Top critical review
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Buy it for the first half.
on 20 July 2017
The thing about Filosofem is that it shows both some of Varg's best work and some of his most pedestrian. The first half is sublime; timeless songs like "jesu dod" and "dunkelheit" stand proud with riffs both evocative and malevolent, as well as catchy as all hell. The lo-fi rawness of the production adds to rather than subtracts from the music, with everything converging into one mesmerizing wave of sound that envelopes you in Varg's gentle, pagan, prone-to-repeated-stabs-to-the-back arms. It's a great example of how a primitive production can be of benefit to the music, especially when the relatively sparse musical motifs on display are so infectious. A certain strain of metalhead may scorn anything with the faintest hint of commercial viability, and certainly I'd never suggest that black metal was ever played with the intention of raking in the cash (Varg himself states that this album was in part an attempt to distance himself and his music from "trendy" black metal), but at the same time, many of these riffs are highly memorable and will have you humming along as well as headbanging…
At least until the halfway point. I'll freely concede that this is a good album, and one I enjoyed very much, but is there anyone who listens to this album specifically for the 25 minute "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte"? A tedious, testicle-free ambient track in which Varg's cat accidentally walks all over the keyboard whilst he was off getting some biscuits or something. Or Decreptitude 2, featuring riffs done in an earlier track (decreptitude 1) mixed in with more mundane plonking on a keyboard. These last 2 tracks add so little to the album but make up nearly half of its whole runtime...classic status or not, I can't give a resounding endorsement to an album when I have to skip half of it to prevent my brain imploding from sheer boredom.
Still, this album is worth the money. The first few tracks provide an albums worth of excellent black metal that transcends it's startlingly generic second half. That first half provides a masterwork of eerie soundscapes that will carve their way into your brain, and it's hard to speak highly enough of it. Just a shame about the rest of the album, really.