Burzum is a musical project by Varg Vikernes (originally under the pseudonym “Count Grishnackh”). It began during 1991 in Bergen, Norway and quickly became prominent within the early Norwegian black metal scene.
During 1992 and 1993, Burzum recorded four albums; however, in 1994 Vikernes was convicted and imprisoned for the murder of guitarist Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth and the arson of several churches. While imprisoned, Vikernes recorded two dark ambient albums using only synthesizers, as he did not have access to drums, guitar, or bass. He has recorded two critically regarded albums since his 2009 release from prison. Burzum is considered one of the most influential acts in black metal; in Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, director Sam Dunn described Vikernes as “the most notorious metal musician of all time”.
Throughout his career, Varg has managed to create and maintain a very distinct sound unique to Burzum.
Burzum’s music features characteristics common in black metal, including distorted, tremolo-picked guitar riffs, harsh vocals, and the use of double bass “blast beat” techniques in the drumming. Earlier Burzum albums feature very low production quality, which has improved in albums created after Vikernes’ release from prison. Burzum’s early music shows heavy Tolkien influence; for example, the name “Count Grishnackh” is taken from an orc character called Grishnákh in Tolkien’s works.
The choice of the name for the project reflects both this influence and the desire for anonymity: “Burzum” is a word of the Black Speech of Mordor meaning “darkness” (though Vikernes views what Christians consider “darkness” as “light”), and is one of those found on the Ring-inscription of the One Ring (the final part of the Ring inscription being “…agh burzum-ishi krimpatul”, or “…and in the darkness bind them”).
Vikernes claims the intent to create this fantasy world came from dissatisfaction with the real world.