If Dauði Baldrs is the subtlest artistic expression of Varg Vikernes’ ultra-nationalist perspective, then Aske is his most overt. Translated as “ashes” in Vikernes’ mother tongue, the cover of this extended-play is a photograph of the Fantoft Stave Church following its arson on 6 June 1992. Although he was acquitted of its destruction, Vikernes was convicted of burning four other medieval Christian churches in Norway; he is strongly suspected of having burnt the Fantoft Stave Church as well, in addition to taking the respective photograph. Vikernes claimed that such actions were in retaliation for Christians erecting their monuments on top of sacred pagan grounds.1
The Aske extended-play is Vikernes’ shortest release at Burzum, clocking in at only three tracks in twenty minutes. Whereas his self-titled debut featured hollow production in stark contrast to the wall-of-sound technique practiced by Vikernes’ peers, the tracks on Aske are significantly better produced, having more in common with that of Det Som Engang Var with reverbed percussion, slow riffing, and a clean bass sound. Burzum and Aske are often reissued on the same disc, but the latter has more thematic and compositional similarities to its follow-up than its predecessor. “Stemmen fra tårnet” is a mid-tempo black metal track with an understated synth progression in its break and impressive bass work by Samoth of Emperor. “Dominus Sathanas” foreshadows “Decrepitude I/II” from Filosofem in its absence of percussion and trance-like atmosphere. The final track is a re-recording of “A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit” from the self-titled debut; this version is preferred over the original due to its tighter performance.
As a stand-alone release, Aske is average. It serves its historical purpose well as a link between the harsh nihilism of Burzum and the warmer tones of Det Som Engang Var. A casual fan of the genre could easily skip this album, but the new version of “A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit” is essential for those who appreciate early Norwegian black metal and wish to learn more about the foundations of modern atmospheric hypergenre.
1. Stemmen fra tårnet – (6:09) – ★★★☆☆
2. Dominus Sathanas – (3:04) – ★★★☆☆
3. A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit – (10:52) – ★★★★☆
1Campion, Chris. “Chris Campion on Metal’s Maddest: Mayhem.” The Guardian. February 20, 2005. Accessed March 20, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2005/feb/20/popandrock4.