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Band Name Burzum
Album Name Umskiptar
Type Album
Released date 21 May 2012
Produced by Eirik Hundvin
Recorded at Grieghallen Studio
Music StyleViking Black
Members owning this album115


 Hit Helga Tré
 Surtr Sunnan

Total playing time: 01:05:33

Buy this album


  • Blóðstokkinn | Burzum
  • Jóln | Burzum
  • Alfadanz | Burzum
  • Hit helga Tré | Burzum
  • Æra | Burzum
  • Heiðr | Burzum
  • Valgaldr | Burzum
  • Galgviðr | Burzum
  • Surtr Sunnan | Burzum
  • Gullaldr | Burzum
  • Níðhöggr | Burzum

  • Review @ Barb|Wire|Catheter

    08 July 2012

    One of the biggest disappointments of 2012.

    Burzum has been very prolific as of late by releasing an album a year since 2010 with his latest record being "Umskiptar." This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it ended up being one of the biggest disappointments of 2012. Varg Vierknes, for those who don't know, is the sole musician, songwriter and vocalist for Burzum, a project he started way back in the early '90s and became probably the most notorious musician in the world since he burned churches and stabbed a man to death, but you can read about that elsewhere. I'm here to tell you about what he's doing now.

    I absolutely loved his earlier works as they were some of the most influential black metal albums of all time and helped to really kick off the genre. This album, however; isn't really black metal at all. It's more folk-like in the way that all of the lyrics are all taken from an old Norse poem called: "Völuspá." Don't get excited by the word "folk." This isn't folk metal in the sense that we know today. This ... I don't really know what this is. "Umskiptar" is more focused on atmosphere and storytelling while the traditional black metal screams and instrumentals are gone for the most part. What he's doing here isn't exactly clean vocals, but they're definitely not harsh. It's weird to hear singing in Burzum ... and he's not particularly good at it and that's one of the downfalls of the album.

    An issue with "Umskiptar" that many have, including myself, is that it's very slow and can be excruciatingly boring. I shouldn't be yawning when listening to Burzum! There are sections here and there where I keep thinking to myself: "When the hell is this thing going to end?" But every now and then I'll hear a nice catchy riff or other sounds that bring me back into the music, but I never stay with it for too long. It also doesn't help that the best songs are put at the very start of the album, so as it progresses the quality of music rapidly decreases. "Umskiptar" is also just way too long. At and hour and five minutes, which normally isn't bad, but it feels more like a chore listening to it than it does pure enjoyment. A lot of it just seems like filler than what should've ended up making it onto the final product of the album. The songs seem to drone on and on with no sign of stopping (and not in a good way like doom metal does). I'm sure if you're just sitting in a dark room and not doing anything while listening to this album you'd probably get much more out of it (which is what I normally do with black metal). But if you're active and doing something while listening to this, it's just way too easy to skip through most of these songs without a second thought.

    It's not an entirely bad album, either. I'm not particularly harsh on this one because as it wasn't quite what I wanted or expected, I accepted it and I guess I kind of liked it the first time I heard it. What I'm saying is that there was no hate involved like there is with many other people, but there's always that second listen and my patience wore thin on it even more the third time around. There's one song, however; that has a bass line that just sounds very atmospheric and I enjoyed it very much. I just wish he did something else with it instead of having the entire song being just that repetitive bass line and then just ending abruptly.

    This is a hard album to judge because there's just some things that I liked about it and so much that I didn't like. Because of that it's hard to come up with a rating and I wish I could've given it much more than what I ultimately gave it. The atmosphere is great, like always with Burzum, but I've heard Varg do it much, much better in the past. Some of the music is brilliant, but it all gets old real and tiresome rather quickly. The new vocal style is different and is the source of many of the problems. Burzum has changed so much over the course of the past several years and I'm not sure that it's for the best. I missed out on listening to last year's "Fallen" but I heard it was better than this, albeit somewhat similar. I just hope that Burzum changes styles pretty fast because "Umskiptar", for the most part, just isn't working for me.
    I give my final score for "Umskiptar" by Burzum a 11/20. This will surely be going onto my list of the most disappointing albums at the end of the year.


    2 Like


    InfinityZero - 09 July 2012: ...So according to this review the music is brilliant AND it gets boring?
    Though even as a huge Burzum fan I understand your issue with this particular album, you hardly express why you don't like the album other than the fact that it's slow/boring to you. And from the writing here you seem to be on the verge of saying you like it even as you complain about it.
    Barb|Wire|Catheter - 09 July 2012: Eh, there's not really much for me to comment on. People are gonna say what they're gonna say and there's really not much I can do about it. Also, when did I make the claim that I'm on here 24/7??
    hack - 10 July 2012: Don't sweat it, man. You're just starting out. You'll get better with more experience.
    Barb|Wire|Catheter - 10 July 2012: By "always on" I mean I check it either once a day or once every other day. I don't sit on here and wait for someone to message me, lol.
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    Review @ InfinityZero

    11 July 2012

    Umskiptar is an album that is hard to swallow, but there's material here that even the old Burzum fans will appreciate.

    I would have reviewed Burzum’s latest album sooner, had it not been for the fact that this release is such a hard bite to swallow. There’s a lot to get used to here; a lot that’s done differently from previous Burzum releases. From the day my pre-ordered limited edition vinyl copy came in the mail and I put the thing on my turntable, I knew it’d be difficult to review. It took me the better part of a year to ‘get’ Belus. After a few months of listening to the record I’m still not quite adapted to the album, but I think I’ve managed to understand the better part of it at this point. Running sixty-five minutes with eleven songs ranging from complex and adventurous to mind-numbingly simplistic, there’s a lot to love, and there’s a lot to dislike. Experimentation is usually trial-and-error, hit-and-miss, and Burzum’s Umskiptar is no exception. It has material on it which would comfortably have fit onto Burzum’s earlier works like Aske or Det Som Engang Var (except for the dissimilar production), and I daresay some of the more atmospheric works of Burzum’s post-prison career can be found here as well. Also here are some of the more wishy-washy songs of Burzum, or songs that painfully remind me of the atrocious Dauði Baldrs due to their mindless plodding. Some songs are transcendent and meditative, tonally similar to Filosofem, and others reek of lack of inspiration. Let’s break this album down.

    One thing Varg’s kept consistent since he got out of prison is his habit of kicking off every album with an unnecessary intro track that does little other than plod. This one is the best, probably, featuring a droning horn over war drums and a quiet chant. This intro unlike the rest actually got me in the mood right off and built my anticipation up even with such a short run-time. Jóln is the next track. Much in the vein of Belus by its primal black metal sound and hissing guitars, it quickly becomes evident that this album is conceptually and tonally similar to Varg’s previous albums, and naturally works as their predecessor. The riffs here are great and powerful; the guitar production is perfect. It sounds as primal as any black metal fan would want while still maintaining a clean, professional mix sound. Bass work is once again great and perfectly audible, weaving patterns of its own and sticking to the guitars simultaneously. The drums are varied and aggressive (I’ve always really appreciated Varg’s drumming), though the drums fade into non-existence with the latter songs of the album.

    Umskiptar is very interesting in terms of the risks it takes and the identity it strives for. Varg tries a lot of things here. He dabbles and experiments. Far now from black metal but not quite past integrating elements of the genre's style into the music, Varg lays down many twisting, winding riffs that seem to be a cross between some of the material from Det Som Engang Var and Filosofem, alternating between dense, slow-strummed riffs of brooding emotion and airy tremolo-picked black metal riffs to weave interesting songs that seem to really compliment his Old Norse mythology addiction, as in Hit Helga Tré. Though he definitely relies on spoken-word vocals more than any musician should, he does not leave out singing and growling. The result is a blend of medieval atmosphere and metal, and it wouldn't surprise me if Varg had lifted music-writing techniques from the ancient Norse he seems to revere so much. On the other hand, he makes some choices here that leave me scratching my head even after several listens. A schmaltzy, cringe-worthy piano intro shoe-horned onto one of the album's best songs; three songs in a row that all could have worked as the album's closing track in their own right; a song that Sunn O))) could have written (with the exception of the spoken word vocals fucking with the atmosphere). These things seem to be cracks in the face of the masterpiece Varg wants to create and prevent the album from beating Belus or Fallen in terms of quality.

    I wonder also whether this album's length is justified. I'm a guy who is fine with long albums if they're done right. Burzum's '96 effort 'Filosofem' is a mere minute shorter than this and features a 25-minute minimalistic keyboard riff, but there the nuances of Varg's creeping, unsettling layering came in to play masterfully. Here, I can't say the same thing. Again, Filosofem, 64 minutes with only 6 songs, comes to mind. Umskiptar has 11 tracks, at least two of which could have been taken off to bring the album down ten minutes. Unlike some people who loathe this album, I don't feel exactly 'tortured' by the long length of the album but it does begin to wear on me. I am at least thankful that this album DOES in fact seem to have a specific structure and goal, taking the listener from Point A to Point B without recycling similar-sounding tracks. While it's true that some songs don't belong here as they are not much more than filler, each song is at least has its own identity and you do not hear the same song twice. The album seems to start the listener off with mid-tempo, atmosphere-laden songs with searing black metal riffs and occasional bursts of speed and breaks and interludes here and there to supply variance and depth to the tracks, and as it goes on the album seems to mellow out with long, winding riffs that are journeys in and of themselves. The album dips then into a handful of shorter tracks that pull tricks that Burzum has not tried before (Heiðr being the prime example), before bringing the listener into melancholic hypnotic songs that are repetitive and simple in their execution. In this way the album almost mimics Filosofem (this is the last time I'm going to bring that album up, I promise), first starting off with the stuff people are more likely to be into and ending with stuff that a lot of people will have to sit around and wonder whether it is juvenile or artistic and bold. I find this late part of the album hit-and-miss. Sometimes the repetition and hypnotic atmosphere works with aplomb for me, such as in Surtr Sunnan, but in other cases (Galgviðr), I am baffled with Varg's decision to write the songs AND include them in the final mix of the record. But I'll get more into that song later.

    This album's major fundamental issue lies in the way it's written and how it's written. Varg Vikernes has always said that his music was written for himself and was never meant to pander--it reflected his present state of mind and current interests. I never paid that much mind to this as (almost) every Burzum album to date has impressed me in many ways and are full of things that attract me. But here, Varg's interests are so overblown that they somewhat distract from the actual music. Not one word of the lyrics is of Varg's writing; rather, they are from some really old Norwegian book or something. I think the book is supposed to express some nationalistic ideology, but long story short, this was a crappy idea on Varg's part. It wouldn't be so bad if the lyrics were just another cog in the ultimate result, written for the music as most other bands do. But here, it's the other way around. The music has been written for the lyrics as opposed to the lyrics being written for the music, or so it would seem. This results in Varg using spoken-word vocals almost exclusively. He does not try to sing or growl most of the time. His voice also doesn't match the rhythm of the music on occasion, and this is quite distracting. In the past I've seen musicians take passages of books and use them for lyrics and do it well, but here, Varg seems so hell-bent on referencing that Norwegian tome that some of the musicianship is smeared. On some songs, such as Jóln, Hit Helga Tré, or Valgaldr, one can hardly notice this problem as the music is too enjoyable and works as a whole with the lyrics. However, in the case of Galgviðr (easily the worst track of the album), it is painfully obvious that the song exists for the sole purpose of spewing out more passages of that Norwegian book, as the song is composed of one laughable riff and seven minutes of spoken language bullshit. This song would have been pointless if it were thirty seconds, let alone seven minutes. Varg also seems to be trying much, much too hard to make the lyrics of his precious book match the melody in the song, like a child reading a Dr Seuss book to Metallica. On top of that (though I can't verify it as I know nothing about the book), I've heard from fans of Burzum that Varg Vikernes mispronounces much of the book's outdated dialect, so apparently he isn't even being that loyal to the material in the first place.

    Now we come down to the part where I sum up what I think of the album, and I must admit I’m hard-pressed for a definitive rating. On the one hand I think Varg’s struck an interesting balance of music, ideology and atmosphere, but there are places where these three things begin to struggle with one another and some of the craftsmanship is buried as a result. There are definitely songs here to impress Burzum fans, even those of the “tr00 kvlt” early Burzum fanatics, but it’s hard to ignore the awkward decisions I brought up earlier, and I felt this album could have been very tight if a couple of songs had been left off the bill entirely. However, this album is definitely a complement to a whole work and branches off from where Belus and Fallen left off. I feel, in the end, as if the album was worth it, if only for a handful of tracks. It’s definitely worth a few listens. When I first heard the album, I didn’t like it, and a few other listens seemed at first to solidify my opinion, but eventually I started to come around to it. Umskiptar is an album that is a bit hard to swallow, but there is certainly material here that even an old Burzum fan will appreciate. I give this album a 15/20. When it’s good, it’s really good, but its dragging points are still a bit hard for me to accept.

    Jóln: A song of heavy black metal proportions that packs a punch as the album’s opener. Some of the riffs here sound as evil as any riff from Burzum’s self-titled album, and here the spoken word vocals work with the music instead of against it. Varg makes use of his ability to vary a song and progress it with finesse and subtlety.

    Valgaldr: Bizarre riffs very unorthodox and unexpected for Burzum are used here amidst a twisted structure whose mix of low and very audible bass riffs, hypnotic, harmonic sustain notes, and chanted vocals create an otherworldly dream for the listener. The song has a depth to it and a variance to it that makes it an easy standout. This is a song of melancholic meditation for those minimalist nuts.

    Gulaldr: Coming in right after the beautiful Surtr Sunnan, this song continues the last stretch of the album in sleepy hypnotic guitar chords and scales. Though written very simplistically, the atmosphere is perfect here, and though the song lasts ten minutes, I feel that it deserves the run time it got, even though it took me a few listens to accept it. The spoken-word verses are perfectly varied by a simple vocalized chant and a haunting melody. Underlying electric guitar tones come and go and crash over the listener like waves. My only complaint here is that the song that follows Gulaldr is completely unnecessary and takes away from the already well-established atmosphere. I wish Gulaldr had been the last track of the record.

    1 Comment

    0 Like

    Crinn - 11 July 2012: dude, your reviews amaze and inspire me.. o.o seriously haha. they also take me like 15 minutes to read Dx

    I actually liked this album, being a fan of their old stuff (you've probably read my Filosofem review), I found some parts of this album to bring back old sounds instead of the whole album being COMPLETELY new, which can be slightly overwhelming at times. And you're right, this album is really hard to swallow O.o it's just so mind-raping that I had to take a nap after listening to it twice x.x
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