Ah, Burzum. There have been few, if any, artists in metal history as notorious and fan-divided as Varg Vikernes’ one-man band, and his discography (both before, during, and post-jail time) has straddled the worlds of both furious black metal and ambient/folk. Love him or hate him, the guy has made some incredible music in his time and all on his own terms.

In 2018, he announced that Burzum as a recording project was officially over and he had no plans to make music in the future. It came as quite a surprise then when he announced in late 2019 that a new album was on the way, and fans were on the edge of their seats to see what it was and the direction it took.

Well, Thulêan Mysteries is a collection of music made over the past 5 years as a companion to one of his true loves, role-playing games, more specifically his own game known as MYFAROG. Made with GarageBand on his wife’s old Mini Mac, with any live instruments recorded on a cheap mike in his old VW van (any ‘drum beats’ are him stomping his foot on the van floor), it follows his ethos of recording as simply and basically as possible. Those expecting black metal of any sort will be sorely disappointed – the pieces on here are all in the vein of his pagan ambient works, and work beautifully as one large piece, even if the flow is somewhat uneven.

Taken as more of a background listening for those wanting a soundtrack to their RPG sessions, it’s a fantastic vibe-creator and, as someone that loves atmospheric music, I found it to be rich with imagery and inspiration. Mostly instrumental and relying on repeated motifs, it lulls the listener into a dark and mysterious world that could only come from the deep imagination of Mr. Vikernes. There are some chants, spoken word, and basic singing buried in there, but they are there specifically to enrich and highlight the meaning of those pieces, and you won’t find any fist-pumping sing-alongs anywhere in sight.

At a lengthy run-time of an hour and a half, there are times over the 23 tracks where it does feel like there is some padding, but based on the man’s interviews surrounding the record, everything was made as he heard it and how it relates to his imaginary world of Thulê (which has basis in pagan and Norwegian history and mythology – he does mention that for those looking for an education in such matters, the game has a lot to offer). As the music does have a drone-like effect throughout, the aforementioned padding merely adds to the hypnotic waves, and I find that the more I listen to it, the more important those longer drones are.

The one major highlight for old-school Burzum fans is “Skin Traveller,” which is a reworking of the incredible “Han Som Reiste,” one of his first forays into ambient music all the way back on 1993’s seminal Det Som Engang Var album. Already a perfect piece of music, this new version has a deeper melancholy that, whilst still imbued with the same fine tapestry of the original, feels like a final heartfelt letter to the folks that take his music seriously, those that truly ‘get it.’ On repeat, this song makes a lasting impression and reminds the hordes that we might never hear the like again.

If these really are the last recordings of Varg Vikernes, then I am more than pleased with the outcome. It’s sad that he doesn’t consider creating music as being important anymore since it is one of the things (outside of raising his family, writing, and working with the land as he does these days) where he has genuine and definable talent, and I’m sure many fans would agree. That said, Thulêan Mysteries is a reminder of just how easy the process is for him, a talent that requires very little effort and simply pours forth, and it is highly recommended for both fans of Burzum and ambient music alike.

Thulêan Mysteries Track Listing:

1. The Sacred Well
2. The Loss Of A Hero
3. ForeBears
4. A Thulêan Perspective
5. Gathering Of Herbs
6. Heill Auk Saell
7. Jotunnheimr
8. Spell-Lake Forest
9. The Ettin Stone Heart
10. The Great Sleep
11. The Land Of Thulê
12. The Lord Of The Dwarves
13. A Forgotten Realm
14. Heill Odinn Sire
15. The Ruins Of Dwarfmount
16. The Road To Hel
17. Thulêan Sorcery
18. Descent Into Niflheimr
19. Skin Traveller
20. The Dream Land
21. Thulêan Mysteries
22. The Password
23. The Loss Of Thulê

Run Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Release Date: March 6, 2020
Record Label: Byelobog Productions