Burzum Amp Settings – Signature Black Metal Guitar Tone!

Author: Santiago Motto | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

What you’re about to read isn’t just the settings to recreate Burzum’s unique tone. This is a story filled with darkness, murder, the burning of churches, and the most relentless approach to music-making in music history.

Varg Vikrnes is a very polemic character but also one of Black Metal’s most influential creative forces. A man who wasn’t even stopped by prison in his devotion to making the darkest music around.

With a spoonful of Lord of the Rings, some very affordable (mostly cheap) equipment, and lots of imagination, he built a cathedral of tone for others to follow. This is the recipe to recreate that darkness from the comfort of your home.

Varg Vikernes Guitars

Burzum is, in essence, a one-man band. Although Varg was well known in the Death Metal scene in Norway and played with numerous bands, he decided to start his own project in 1991. Since then, he released 12 albums with a lo-fi approach, and, although not all of them are metal albums, they’re all dark, menacing, gothic, and unsettling.

Burzum was never a project intended for live performances, and thus, what he used to create the sounds in the records is kind of a mystery. That said, the very few pictures that show Varg playing live and his very, very few interviews, show that he was playing a Westone Pantera.

You can read about the brand’s history and guitars here.

This guitar was made in Japan in the 1980s and featured a humbucker, two single-coil pickups, and a double-locking tremolo system. The equivalent to such a guitar would be something like an affordable line of Ibanez, LTD, or Jackson.

For example, guitars you could get to replace the Westone Pantera could be an Ibanez RG Standard RG450DXB or a Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS32 DKA. But that’s only if you want to get a little fancy with the whole tone thing since one of the main aspects of Burzum’s tone is its lo-fi quality.

I mean, in my opinion, that’s one of the many elements that give Burzum’s records that asphyxiating quality that’s scary and haunting at the same time. So, anything with a humbucker in the bridge that can stay in tune would do the job just fine here.

Also, stay away from maple necks as much as you can since those bring definition and clarity and you want none of that.

Varg Vikernes Amplifiers

Amplifiers are not a huge part of Varg’s tone but they are also the most defining part of his tone. Let me clear that tongue twister for you. What you need is the cheapest, most lo-fi kind of guitar amplifier you can get. Moreover, for the “Filosofem” record, Varg used the power amp section of his brother’s stereo. According to online sources, it could have been a Tandberg Solvsuper.

Later in his career, though, he went for a more sophisticated tone coming from a Peavey 6505 and a 4×12 cab. He used two SM57s to mic up the speakers.

So, if you’re in search of some of the oldest tones by Burzum, try plugging your guitar into the most affordable 15-watt, solid-state amplifier you can get. If you’re after the tone that came in the most recent years, then you should go for some super-heavy Peavey madness.

Some recommendations could be the Marshall MG10G for the earlier stuff and a Peavey 6505 II or its smaller sibling, the Peavey 6505 Mini Head.

Finally, one pedal that Varg was known for using was the absolutely outrageous Boss HM-2, a super heavy metal pedal that works great overloading the tiny Marshall MG10 (or your family’s stereo system).

The Secret to Burzum’s Sound

Before we move on to some cool settings, I must tell you that the secret to Burzum’s sound is the DIY approach. Indeed, if you think of Norway in the late ‘80s, and early ‘90s, you can picture the darkness, the cold, and the gloomy atmosphere in which Varg created his first records.

That DIY approach made his music stand out in a forming scene that was beginning to turn into a big one. I mean, plugging your guitar into your brother’s hi-fi amplifier and singing through a distorted headset isn’t a quest for getting the best tone available.

On the opposite, we can talk about a guitar tone that was intentionally made lo-fi from the beginning. So, this intention of making it sound unconventional, or as many metalheads would say, bad is entirely a philosophical decision that’s in tune with what Varg was after.

So, the key to Burzum’s sound is to stay away from what you consider “good sounding” and experiment with your intuition and sounds to get that non-brutal but abrasive guitar tone Burzum became well-known for.

Some Cool Amp Settings for a Burzum Tone

I’ll divide this into two different settings. First, you’ll find the kind of settings you’d need to achieve the very lo-fi sound of Burzum’s first records. Think of Filosofem as the reference.

  • Volume – 10
  • Gain – 10
  • Treble – 7
  • Mid – 3
  • Bass – 1
  • Presence – 9
  • Boss HM-2 – ON

If you happen to be playing with an amp with fewer tone controls or a single “tone” knob, crank it and start lowering it to find the sweet spot. It should be above noon and before 3 o’clock.

Now, I’ll show you how to get a tone more like the Fallen album from 2011. Notice that the level of treble and bass do not change so much, but there’s a lot more definition in the guitar sound.

  • Volume – 6
  • Gain – 8
  • Treble – 8
  • Mid – 4
  • Bass – 2
  • Presence – 10
  • Boss HM-2 – OFF

The Bottom End

Burzum is a band that has left a mark in the Black Metal scene. Varg Vikernes is also a controversial character who made statements through songs, fire, death, and a unique way of making music with whatever was available at the time.

In my opinion, the boldness of making the music he wanted with what he had around is a great example to replicate in your musical life. Start now, start with what you have, and trust your songs. You never know where your music can take you.

Happy (black metal) playing!

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About Santiago Motto

Santiago is a guitar player with over 25 years of experience. A self-confessed guitar nerd, he currently tours with his band 'San Juan'. Called 'Sandel' by his friends, he has a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. San especially has an immense love for telecasters and all-mahogany Martins.

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