Band: Burzum
Album: Fallen
Best song: “Vanvidd” and “Budstikken” are the best songs on the record.
Worst song: “Valen” is pretty bad.

Separating artists from their art is one of the most difficult things for a consumer/appreciator of said art. There are scores of wonderful pieces of art made by terrible, awful people. Moreover, loads and loads of art is distributed by terrible, awful organizations. The problem with music, it seems, has not been solved.

Nevertheless, this conundrum goes to the nature of art and its place in consumer culture. Art, as a commercial commodity, has to be commoditized. Artists, after all, should be compensated for their work by someone and the NEA only has so many grants. This is why actors, writers and such have unions and should.

But, ultimately, my purchase of art-as-product means money — even if its a small bit — goes to someone I might find to be a terrible person. I’ve touched on this before, but I do have some trouble knowing that I’ve contributed money to the Ted Nugent cause. He and I are not on the same level, I’d say. Nevertheless, the alternative is to go without certain art, and a life constrained by such things is not one I want to live.

The other issue, of course, is not about money, but rather about the overwhelming nature of encouragement. Because I bought Nugent’s first album, does that mean I’m endorsing, non-monetarily, his viewpoints on politics? I don’t think it does, but I would certainly say that’s the case if I were to go to a Nugent concert. From what I understand, he does a lot of political between song chatter. Being a face in that crowd probably encourages him.

My general compromise has been like that. I listen to plenty of music made by people with whom I disagree; Lil Wayne’s got the f-word (not “fuck,” but “faggot”) I despise in his lyrics, but his overal musical ability has it such that I do adore his music (and I find him to be a tragically fascinating figure, even if Tha Carter IV mostly blows). David Bazan’s early work in Pedro the Lion goes against all my non-religious tendencies, but I certainly adore those records.

Moreover, who knows what kind of crazy politics the members of bands I love have? What if Chelsea Wolfe is a birther? What if the dudes in Mastodon think gay people should be shot on sight? What if the Tortoise guys were strict Neocons? Maybe it’s best that artists keep their political views to themselves, for the most part.

Which brings me to Burzum.

No one has ever accused Varg Vikernes (aka Count Grishnackh) of keeping, well, anything to himself. He’s an outspoken opponent of all things post-AD 0, basically. He is a pagan originalist, it appears, coming from Norway and apparently having done all he can to bring his homeland back to the time of vikings, Sigurd the Volsung and such.

He, for example, decries the American commercial imperialism that’s taken over places like Bergen, Vikernes’s hometowm. Bergen now has a McDonald’s and a Starbucks, for example. Vikernes appears to see everything as imperialism — he calls Christianity “the Middle Eastern plague” — and, well, he’s not entirely wrong on some things.

(In Until the Light Takes Us, Vikernes explains that Christianity, basically, erased most of the cultures it came with which it came in contact. He’s not wrong on that point, though Christianity has been a world force for good in more ways that even I, an atheist, can admit. It’s also been a force for terrible evil.)

He also is an anti-semite, homophobe, racist, arsonist and murderer. This dude spent 20 years in prison for killing his friend and for burning down churches, many of those years in isolation. He once suggested raping the king’s daughter to get a pagan in the royal family or something.

(Feel free to Google Translate any of his writings. They are not pleasant. )

I don’t tend to consider people as “bad” or “good,” but Vikernes is kind of a bad dude.

Fallen, for what it is, is not a bad record. Indeed, for one of the fathers of Norweigian black metal, it’s remarkably listenable. The guitar work gets repeptitive in a way that runs thin after the third track and the production is thin. But, songs like “Budstikken” are driving and interesting, with Vikernes’ voice — I can’t believe I’m saying this — as an incredibly interesting element.

And, moreover, his lyrics are of the weird mystical Norweigian pagan thing. Nowhere — that I can tell, at least — does any track on Fallen call for the extermination or expelling of the non-Pagans from Norway. Rather, the lyrics seem to tackle some very high school “death poetry” (“Valen” has the lyric “Mørket har senket seg for alltid/Hva mer kan jeg vite?” translated to “Darkness has descended on forever./What more could I know?”) that doesn’t work in any language. But, it’s black metal. I wasn’t expecting to hear a dissertation on existential dread in a meaningful way.

It’s black metal, but it’s interesting and it’s one of the better black metal records I’ve heard. Even if it was written and recorded by a terrible, horrible person.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

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