Varg Vikernes is once again wasting no time getting new music out into the world as Umskiptar is now the third album since his release from prison in 2009. While both Belus and Fallen were powerful examples of atmospheric black metal that harkened back to the early Burzum material, Umskiptar finds Vikernes moving away from that sound and diving into avant garde and Bathory styled viking metal.
That's not to say that there aren't some similarities here to the previous two releases. Varg likes to stretch out the atmospheric passages, sometimes for a tad too long, and the plodding tempos here on a few tracks, especially on "Alfadanz" sound a bit familiar. However, as he always seems to be able to do well, there are some finely crafted riffs and textures throughout, like on "Jóln", " Valgaldr", and "Hit Helga Tré", which essentially are the make or break part of this album. Without these impressive guitar patterns, much of Umskiptar is rather dull and droning, Varg seeming to want to create moods rather than live up to a legacy that included raging screams, pummeling blast beats, and furious tremelo picking. Much of the vocals here are monotonous, bordering on narration at times, and not very captivating, but other than a few tracks, that's kind of how the album as a whole is.
To be fair, Umskiptar is probably one of the more 'artsy' black/viking metal albums you'll hear this year, but in the end that doesn't do much to make it very interesting or warrant repeat spins. As a follow-up to the excellent Fallen, this latest CD can only be viewed as a disappointment, despite Varg's lofty intentions.
04. Hit Helga Tré
09. Surtr Sunnan