Illegible as they are ubiquitous (anywhere a patch meets denim or a bored headbanger's head meets a study-hall desk), metal logos are the ultimate example of form over function. Leave it to Burzum's visionary Varg Vikernes - black metal's most famous artist, as much for his on-record brilliance as for extracurricular activities like murder, arson, racism, and a prison break - to eschew those blackletter scribbles for Times New Roman on the cover of Fallen, his latest work and a lock for year-end metal lists. After a brief and forgettable ambient intro, "Jeg Faller" impresses with droning tremolo picking, a writhing base for Vikernes's vocals delivered alternately through airy rasps and hoary choruses. The theme of Vikernes's fall expounded therein continues over the next two tracks - there's a gentle descent through a balladic rumination on death in "Valen" and the snarling vocal and serpentine riffing freefall of "Vanvidd." But Fallen peaks at its thematic deepest, "Enhver til Sitt," a tight graft of modern Burzum's clean vocals to the miasma of buzzing guitars and anguished screams on his 1996 LP Filosofem. This thread continues through the raging 10-minute penultimate track, "Budstikken." It all decays into the sparse drum-and-string arrangement of Fallen's outro, a feral bookend to another enthralling Burzum album as forward-looking, but far more mature, than Vikernes's pre-incarceration output.
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