Umskiptar, the tenth full-length album by Burzum, Varg Vikernes' one man band, is nothing less than an atmospheric triumph. Vikernes sets the sixty-six stanzas of Voluspa, the opening poem of the Norse Poetic Edda, to the unmistakable soundscapes of Burzum. It works. Reading through English translations of Voluspa by Vikernes in his book Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia, as well as a translation by Carolyne Larrington (Oxford World's Classics), the music and words complement each other power for power.
The music is pure Burzum, full of chainsaw guitars, repeated motifs in the songs, and full, epic sweep. Changes in dynamics, such as the solo piano in Alfadanz and the pounding drums that open the album, break things up without jarring the listener or detracting from the atmospheric spell that Vikernes weaves.
Vikernes' voice is no longer the pained, angry yowl of his youth; nevertheless, it is quite expressive and suits the mood of the music and words well. His voice takes on different roles. At times, he sounds like a grizzled chieftain relating the tale. In some places, he sounds like a poet. On Valgaldr, he sounds downright otherworldly.
Umskiptar is the fourth Burzum album to be released in just over two years. Vikernes maintains a standard of high quality. Umskiptar is to be savored from beginning to end; it is a rewarding experience. Recommended.