Last updated
Varg Vikernes.jpg
Varg Vikernes in 2009
Background information
Also known asCount Grishnackh
Origin Bergen, Norway
Years active
  • 1991–1999
  • 2009–2018
Associated acts
Website burzum.org
Past members Varg Vikernes

Burzum ( /ˈbɜːrzəm/ ; Norwegian:  [ˈbʉrt͡sʉm] ) was a Norwegian music project founded by Varg Vikernes in 1991. Although Burzum never played live performances, it became a part of the early Norwegian black metal scene and is considered one of the most influential acts in the history of black metal. [3] [4] [5] [6] The word "burzum" means "darkness" in the black speech, a fictional language crafted by Lord of the Rings writer J. R. R. Tolkien. [7]

Varg Vikernes Norwegian musician, writer and convicted murderer

Louis Cachet, more popularly known as Varg Vikernes, is a Norwegian musician and writer. In 1991, he founded the one-man music project Burzum, which became one of the most influential black metal acts. In 1993, he was convicted of murder and arson, and subsequently served 15 years in prison.

The early Norwegian black metal scene of the 1990s is credited with creating the modern black metal genre and produced some of the most acclaimed and influential artists in extreme metal. It attracted massive media attention when it was revealed that its members had been responsible for two murders and a wave of church burnings in Norway.

Black metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. Common traits include fast tempos, a shrieking vocal style, heavily distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, raw (lo-fi) recording, unconventional song structures, and an emphasis on atmosphere. Artists often appear in corpse paint and adopt pseudonyms.


Vikernes began making music as a teenager in 1988, but it was not until 1991 that he recorded his first demos as Burzum. The first four Burzum albums were recorded between January 1992 and March 1993. From 1994 to 2009, Vikernes was incarcerated for the murder of Mayhem guitarist Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth and the arson of three churches. While imprisoned, he recorded two dark ambient albums using only synthesizers, as he did not have access to drums, guitar or bass. Since his release from prison in 2009, he has recorded several more albums. In 2018, Vikernes announced the end of the Burzum project.

Mayhem (band) Norwegian black metal band

Mayhem is a Norwegian black metal band formed in 1984 in Oslo, Norway. They were one of the founders of the Norwegian black metal scene and their music has strongly influenced the black metal genre. Mayhem's early career was highly controversial, primarily due to their notorious live performances, the 1991 suicide of vocalist Per Yngve Ohlin ("Dead") and the 1993 murder of guitarist Øystein Aarseth ("Euronymous") by former member Varg Vikernes of Burzum.

Euronymous Norwegian heavy metal musician

Øystein Aarseth, better known by his stage name Euronymous, was a Norwegian musician. Euronymous was a founder of and central figure in the early Norwegian black metal scene. He was a co-founder and guitarist of the Norwegian black metal band Mayhem and was the only constant member from the band's formation in 1984 until his death in 1993. He was also founder and owner of the extreme metal record label Deathlike Silence Productions and record shop Helvete.

Dark ambient is a genre of post-industrial music that features an ominous, dark droning and often gloomy, monumental or catacombal atmosphere, partially with discordant overtones. It shows similarities towards ambient music, a genre that has been cited as a main influence by many dark ambient artists, both conceptually and compositionally. Although mostly electronically generated, dark ambient also includes the sampling of hand-played instruments and semi-acoustic recording procedures, and is strongly related to ritual industrial music.


Early years (1988–1992)

The Burzum logo used in 1991 Burzumlogodemoii.png
The Burzum logo used in 1991

Varg Vikernes began making music in 1988 with the band Kalashnikov. [7] The following year, the name was changed to Uruk-Hai, after the creatures from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings . [7] In 1990 and 1991, Vikernes played guitar for the death metal band Old Funeral, which also consisted of members who would later form the band Immortal. He appears on the Old Funeral EP Devoured Carcass. Vikernes left Old Funeral in 1991 to concentrate on creating his own musical visions. He had a short lived project called Satanel, along Abbath Doom Occulta. He then began a solo project under the name Burzum. The word "burzum" means "darkness" in the Black Speech, a language crafted by Tolkien. Soon after recording two demo tapes, he became part of the Norwegian black metal scene. With his demo tapes, he had attracted attention from Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth of Mayhem, who had just recently formed Deathlike Silence Productions. Aarseth then signed Burzum to the label, and shortly after, Vikernes ―under the pseudonym of Count Grishnackh―, began to record Burzum’s self-titled debut album. According to Vikernes' autobiography on his website, he had intended to record the album in the worst recording quality possible (due to this being a typical trademark of the early Norwegian black metal scene), while still making it sound acceptable. Burzum's eponymous debut album was released in 1992, being the second album released on Deathlike Silence Productions. The song "War" from this album had a guest appearance from Euronymous, playing a guitar solo "just for fun", according to Vikernes.

The Uruk-hai are fictional characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-earth. They are introduced in The Lord of the Rings as an advanced breed of Orcs that serve Sauron and Saruman. The first uruks appeared out of Mordor in attacks on Gondor in T.A. 2475.

J. R. R. Tolkien British philologist and author, creator of classic fantasy works

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and academic, who is best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

<i>The Lord of the Rings</i> 1954–1955 fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. Written in stages between 1937 and 1949, The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.

The Burzum logo used between 1991 and 1993 Burzum logo.svg
The Burzum logo used between 1991 and 1993

Vikernes has stated that he had never played any live shows with Burzum, though at one point was interested in it,[ failed verification ] so Samoth of Emperor accompanied him as a session bassist, though only appearing on the Aske EP. [8] Additionally, Erik Lancelot was hired to be the band's drummer,[ citation needed ] though did not record on any Burzum material, and along with Samoth did not play a live show. Vikernes had by then lost his interest in playing live concerts, and stated that he "didn't even need session musicians anymore". Therefore, Samoth and Lancelot had parted ways with Burzum. Det som engang var was released as Burzum's second album in 1993, recorded in 1992.

Samoth Norwegian musician

Samoth is a musician and multi-instrumentalist in the Norwegian black metal scene. He is well known for his distinct guitar work and drumming in the band Emperor, as well as his formation of the death metal band Zyklon. In very early Emperor releases, he was called Samot, and with the formation of Zyklon he became known as Zamoth. Samoth was the owner of the record label Nocturnal Art Productions and had a close relationship with Candlelight Records.

<i>Aske</i> (EP) 1993 EP by Burzum

Aske is an EP by Norwegian black metal solo project Burzum. Though recorded in April and August 1992, after Det som engang var, it was released before that album in March 1993, through Deathlike Silence Productions.

Imprisonment (1993–2009)

The Burzum logo used between 1994 and 2009 BurzumLogo.png
The Burzum logo used between 1994 and 2009

May 1994 saw the release of Hvis lyset tar oss , a new album of previously recorded material from 1992. Burzum remained as a solo project until 1994, when Vikernes was arrested for the murder of Euronymous and the burnings of several churches in Norway. During his time in prison, Vikernes released his next album, titled Filosofem , on 1 January 1996. Recorded in March 1993, Filosofem was the last recording Vikernes made before his imprisonment. Burzum / Aske, a compilation comprising the Burzum album and Aske EP, was released in 1995. While imprisoned, Vikernes managed to record two other albums in a dark ambient style. They were released as Dauði Baldrs (1997) and Hliðskjálf (1999). Both of these albums were used with a synthesizer as Vikernes was prohibited from using any other instruments in prison.

<i>Hvis lyset tar oss</i> 1994 studio album by Burzum

Hvis lyset tar oss is the third studio album by Norwegian black metal solo project Burzum. It was recorded in September 1992, but was not released until April 1994, whereupon it was released through Misanthropy Records and Vikernes' own record label, Cymophane Productions. The album is considered a classic in the black metal scene.

<i>Filosofem</i> 1996 studio album by Burzum

Filosofem is the fourth studio album by Norwegian black metal solo project Burzum. It was recorded in March 1993 and was the last recording before Varg Vikernes' imprisonment ; the album was not released until January 1996, however. A music video was made for the song "Dunkelheit" and received airtime on both MTV and VH1.

<i>Dauði Baldrs</i> 1997 studio album by Burzum

Dauði Baldrs is the fifth album by the Norwegian solo act Burzum. Unlike Burzum's previous work, which was mostly black metal, this is a dark ambient album. It was recorded using a synthesizer and a normal tape recorder by Varg Vikernes while he was in prison, as he was not allowed to have any other instruments or recording equipment. It was completed in a few months due to his limited access to synthesizers, which was also the case with the following album, Hliðskjálf.

In 1998, all Burzum albums released up to that point were re-released as vinyl picture discs in a special box set called 1992–1997; however the Filosofem album didn't contain "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" due to its length. The regular vinyl issue of Filosofem on Misanthropy had tracks 1–4 plus "Decrepitude II" on side 1 and "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" on side 2.

Post-imprisonment and end of project (2009–2018)

The Burzum logo used on the 2010 album Belus, set in the typeface Ruritania Burzum2010.svg
The Burzum logo used on the 2010 album Belus, set in the typeface Ruritania

Soon after being released, Vikernes started writing new tracks (nine metal tracks and an ambient intro and outro) for an upcoming Burzum album. According to Vikernes' recounts, several record companies were interested in releasing his first album in eleven years. He stated about the new album, "I want to take my time, and make it the way I want it. It will be metal, and the fans can expect genuine Burzum."

The album was going to be originally titled Den hvite guden ("The White God"), [9] but he later decided to change it to Belus , which was released by Byelobog Productions (byelobog is the transliteration of "белобог" in Slavic languages, meaning "white god") on 8 March 2010. [10] [11] It was also announced that a movie would be released in 2010, based on Varg Vikernes' life in the early 1990s. The movie would mainly draw inspiration from the book Lords of Chaos , with the film being of the same name. Vikernes expressed his contempt towards both the movie and the book upon which it is based. [12]

<i>Belus</i> (album) 2010 studio album by Burzum

Belus is the seventh full-length album by the Norwegian one-man band Burzum. The first studio album to be recorded after a near 11-year hiatus, it was released on 8 March 2010 through Byelobog Productions.

<i>Lords of Chaos</i> (book) 1998 book about Early Norwegian black metal scene by Michael J. Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind

Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground is a book by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind. It is an account of the early Norwegian black metal scene, with a focus on the string of church burnings and murders that occurred in the country around 1993. A film adaptation of the book was directed by Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund in 2018. The book has been the subject of controversy over the alleged political leanings of author Michael Moynihan, though Moynihan denies these allegations.

A second new album of original Burzum material, Fallen , was released on 7 March 2011, [13] followed by a compilation album, From the Depths of Darkness , containing re-recordings of tracks from Burzum's self-titled album and Det som engang var, on 28 November 2011. [14] A third new studio album of original material, titled Umskiptar , was released in May 2012. [15] Sôl austan, Mâni vestan ("East of the Sun, West of the Moon"), Burzum's first electronic album since 1999, was released in May 2013. [16] On April 27, 2013, a song was posted on the official YouTube channel of Vikernes, titled "Back to the Shadows." [17] In a blog post, Vikernes stated that "Back to the Shadows" will be the last metal track released by Burzum. [18]

The album The Ways of Yore was released in June 2014. [19]

In June 2018, in a video posted on his YouTube channel, Vikernes stated that "[he had] moved on [from Burzum]", saying "bye bye" to the project. [20] [21]

Musical style

Burzum's music features characteristics common in black metal, including distorted, tremolo-picked guitar riffs, and harsh vocals. Earlier Burzum albums feature very low production quality, which has improved in albums created after Vikernes' release from prison. The low quality was on purpose because as Varg said, it was a rebellion against good production. Burzum's early music shows heavy Tolkien influence; for example, Vikernes' early moniker "Count Grishnackh" is taken from an orc character called Grishnákh in Tolkien's works. [7] The choice of the name for the project reflects both this influence and the desire for anonymity: Burzum is a word of the Black Speech of Mordor meaning "darkness" (though Vikernes views what Christians consider "darkness" as "light"), [7] and is one of those found on the Ring-inscription of the One Ring (the final part of the Ring inscription being "...agh burzum-ishi krimpatul", or "...and in the darkness bind them"). [22]

Musically, Burzum has progressed from black metal to classical-influenced ambient music characterised by minimalist tendencies and dark atmospheres. Vikernes' music is characterised by hypnotic repetition and simple song structures; this trademark sound has been present on Burzum's black metal and electronic albums alike. Vikernes has described Burzum as a kind of "spell" or recreation of an imaginary world tied in with Pagan history. [7] Each album, he claims, was designed as a kind of "spell" in itself, with each beginning song intending to make the listener more susceptible to "magic", the following songs to inspire a "trance-like state of mind", and the last song to carry the listener into a "world of fantasy" (dreams, for the listener would fall asleep—Burzum was supposed to have been evening music). [7] Vikernes claims the intent to create this fantasy world came from dissatisfaction with the real world. [7] He has stated the "message" of Burzum can be found in the lyrics of the first song of the first album ("Feeble Screams from Forests Unknown"). [7]


Main releases
Burzum January 1992March 1992
Det som engang var April 1992August 1993
Hvis lyset tar oss September 1992April 1994
Filosofem March 1993January 1996
Dauði Baldrs 1994–1995 (in prison)October 1997 Dark ambient/Neo-Medieval album
Hliðskjálf 1998 (in prison)April 1999 Dark ambient album
Belus 2009–2010March 2010 [10]
Fallen November 2010March 2011 [23]
From the Depths of Darkness March 2010November 2011Mostly re-recorded songs from the first two albums
Umskiptar September 2011May 2012 [15]
Sôl austan, Mâni vestan 2012May 2013 [24] Dark ambient/Neo-Medieval album
The Ways of Yore 2013–2014June 2014 Neo-Medieval album
Music videos
Compilation albums
Other appearances


Last line-up

See also

Related Research Articles

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Deathlike Silence Productions was a Norwegian independent record label founded in Oslo in the late 1980s that focused on black metal. It was the first independent label to do so. The label was founded by Øystein Aarseth, also known as Euronymous, who operated the label until his murder in 1993. The name was derived from the Sodom song "Deathlike Silence". At first, the label mainly signed Norwegian acts, but as early as 1990 Aarseth had desired to establish a Swedish branch with Morgan Håkansson of Marduk, and towards its final years its scope was also broadened to other countries such as Japan. Aarseth was considering signing Rotting Christ, Masacre (Colombia) and Hadez (Peru) before his death. Before the label's demise it was planned to release Monumentum's debut album In Absentia Christi. Darkthrone had threatened to release their second album A Blaze in the Northern Sky through Deathlike Silence when Peaceville Records would not due to their sudden change in genre. Voices of Wonder "took over Deathlike Silence Productions after the death of Euronymous."

<i>Hliðskjálf</i> (album) 1999 studio album by Burzum

Hliðskjálf is the sixth album by Norwegian solo artist Burzum. This album was the second to be recorded by Varg Vikernes while he was imprisoned for murder and arson and also Burzum's second ambient album. Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf were created with synthesized instruments as he was not allowed any other instruments while being imprisoned. For this album Vikernes was allowed to have the keyboard and recording device for only one week. The first pressing of its vinyl format release was pressed on a shiny burnished color reminiscent of gold, instead of the standard black color vinyl record.

<i>Black Metal ist Krieg</i> 2001 studio album by Nargaroth

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<i>De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas</i> 1994 studio album by Mayhem

De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is the debut studio album by the Norwegian black metal band Mayhem. Songwriting began in 1987, but due to the suicide of vocalist Per "Dead" Ohlin and the murder of guitarist Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, the album's release was delayed until May 1994. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is widely considered one of the most influential black metal albums of all time. It is the band's only studio album to feature Aarseth and Varg "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes.

<i>Burzum</i> (album) 1992 studio album by Burzum

Burzum is the debut studio album by the Norwegian black metal solo project of the same name. It was released in March 1992, through Euronymous's label Deathlike Silence Productions. Six of the songs were later re-recorded in 2010 and released on the album From the Depths of Darkness, as Varg Vikernes was dissatisfied with some of the original vocals and production.

<i>Det som engang var</i> 1993 studio album by Burzum

Det som engang var is the second studio album by the Norwegian black metal solo project Burzum. It was recorded in April 1992 and released in August 1993 through Burzum's own label, Cymophane.

<i>Dawn of the Black Hearts</i> 1995 live album (bootleg) by Mayhem

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<i>Umskiptar</i> 2012 studio album by Burzum

Umskiptar is the ninth studio album by the Norwegian one-man band Burzum, released on 21 May 2012 through Byelobog Productions. It has been described by Varg Vikernes as a "return to the roots", with a priority on atmosphere. The album's lyrics are taken from an Old Norse poem entitled Völuspá. The album was leaked two months before its release date, due, according to Vikernes, to a former PR agent of his having "sent promotional copies of the entire album to left wing extremist magazines" without his knowledge or consent.


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