This is clearly a contender for one of the best black metal albums ever put to record. The album only consists of four tracks which act more like movements in a classical piece of music rather than actual songs. Keyboards are put to greater use here to add layers of atmosphere. The result of having so few tracks is that there are no weak moments; each one stretches out for eternity and takes the listener on a journey to the time which modernity forgot. Varg's trade mark screech, although making an appearance, is used sparingly, preferring to let the music be the focus of the album. Production is perfect here as well, the drums blend well into the background to provide added texture and although the sound is warm, the guitars are harsh enough, and the playing competent enough to transcend the studio environment; they have a sharp cold element to them which the keyboards are able to build upon with more layers of atmosphere. The closing track is a 14 minute synth piece entitled "Tomhet" which stretches out across time and space and is a perfect way to close the timeless feel of this record.
This is an album designed to grab the listener's full attention; it is an album to be listened sparingly, on special occasions. The first few notes on the opener "Det Som En Gang Var" set the mood perfectly and send a clear message to the listener that they are listening to something seminal, and demands one's full attention. Not only does the music invoke this mood of an ancient spirituality, but the artwork courtesy of Norwegian artist Theodor Kitteslen, sums up the album perfectly. An ancient time, haunted by spirits, by plague, a time where humans were far from masters of the world, nature was respected and feared, where such trivial matters as morality did not exist, all that exists was the will, the instinct of survival. This release has also become a statement against Mayhem and the out and out brutality that composer Euronymous pursued. It has become an illustration of how black metal is not a quest for brutality, rather it uses brutality as a means of exploring some higher philosophical meaning, and that meaning has always centred around a rejection of modern values and an exploration of the past to find meaning. This album has its fair share of brutality, but it has more than that, it has an atmosphere that supervenes the brutal elements. Like Beethoven the playing is often not technical, and the riffs are often simple, but the moods explored are incredibly complex. It remains a shame therefore, that many black metal acts to follow took their cues from Mayhem and sought brutality and evil rather than seeking a deeper philosophical meaning in their compositions. That aside, this album represents the peak of black metal and should be purchased by anyone who claims to be a fan of this infamous music, it has dared to wonder what lies beyond good and evil, and it dares all who listen to it to do the same.