Det Som Engang Var translates to ‘What Once Was’ in Norwegian. It took Varg Vikernes all of five notes from the natural minor scale to realise this idea in sound. Romanticization of the past is but human; our notions of innocence stem from nascent memories of our parents as infallible giants and so we associate the same lack of taint with the always-receding past. Growing old, however, whittles away at this illusion of purity and protection; the universe drifts apart, things change and, unfortunately, almost always decay. Cynicism becomes endemic as reality infiltrates our lives and yet that remnant from before the advent of self-consciousness lingers; there must have had been a time when things were a lot simpler, when greater stock was put in honour and integrity, and when pleasure could still be derived out of relatively little.
Perhaps that is a fool’s dream, for human nature being what it is doesn’t allow for utopian flourishes, but there is nevertheless a longing that exists at the core of all thinking humanity, an almost painful need to surrender the conveniences of this time, at least in the mind, and to return to the time of our forefathers.
‘Han Som Reiste’ is near-miraculous in capturing this yearning, instantly transporting the listener to another age, instrumental limitations be damned. Burzum‘s music has been misconstrued over the years due to its creator’s outspoken views, and yet there is irony to be found in just how universal the sentiment expressed through this song is. An innocuous configuration of notes is transformed into a veritable document on philosophical ideals, as abstract as geometry itself and rarely existing anywhere but within the confines of the mind. Not metal in sound, but most emphatically in spirit, ‘Han Som Reiste’ is a genuine triumph of the human imagination, underlining much of what is worth treasuring in our sad and great species.