Behold! The wolf is roaming outside again. He had a one year break with the mediocrity of “Fallen”, but now he presents a truly malevolent saga, after the epic “Belus”. Vikernes wrote a new lyrical anthem with all of its lyrics from Völuspá, the Nordic cosmogony, worthy of the glorious Viking heritage. Varg came with too much appetite out of prison and recorded lately one album per year. But in no way those albums lack in quality (except from “Fallen” and that’s my personal opinion), since he changed the typical Burzum style and developed black metal into something visionary.

Once again black metal and ambient music are perfectly combined. “Jóln” is the perfect example of this. Chaotic distorted guitar, clean vocals along with growls and grotesque drumming create a paranoid, but at the same time a cold atmosphere, too. Piano is also used in “Umskiptar”. A very beautiful song with piano composition is “Alfadanz”. It also has very sharp riffs and smashing drums that remind a lot of the primal Burzum stuff. After such a strong hit to the listener’s ears, “Hit helga Tré” follows, which is one of my personal beloved tracks in “Umskiptar”. The wolf proves his talent for a millionth time. It’s sick, it’s grim, it’s morbid, it’s melodic, but first of all is black metal. Maybe it has few riffs and one or two changes in tremolo pickings, but the best songs are always the simplest. And I have to say that I loved the vocals here.

“Æra” and “Heiðr” offer a break, as they are two very good mid-tempo tracks, that are coming to cut off the one hour duration of “Umskiptar”. Both songs have something from “Belus” era, especially the compositions in “Æra”, but in “Heiðr” Varg goes back to his folklore roots as the arpeggio reveals. A total black metal/ambient song is “Valgaldr” that is more or less like “Jóln”. It’s true that is a monotonous, slow song, but the vocals make it a dark mystic hymn, and that’s a characteristic in latest Burzum works. Next on the list is “Galgviðr”, another great ambient black metal song, which highlights its folklore elements. Generally, the music structure follows the same heavily distorted path, like the previous songs, so it is no need for further analysis.

“Surtr Sunnan” is a bit different. It has extremely dark melodies and the fact that the bass doesn’t follow the guitar make it paradoxically perfect. If it wasn’t in a Burzum record, it could be in any depressive black metal record without any difficulty. Only the vocals stay the same and follow the lyrical character of “Umskiptar”, but I think it’s not such a big deal. The same melancholic attitude exists in “Gullaldr”, too, and finally the album closes with the narrative “Níðhöggr” which completes the lyrical character of “Umskiptar”.

The wolf produced an extremely beautiful album that escapes from the classic music frames and proceeds even further. I would say that is a part of a trilogy and a sequel of “Belus” and “Fallen” because it hardly escapes from them. But also in some parts Varg didn’t forget his first works and he uses them in “Hit helga Tré” for example. Maybe it isn’t one of the most classic black metal works and it’s full of ambient elements, but what can we describe as black metal nowadays? The wolf chose to praise the history of his people with his music; it’s respectful and he did it successfully. Maybe it is clearly subjective, but for me “Umskiptar” deserves the following grade.

Track List Line Up
01. Blóðstokkinn
02. Jóln
03. Alfadanz
04. Hit helga Tré
05. Æra
06. Heiðr
07. Valgaldr
08. Galgviðr
09. Surtr Sunnan
10. Gullaldr
11. Níðhöggr
Varg Vikernes – Vocals, All instruments

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