Legend has it that many years ago a very talented man was born to change the history of music. And yes, despite and thanks to many adversities in his life, he’s made it, in his own peculiar way…
Varg Vikernes, who I’m talking about, started his project called Burzum in 1991 that quickly became one of the most influential acts in black metal. The dispute over controversial figure of Varg unfolds since the very beginning of his musical career. He was accused of infamous arsons of churches in Norway and murder of Euronymous of Mayhem. In 1993 he was found guilty and convicted to imprisonment. Luckily for all his fans, prison sentence didn’t stop him from creating music. However, he didn’t have access to instruments other than synthesizers. Because of that he started to record new materials in the novel style of dark ambient. Varg’s new musical direction and albums were taken with a pinch of salt. Accustomed to heavy music fans were confused, but some appreciated his different style. Later on, after being released from prison, he expanded his musical repertoire. Varg’s music always inspired magical and trance-like state of mind. He delivered another straightforward black metal album and combined dark ambient with neofolk and neo-medieval styles on the next releases. In the meantime, he was working on his own role-playing game, named Myfarog: Mythic Fantasy Role-Playing Game. Slowly, Varg started to withdraw from the world of music and in July 2018 he announced that he ended Burzum project.
To all fans surprise, in October 2019, Varg shared that he’s releasing a new album in March 2020. As he says ‘Thulêan Mysteries was made passively, in the sense that I never intended to make a new album; I just made music every now and then and at one point realized that I actually had enough to release it all on an album. When asked to do so I figured: why not? It was a good idea. The music is a little bit of this and a little bit of that, transcending any genre, and perhaps belonging to many different genres. The intention with it was always to create a certain atmosphere, often related to an idea or a situation. Since my true passion has never been music, but actually tabletop role-playing games, I figured I should make this an album intended for that use; as background music for my own MYFAROG (Mythic Fantasy Role-playing Game). Hopefully you will get a sense of Thulê when you listen to this, like always with Burzum, ideally when on your own. I hope you will enjoy this soundtrack to Thulê, to Mother Nature and life itself’. He made it to the point with that statement about his latest release. Indeed, Thulêan Mysteries create a wonderful atmosphere for meditation on life. And even a better one to play Myfarog to.
The album opens with The Sacred Well creating a deep trance-like experience and lifting the veil of secrecy around what the Thulêan Mysteries is about. The Loss of a Hero may deliver a moment of unease with its looped knocking and twanging noises. ForeBears is the first highlight of the album. A ballad-like track will make you croon it without even realising. A Thulêan Perspective is similar. A neo-medieval feel characterises Gathering of Herbs, an interlude-like track. On the contrary, Heill auk Saell- Old Norse for Healthy and Happy- also used as a greeting in Iceland, sounds more like a battle chant, pretty much like Jotunheimr. With Spell-Lake Forest and enchanting The Ettin Stone Heart, Varg returns to a more trance building vibe. Well known to Burzum fans is Den Store Søvn (The Great Sleep), a track was published long time ago, way before any plans of Thulêan Mysteries were made. It is a beautiful, yet very sad ballad. Its recording process shows a real genius behind it and proves, that Varg doesn’t need a fancy recording studio to create his masterpieces. As he explained, he recorded the lyre in his van, tapping his foot on the floor of the car to create ‘drums’. A simple perfection I’d say with a medieval minstrel connotation. The Land of Thulêan reveals the idea of Thulê and Myfarog. The looped chant ‘We have not inherited Thulê from our ancestors, we have borrowed it from our children‘ argues that Thulê is an imaginary land created in our minds. Imagination plays a lead role in role-playing games and as we all know, children have very vivid imaginations, which explains referencing them in the lyrics. Thulê, full of magic and sorcery land is inhabited not only by humans but also by other mystical creatures, like elves or dwarves. It may seem to be an idyllic place, but with the fierce sound of The Lord of the Dwarves you’ll change your mind very quickly. Don’t forget that Thulê is a dangerous land and the idea of Myfarog is to win in combat against your enemies. A Forgotten Realm track serves as a reminder of the above with its emotional tension vibe. Myfarog is based on European and Nordic beliefs and culture, therefore there’s plenty references to Norse mythology, like the one shown in Hail Óðinn Sire (Welcome Father Odin). If you close your eyes and listen carefully, the text track, The Ruins of Dwarfmount, will take your imagination to those long-lost ruins. The Road to Hel repeats the sinister and harsh sound from The Lord of the Dwarves and A Frogotten Realm. The ritualistic feel alluding to magic and sorcery present in The Land of Thulê characterises Thulêan Sorceryl. Descent into Niflheimr sounds like a death chant, hummed as you slowly enter Niflheim, The Home of Mist. Death is an unavoidable part of life and this track is its grim recollection inducing a moment of reflection. Skin Traveller and The Dream Land return to ambient aura gently whipping magical atmosphere of Thulê up. Promoting the album Thulêan Mysteries track, in my opinion, is the purest essence of the whole world finely created by Varg together with mysteriously beginning The Password. While listening to them, with my eyes closed I could see the vast lands of Thulê, where dryads and elves from green forests are free to frolic between trees, housewives are kissing their husbands while handing them linen bags with herbs and freshly baked bread as they see them off before they leave for hunting, manly warriors guarding the walls of bewitched towns and, lying in wait, filthy Koparmenn in far, far south. I could feel the idyllic nature of this magical world full of secrets, waiting for brave ones to discover them during their explorations. At some point, I sadly realised that the album is almost over. Bittersweet sounds beginning The Loss of Thulê spelled the end of this wonderful journey… Despite the track’s grim title, for me Thulê wasn’t lost yet, I believe that there are some gallant and courageous men fighting till their last blood drop to save their homeland. I just can’t see it otherwise.
Varg, despite his own words of having no interest in music, shown once again that music really plays an important part in our lives. It is indeed a spark to create a specific aura leading to have a break and contemplate and appreciate life itself. Not only Thulêan Mysteries is a great soundtrack for his Myfarog Game, that’s for sure, but it is also one of the best albums to lose yourself in. Open your mind and give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.
Highlights: ForeBears, Heill auk Saell, Den Store Søvn (The Great Sleep), Hail Óðinn Sire, Descent into Niflheimr, Thulêan Mysteries
Thulêan Mysteries is available from 13th Mar 2020 and can be purchased here.
For more on Burzum visit: Bandcamp