Black metal band Burzum has been a controversial act in black metal history. As being one of the leaders of the second wave of black metal, along with acts like Mayhem, Darkthrone and Immortal, it was also impressive that the band's music was all performed by one man. Inspiring countless future black metal musicians to follow in his footsteps. Spawning well-known one man black metal acts like Xasthur, Leviathan and Striborg. Varg Vikernes, who would go by the stage name Count Grishnackh during his time with Mayhem, would write and record all of Burzum's music throughout the band's lifespan. He would also make an impact in the black metal scene with his participation in church burnings and even murder of his own bandmate in Mayhem, which he would serve jailtime and still record music while incarcerated.

As you read that intro, you may be asking yourself, why is Vikernes and Burzum looked back at and hated? What does the metal community have against Burzum? Is it because he murdered his band member in cold blood? His political beliefs? The music wasn't as good as his peers? Today, I will tackle all that in another edition of Why The Hate?.


Burzum began when Vikernes was seventeen years old. After releasing his demo tape, it impressed and caused interest from Deathlike Silence Productions, the label ran by Mayhem founder Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth. The label would release Burzum's self-titled debut album in 1992. During that time, Vikernes was productive beyond belief in the studio. He would record Burzum's first four records between January 1992 and March 1993. The albums would released over time to space out releases. Burzum's self-titled album is considered, by many, as one of the best black metal albums in the second-wave era of the genre. Nailing the rough and demo-like production, aggressive and distorted guitars, wailing/shrieking vocals and the trademark blast beat like drumming of the genre.  

His second album, Det som engang var, would receive more praise from loyal black metal fans and critics. Continuing the progression from his debut, but pushing more ambience, atmospheric and experimental elements. The album would be released on Vikernes' own label Cymophane Productions. During this time, there would a falling out between Vikernes and Aarseth which would turn deadly, but we will get to that later. Burzum's third album Hvis lyset tar oss, would further push Burzum's sound to include even more dark ambient and dungeon synth traits into it's dark, occult like sound. A sound that Burzum would solely devote to in future albums.  

The last of his four recorded albums was Filosofem. Compared to his previous releases, this would be considered the most experimental of the band's discography. It would also be one of the roughest mixes in metal history, which was Vikernes intent. He wanted the record to have a raw lo-fi sound. No guitar amplifier was used, and a stereo was used for guitar recording. With only fuzz pedals being used for the guitar. He used an old helicopter headset to record his vocals, which was the worst microphone Vikernes could find. The album featured elements of repetition, drone music, ambience and black metal. Receiving mixed to positive reviews for the experimentation and pushing the genre, but receiving criticism for the production and new direction. It would be the last record of the traditional black metal sound before Vikernes would begin his prison sentence for the murder of Aarseth.

While incarcerated, he was not allowed to have any other instruments, so he could not record Burzum's black metal sound. Vikernes would change direction with the band's sound and began recording Burzum's new dungeon synth/ambient focused sound. Since he was allowed to have a synthesizer in prison, he recorded two albums with the first being Dauði Baldrs in 1997. He would then follow up that release two years later with Hliðskjálf in 1999. Following this release, the band would go dark for the rest of his prison sentence.

After Vikernes was released from prison on probation in 2009, Burzum would return to making music. His first new album in eleven years, Belus, was released in 2010. The album received mixed reviews from critics and fans. A lot of the feedback towards the album was that it wasn't the record fans were hoping for with the return of Burzum. Some criticism towards the album were in the vocal direction of Vikernes and citing it as a disappointment. He would follow Belus one year later with Fallen. The album would show an improvement compared to Belus, with the album being much harsher but also include elements of neo-folk. With many fans saying this was the album they wanted instead of Belus and stating that Burzum was back. Vikernes would release in 2012 Burzum's ninth and final "black metal" album Umskiptar. The album would be a "return to his roots" per Vikernes, with elements of the band's early black metal sound, while also including elements of Viking Metal in the vein of Bathory and early Enslaved albums. Fans and critics were divided on the record, seeing the potential and hype from Vikernes statement, but receiving an underwhelming finale to a black metal titan's black metal career.

Vikernes would shift Burzum back into the dungeon synth/ambient sound from his time in prison for the rest of the band's lifespan. Releasing Sôl austan, Mâni vestan in 2013, the album would also begin to include more neo-folk along with electronic and space music into the band's new evolution of ambient sound. He would release a dungeon synth album in 2014 called The Ways of Yore. In 2020, during the beginning of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burzum would release Thulêan Mysteries. The album would be considered a companion piece to his new role-playing game MYFAROG.

Burzum would return in 2024 with a new music off a future album called The Land of Thule. With the album returning to some distorted black metal sounding guitars, the album continues the neo-folk/ambient sounds from his previous releases. No official album announcement has been made, but the songs can be streamed on Burzum's new YouTube page Burzum New- Topic HERE.  

Musically, does Burzum deserve the hate? To be honest, it is a tough call to decide if it does. I think the first four albums in Burzum's catalogue are truly good black metal (self-titled my personal favorite). I think with his full embracement of the black metal recording style and progressive outside-the-box sound on Filosofem was intriguing and not for everyone. The dungeon synth, ambient material I can take it or leave it. Especially since there is dungeon synth artists (Wraith Knight for example) who do the genre WAY better than Burzum does. I do think his post-prison black metal records are meh at best, with maybe one good song on each. Musically, it is up to preference and what era of the band you like, but for those early black metal releases, I don't think he deserves the hate.


Vikernes has been a beacon of controversy in the black metal scene and metal itself. First, we have to discuss the corpse-painted elephant in the room. The murder of Euronymous. There is much speculation about what really happened that night. With many stories going around that Euronymous was jealous of Vikernes' rise of being the most popular black metal act and the most satanic in the black metal scene. Speculation of him leading the black metal "inner circle" away from Euronymous. With Euronymous wanting to kill Vikernes to "reclaim his title". Some cite pay discrepancies for past Burzum royalties was a cause for the incident. Many of the accounts are logged in the 1998 book Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, which chronicles the entire night in great detail and was graphically depicted in the 2018 film Lords of Chaos, an adaptation of the book. So, I will not cover the full detail but if you want to read more about the incident in great detail, please check those out.

Varg Vikernes infamous smile as he was sentenced to 21 years in prison for murder

The short summary was that on August 10, 1993, Vikernes murdered Euronymous by stabbing Euronymous in the first floor stairwell 23 times. Two of the stabs were to his head, five to the neck and 16 to the back. After the murder, Vikernes, who was traveling with Snorre Ruch of the band Thorns, stopped by a lake where he disposed of his bloodstained clothes. Vikernes was arrected nine days later and claimed self-defense for the murder. After a two-week trial in May 1994, Vikernes was sentenced to the maximum penalty for murder in Norway of 21 years in prison. During his sentencing, a video shows Vikernes eerily smile while being sentenced. In an interview with Ultimate Guitar in 2019, he explained the reason for his smile at that moment:

"And then, ladies and gentlemen, we come to a moment that I get a lot of questions about - the smile when I was convicted. Why did I smile?
"I was sitting there and I had gone through something that, to me, was nothing short of a farce. I have not been able to defend myself; I had a jury that was just hostile from the beginning; my own co-defense lawyer went to the witness stand and tried to witness against me; the guy who - Snorri - who had accompanied me to Oslo had been so afraid that he would be convicted for it that he had made up a story about a plan to murder him.
"And I was just sitting there, 'What the fuck is this? It's a joke.' If they had just told me, you know, 'Fuck it, we won't give you a trial - just convict you and send it by mail,' I would not have felt less justly treated.
"The whole thing was a farce. What they wanted was a scapegoat. What they wanted was to scare straight the 'black metal community.' And they decided, you know, beforehand, 'That guy - he's going down. Crush him, fuck his defense, fuck his rights, fuck everything. Use that guy to scare straight the others.' That's what they did.
"So when the judge started to read from the conviction, and I heard what she read, and she read things like, 'Vark Vikernes had an incomprehensible motive for killing him,' when Snorri had stood in the frickin' witness box and told them how he had let me listened to Euronymous himself tell him he wanted to get rid of me.
"They didn't even - they didn't even admit, they didn't even grant me that, you know. The guy [Euronymous] plan to knock me out with a stun gun, tie me up to a tree, and torture me to death whilst filming it. And I knew about it! And yet, they managed to write in the frickin' conviction that I had an 'incomprehensible motive' for telling him.
"It's, like, 'Where are the hidden cameras?', you know. It's beyond '1984,' it's just freakin' insane! And then, of course, I knew from the beginning that I was gonna get 21 years [the maximum sentence at the time] because that's what they wanted and everybody understood that.
"So when she was reading it loud and she looked at me with some sadistic pleasure, you know - I was, like, as if I didn't know already.
"And that's where a smile came."

After the trial and conviction of Vikernes, Mayhem would release its iconic debut album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas that same month. Vikernes would play bass on the album, while Euronymous played guitar. A haunting record listening to it and knowing the truth of what would become of the two musicians and the fates they would both face.

The other issues towards Vikernes is his many right-wing neo-nazism like viewpoints. He has pledged in his beliefs on Burzum's website that he describes his political and religious views is what he calls Odalism, which he says encompasses paganism, traditional nationalism, racialism and environmentalism. Although, there have been contrasts and contradictions in his own statements that seem to stray against his alleged beliefs. Vikernes was sentenced for hate crimes in France in 2014 due to his offensive blog postings which got him arrested for "allegedly inciting racial hatred and exalting war crimes". He received a six month prison sentence and a fine of €8,000 ($10,000). Vikernes also had a YouTube channel that showed Vikernes promoting his viewpoints. In the videos, he would promote white supremacist viewpoints and conspiracy theories of Jewish people trying to take over and control Europe. Following new policy guidelines from YouTube, his channel was removed.

Photo courtesy of JPEGMAFIA X account

In 2024, Burzum received new promotion and press when rapper Kanye West, who more recently has gotten in trouble for his recent Nazi beliefs was pictured in a Burzum t-shirt alongside rapper JPEGMAFIA. For not only the murder of Euronymous and along with his promotion of racist beliefs and conspiracy theorists, he deserves all the hate he receives for that, no contest.

Looking at the musical impact and the outside of music activities, Varg Vikernes is a divisive figure. He has been a critical figure in the black metal scene. From his work in Burzum, to his short run on Mayhem's magnum opus debut record. The first four records of Burzum's discography are good records and embody the black metal scene and sound in its performance. Although, his actions outside of his music deserve no admiration and praise. From his church burnings, that even though did promote the viewpoints and infamy of the black metal scene, people could have gotten hurt or died. The murder of Euronymous has no definition or explanation in self-defense. I can see maybe one stab in self-defense, but the tedious and sadistic amount of stabbing is not self-defense and pure unadulterated murder. With the racism promotions, beliefs and ideology does not deserve any support from the metal community and This Day in Metal. Vikernes does deserve a lot of the hate he has brought upon himself and has become a stain on heavy metal, no matter what he has done to help in the growth of the black metal genre. The evil outweighs the good he has done for heavy metal, let alone black metal as a whole.

Do you think Varg Vikernes and Burzum deserve the hate? Do you agree/disagree and why? Let us know on our social media sites in the comments section. You can also suggest what other bands you think we should cover for this series. I'm Justin, Your Friendly Neighborhood Metalhead, and this has been another edition of Why The Hate?.

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