is any pain here, it is fossilized. If the tree's roots grow and encroach upon the domain of weaker plants who lingered too much in the shade, their cry would be similar. If the rock, sundered by mindless lightning has a voice, it is this as well. If there was a human once, that screamed words into a microphone, he is long since gone. Nobody knows his name. Isn't it strange if you are in your twenties and you feel as if you're older, perhaps illogically old? Perhaps you have died before you were born?

The man that made this music didn't have anything to say to me about race or politics. If we wanted once, some structure to the chaos he inherited, I am certain that he himself views his ramshackle temple to consequence, to logic, as a humorous, sad thing. Instead his art, it says all there is to say in wordless speak. I am sure that that man wonders, why do people keep asking him for answers when he has posited the only question worth pursuing in his art? That so many believe words-in-a-row doesn't lend any truth to them. Belief is not truth. And yet they keep asking, drawn like moths to the flame of death. What can you tell us, murderer, about anything, anything at all? You can with your blood power, make a discussion about guitar pedals vital again, you can make it real? The only thing we fear is death, therefore death is real.

Hvis Lyset Tar Oss doesn't fear death, it welcomes it as part of the circle. It is therefore, not real in any way we use the word today. You have been given back what knowledge you've always possessed. Is it enough for you, this inspiration? What of its implications, can you count how many ends this thread leads to? Can you feel it in your heart or do we really have to talk about small deaths of introvert teenagers in a privileged society where boredom is the ultimate despair? Will that make this real? Don't you know about all that already?


  1. That certainly lived up to its promise of not being a review of a record. In fact, since the beginning of this blog you seem to have been moving further away from anything reminiscent of a 'review' format, at least as a general trend (for example, comparing the Agnes Vein and Atheist posts with the Blind Guardian and Black Sabbath ones). I suppose that this isn't necessarily a pattern, though, and it may simply have to do with the nature of the albums covered, for example their popularity, but it's still interesting. Do you think that there's any reason for this, or is it more or less coincidental?

    When it comes to artists, there are some who know more or less exactly what they're doing, and these can be either very good or profoundly dull, depending on how well they are able to execute it. They may want to express exactly a specific moment in their lives, and that's what they do. On the other hand, there are some artists who may well have no idea, or only a vague or misleading image, of what they're trying to do, who nonetheless come up with something which does a lot more than they intend. They may wish to write a love song to a person, and end up writing it to a god by mistake. Most bands probably fall somewhere between the two sides.

    I suppose that Varg could to some extent fall closer to the latter group. Of course, I can only speak of what I know of the record, and what little I know of the person (I can't claim to be all that concerned about his controversial statements and issues and maybe-or-maybe-not-Nazism, although when enough metalheads congregate one can be quite sure that August 10th, 1993, will come up at some point), but that is at least the impression which I get. You perhaps express one of the reasons for this view in the discussion of the vocals; did Varg intend them to fossilize? Perhaps, but I wouldn't count on it. While this isn't really an issue which I focus on per se in listening to music, it's nonetheless an impression which takes place for some bands. I suppose that for these kinds of albums, one can only ultimately understand them as music through listening to them; of course, one may try to explain what there is in them, and may even succeed to some level, but nonetheless in describing the parts of the music which were probably intentional and trying to work out what is being attempted, one can't really approach their significance. At best, one can just tell somebody to listen to it, and point out that some elements don't do what one would think.

    That said, thank you for this piece, it was worth reading. I shall continue flocking to this blog, for what it's worth.

  2. I am bewee - eetched.

    I too notice this graduation 'further away' from something and towards something else, though I pay it no mind. I do not think it is a movement, actually, I think it's... imagine an accordeon, stretching, its facets unfolding. All that, all at once, I am not coming from anywhere, nor am I going anywhere. I don't exist.

    I try to think very little before I sit down to write for Poetry of Subculture. I listen to the record a few times and I read the lyrics, I try to remember emotions I might have perhaps hidden away from when I first heard the music (for example did you know that Blind Guardian sound many times more savage than a generic death metal band if you open up to them with the ears and heart of a person-that-doesn't-know-much-about-metal? It was startling to remember, hence the tone of that piece) and what it has meant to me over the years and then I write.

    I do not write very well, but at least the words come to me without too much difficulty. Perhaps that is why I do not write very well? In any case, I do not mind, my arts of choice are different, writing is useful to me as a mostly craftless thing. I wonder how long it'll be before nobody at all reads a whole post anymore.

    Some earlier posts are more concerned with nuts and bolts than others, true. The Anacrusis one is the extreme of that, I think. I can't really predict myself but I think there'll be more of that coming, especially for records where I've always felt there was bright, very apparent and easy to discern mechanistic continuation between lyric, theme and composition (think perhaps of "Atropos cuts the string with her sears" + reverse cymbal for an example in common terms between us). Needless to say, Burzum are not technothrash. There isn't any storytelling in Hvis Lyset Tar Oss in the comic-book sense, there is no fast flip through panels, there are only four main images and their journey is, what is that word the internet likes? Primordial. I feel I've adequately commented on that journey in the piece even if I don't directly describe it.

    And why do I not describe? There are some cases yes, where the reader's familiarization with the media is such a burden that it makes more sense to me to not even address the obvious history.

    Follows a second comment on the issue of intention and actualization.

  3. Having tried my hand at making art 'as it is I intend it to be consciously' and also less restricted variants, the end result seems to me more or less the same. The function of it is that it exists, whereas I do not (as I change constantly, and I have doubts and reservations as to what exactly it would entail for me to exist for even a single second). I am obligated to look at the art item I have created and when I've done a good job, the art itself makes allowances to mean something, which is vague and allows for dialogue. Different art I've done has meant different things at different times. I, at some cases, have forgotten what the direct intent (or facade of an intent, let's allow) was that served as the onset of creation in this or that case. However the art remains relevant to me.

    It is so I have stopped being so interested in how much exactly artists can say they intentionally achieved this or that effect. I know I wouldn't get a straight answer out of them even if they were my dearest friends (or perhaps, exactly then I should distrust them the most?) because I honestly can't give that straight answer about my own art either. What I do find in art I attribute to noone in particular, perhaps to a universal unconsciousness, perhaps to rocks and trees, it doesn't matter to me much.

    The stronger the Heavy Metal of course, the more it tends to sound like some god made it, crystal logic in appliance and form. That's the point of it, that's where the power comes from for the imperfect beings that summon that entity and fear it just as well. I do not confuse the person behind Burzum with this 'Varg' entity, nor do I really want to ask him anything about it. What could he tell me about it that I can't figure out on my own, imagination and willpower allowing?

  4. There may be no wisdom in the discussion of these products, but at least there is community, in the confirmation that others are also driven to reflect on music, and how and why it commands us.

  5. "What is Heavy Metal to you? This is what it is to me. Please let me know. That's what this blog is here for."

    Interesting question. Mind if I answer it with a blog post? That way I'll be able to hopefully spark some kind of discussion. I'll link to it by editing this comment, of course.