A Burzum Story: Part VI - The Music

The last eight months I have received a lot of letters from people who are interested in things like what instruments I used when I recorded the Burzum albums. Personally I am not the least interested in these things, and therefore I don't have the motivation to actually reply to such letters. To me this is like an echo from the past, when "everybody" in the Death Metal underground were talking about such things. The focus on instruments, brands, sound studios and "production" is actually one of the things I rebelled against in 1991.

Since the people who never get a reply from me have complained to me about my lacking will to write them back, I will write an article about this subject, that will hopefully answer all their questions.


When I recorded all the Burzum albums I used an old (I think) Weston guitar that I bought cheap in 1987 from an acquaintance. The bass I used was the cheapest bass guitar they had in the shop and I don't even know what brand it was. I never checked and I never even thought about it. When it came to drums I simply borrowed a drum kit from the drummer of Old Funeral (later Immortal), or another musician living nearby, and "of course" I have no idea what brand that was either.

When it came to guitar amplifiers all the Death Metal guys told me that the way to get the "right" (trendy) sound was to use Marshall amps, and since I didn't like that sound I bought a Pivee (Pivey?) amp and used that instead. On "Filosofem" I didn't use a guitar amplifier at all, but instead used only the amplifier on my brother's stereo (that of course was not intended for that use) and some old fuzz pedals.

For "singing" I used whatever microphone the sound technician handed me, or - when I recorded "Filosofem" - I asked for the worst microphone he had, and ended up using the microphone in a headset.

When I recorded the debut album (in January 1992) I spent only 19 hours all in all, from the moment I arrived in the sound studio with the instruments to the album was mastered (!). The number of hours spent (in April 1992) on "Det Som Engang Var" (DSEV) was 26, a bit more because I had brought nobody to help me out with the transport of the instruments and such, and had to carry and set up everything myself. "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" (HLTO) was recorded (in September 1992) in something between 20 and 30 hours (I don't remember), but that included two songs that were never included on the album (a very poor version of the "Burzum" ["Dunkelheit"] track and a track I never used). "Filosofem" was recorded (in March 1993) in only 17 hours, but that is largely due to the fact that I used a drum kit that was already there - in the studio, used by some jazz or rock band the day before - so that saved me a lot of time. Besides, at that point I had gone through the process of recording an album a few times already, so all the technical stuff had become routine by then.

The reason I used Grieghallen sound studio was because we had used that studio when we recorded an EP with Old Funeral, in 1990 I think, so I knew the sound technician (a very positive, skilled and great guy from Bergen), and it was located only 1,5 km away from my apartment in Bergen. Had I lived in another town I would obviously used another sound studio.

When I recorded the debut album both Øystein Aarseth ("Euronymous", in Mayhem) and Harald Nævdal ("Demonaz", in Immortal) were present much of the time and they helped me carry the instruments - and for fun Aarseth was allowed to play a guitar solo on the "War" track. He also (along with me) "hammered with his fists" on a large gong in Grieghallen to make sound. This was used as background noise on the track called "Dungeons Of Darkness" and on the DSEV intro.

When I recorded the other albums I was usually alone with the sound technician. However, Samoth (Thomas Haugen, in Emperor) was present when I recorded two of the tracks in the "Aske" mini-LP and parts of HLTO. He played the bass on two of the "Aske" tracks, and was present when I recorded the drums on both "Aske" and HLTO. He played the bass on "Aske" because I for a short period in 1992 flirted with the idea of playing live, and therefore rehearsed one or two times as a band (a guy named Erik Lancelot, from outside Oslo, was supposed to play the drums). I quickly woke up from the "playing-live-psychosis" and luckily changed my mind, so I continued like before, as a one-man-band with no need for even session musicians.

With the exception of a song on HLTO and a song on "Filosofem" I recorded everything on the first take. The problem with the song on HLTO was technical, and I had to record the drums on the title track twice, and on the "Jesu Død" track on "Filosofem" I had to do a bass line over again simply because I was tired after just having recorded both the guitar tracks (my "bourgeois fingers" weren't used to all that work...).

The mistakes made on some of the tracks during the recording could easily have been avoided had I only bothered to rerecord certain parts, but the point at that time was to rebel against the streamlined (Death) Metal music. The whole point with the musical rebellion was to not make "perfect" albums, to not make music with "this or that" brand of instruments, it was to not go to a particular sound studio to get "this or that sound", and it was to not sound like other bands. A few mistakes makes the music more alive and personal, it simply gives the music some "soul" and originality, so I never bothered to correct anything. The music on the Burzum albums is simply an honest and sincere, unvarnished and clear representation of me. Certainly I am not flawless or without mistakes, so neither is my music.

There was an ideology behind this; it was an embrace of honesty and an appreciation of the pure and natural. If the sound is not defined as good by some stuffed shirt (failed) musician working for a music magazine it matters no whit to me. The natural is always the best, whether we are talking about music or something else. The natural and best music is (as I see it) music with "soul", and not music that has been polished for months in a studio to remove even the tiniest mistakes (peculiarities).

Even as early as in 1990 most of the Death Metal bands followed the current, were incorporated into the commercial music business and had lost all their "soul". The so-called Black Metal bands shortly followed, and (as far as I know) with the exception Fenris of Darkthrone they all sold out and failed to live up to any of the original Black Metal ideas. The younger bands from Norway, that came in 1993 or later, as a result of the media coverage of our tiny milieu, never even knew about these ideas, so they ironically never actually sold out. However, it is a bit silly that they do all these things and look a certain way and don't even know why. They just joined a herd and never even knew where the herd originally came from or where it had been before they joined in. In short we can say that the so-called Black Metal bands became commercialized too.

At this point I should remind You of what I wrote about in the start of this article; people asking me about things like what instruments I used when I recorded the Burzum albums. Such questions are as irrelevant and uninteresting to me as questions about what brand of pants or underwear I wore when I recorded all albums would be. Does it really matter what instruments I used? I don't think so, and I think it is a point to not care about such things. I used my guitar, and if I had had another guitar I would have used that one instead. As simple as that. I used whatever was the most handy and my main priority was to make honest and original music - and I could have achieved that with just about any instruments, regardless of their age, price and brand. As simple as that.

I appreciate Your interest in Burzum, and thank You for Your attention, but please don't expect me to give priority to letters with questions about instruments, technical details or other things in which I have no interest whatsoever. If You find these things interesting that is fine by me, but don't expect me to share Your interests.

Varg "Волк" Vikernes
(July 2005)

Aurum nostrum non est aurum vulgi!
(Our gold is not like the gold of the ordinary man)

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