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Ulver Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden Review

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General Information:

Artist: Ulver
Album: Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenre(s): Black Metal
Released: 1997
Length: 44 minutes
Language(s): Dano-Norwegian
Label(s): Century Media

Track List:

01. Hymne I: Wolf and Fear
02. Hymne II: Wolf and the Devil
03. Hymne III: Wolf and Hatred
04. Hymne IV: Wolf and Man
05. Hymne V: Wolf and the Moon
06. Hymne VI: Wolf and Passion
07. Hymne VII: Wolf and Destiny
08. Hymne VIII: Wolf and the Night

Note: Some versions of this album only use the roman numerals shown above for the track list so track 1 is “I” and track 8 is “VIII” etc.

Ulver Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden Cover

Ulver Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden Cover

Ulver Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden Review

Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden, meaning “Madrigal of the Night – Eight Hymns to the Wolf in Man”, is the third album by Norwegian band Ulver. Bergtatt, their debut album, was a softer form of black metal with some influences from folk music, so Ulver proceeded to distil their hybrid sound into the original genres. The results of this are the neofolk sound on their second album, Kveldssanger, and their adherence to “raw” (read: under-produced) black metal here.

The reasoning behind this under-produced album is supposed to be an intentional backlash against the growing popularity of black metal and bigger record labels signing the bands. The irony here is that Ulver moved from a small label, Head Not Found, to Century Media which already had a slew of success throughout the 1990s with Demolition Hammer, Iced Earth, Moonspell, Nevermore and then the City album by Strapping Young Lad that was released approximately 3 weeks before Nattens Madrigal.

Unlike their previous two albums Nattens Madrigal is entirely undercooked as far as the recording goes. As a consequence the guitars sound like an angry swarm of bees, the drums patter away without any impact and the bass is an afterthought at best. Aside from a short acoustic interlude on track 1 and some even shorter ambient moments used to bridge certain songs together, there is nothing memorable or redeemable about this release.

If there is anything worthwhile under all the noise it is forever lost on the intentionally-made mess that black metal fans tend to sing the praises of – which it certainly does not deserve – and there is no hint of irony. For anyone outside of this musical circle the mythical status Nattens Madrigal has achieved will forever be lost on them.

If you didn’t have tinnitus before hearing Nattens Madrigal you certainly will after.

Performers:

Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg: Vocals
Havard “Haavard” Jorgensen: Guitar
Torbjorn “Aismal” Pedersen: Guitar
Hugh “Skoll” Stephen James Mingay: Bass
Eric “Aiwarikiar” Olivier Lancelot: Drums

External Links:

Ulver Homepage
Ulver on Wikipedia
Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden on Wikipedia

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Ulver Bergtatt – Et eeventyr i 5 capitler Review

General Information:

Artist: Ulver
Album: Bergtatt – Et eeventyr i 5 capitler
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenre(s): Black Metal
Released: 1995
Length: 34 minutes
Language(s): Dano-Norwegian
Label(s): Head Not Found

Track List:

01. Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild
02. Capitel II: Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Need
03. Capitel III: Graablick Blev Hun Vaer
04. Capitel IV: Een Stemme Locker
05. Capitel V: Bergtatt – Ind I Fjeldkamrene

Ulver Bergtatt - Et eeventyr i 5 capitler Cover

Ulver Bergtatt – Et eeventyr i 5 capitler Cover

Ulver Bergtatt – Et eeventyr i 5 capitler Review

Bergtatt – Et eeventyr i 5 capitler, meaning “Spellbound – A Fairy Tale in 5 Chapters”, is the debut album of Norwegian band Ulver. Bergtatt is an irregular album within the second wave of black metal in that it shows a young band embracing a then still-new and growing subgenre of music while melding it with outside influences, ultimately running contrary to the trends and conventions of the scene. This album would later proved to be a front runner for the fusion genre of blackgaze – an unorthodox hybrid of black metal and the shoegaze subgenre of rock music – which emerged a decade or so later.

Translated into English as “Lost in the Dark Forest” the first song, or chapter as per the format used in the song titles, presents the listener with one of the most accessible black metal songs of the album’s era. The young singer and lyricist Kristoffer Rygg, known by the pseudonym “Garm” at this time, has a light voice that sounds as though he is gently calling out through the distortion like a person’s figure emerging from the mist as they approach you.

With any knowledge of black metal you would expect him to turn into a shrieking harpy as the song mutates into a frenzy of wrathful black metal dominated by overbearing blast beats from drummer Erik Olivier Lancelot. Somehow this never happens and the listener is only snapped out of the hazy, distortion-induced trance by the sudden transition to an acoustic guitar interlude nearly 6 minutes in. As good as the performance is, the transition to this is jarring to the point of upsetting the flow of the song. However, the transition back to black metal is well-executed and the electric guitar lead playing to the conclusion of the song is both tasteful and memorable.

It does not take long to recognise that Bergtatt was created from a black metal foundation and punctuated with outside influences. Most notably this outside influence comes from folk music. It often comes in the form of interludes but there are longer segments in other chapters. Flautist Lill Kathrine Stensrud gives her talents to Chapter 2 to create a pastoral feel when mixed with the acoustic guitar and this song somehow ends with a short and gentle acapella outro. She also performs backing vocals on Chapter 4 which sees Ulver playing a straight hand throughout this piece. Ulver fully realise their folk tendencies here and it makes for a standout moment on Bergtatt but some black metal enthusiasts might find this piece wanting.

The preceding Chapter 3 leans heavily into black metal but bassist Hugh Mingay still remains prominent in the mix. He adds a certain moody atmosphere through the use of a slow and hypnotic hook and Ulver adds a sample of a gunshot, which rings out in the middle of all this, just in case there isn’t already enough chaos blasting out your speakers.

Following another uneasy transition, which could have been compelling if it was developed further, the frantic black metal changes into an up-tempo acoustic segment. Later there is another sample but this time of the footsteps of someone stumbling through a forest for a good minute. Thematically it follows the narrative of the lyrics and has a somewhat cinematic quality to it when mixed it in with the piano piece courtesy of Steinar Sverd Johnsen (Arcturus) but it only takes away from his playing but the sample goes on for far too long.

Chapter 5 is the finale to Bergtatt and it continues the fusion that listeners will be well acquainted with by this point. When the song fades out with some sound effects, it is briefly revived for another acoustic outro. However, given how quiet it gets for a few seconds it almost comes across as a separate song. This further demonstrates that these contrasting genres are not always melded together as skilfully one might wish even if Ulver are proficient with both on their own.

Ulver have never been a band to be pigeonholed, even when looking back on the very beginning of their career, and their willingness to unapologetically experiment and follow their own guiding star allowed them to be true to their own artistic vision and create their own niche in or outside of any music scene.

Performers:

Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg: Vocals
Havard “Haavard” Jorgensen: Guitar
Torbjorn “Aismal” Pedersen: Guitar
Hugh “Skoll” Stephen James Mingay: Bass
Eric “Aiwarikiar” Olivier Lancelot: Drums

Additional Musicians:

Lill Kathrine Stensrud: Backing Vocals, Flute
Steinar Sverd Johnsen: Piano

External Links:

Ulver Homepage
Ulver on Wikipedia
Bergtatt – Et eeventyr i 5 capitler on Wikipedia

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Queen Greatest Hits (UK Version) Review

General Information:

Artist: Queen
Album: Greatest Hits (UK Version)
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenre(s): Art Rock, Progressive Rock
Released: 1981
Length: 58 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): EMI, Parlophone Records, Hollywood Records

Track List:

01. Bohemian Rhapsody
02. Another One Bites the Dust
03. Killer Queen
04. Fat Bottomed Girls
05. Bicycle Race
06. You’re My Best Friend
07. Don’t Stop Me Now
08. Save Me
09. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
10. Somebody to Love
11. Now I’m Here
12. Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy
13. Play the Game
14. Flash
15. Seven Seas of Rhye
16. We Will Rock You
17. We Are the Champions

Queen Greatest Hits UK Version Cover

Queen Greatest Hits UK Version Cover

Queen Greatest Hits (UK Version) Review

Greatest Hits is the first compilation and ‘best of’ album from iconic British rock band Queen. Released in different regions with slightly altered track listings, there isn’t a strictly definitive version of the compilation. The UK version features at least one song from every album from Queen II (1974) through to the Flash Gordon film soundtrack (1980).

Bohemian Rhapsody is the opening track and was Queen’s first and only number one UK single (1975) when Greatest Hits was released. One would not expect lyrics about committing a murder (Mama, just killed a man/Put a gun against his head/Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead) being executed via the electric chair (Thunderbolt and lightning/Very, very frightening me) and then sent to hell (Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me) to be part of the package.

Coming from a progressive rock background where song-writing sensibilities demand musical boundaries to be pushed, they are effortlessly married to pop accessibility and rounded off with a flamboyant exuberance rarely found elsewhere. Most notably this is found in the operatic segment of Bohemian Rhapsody, where the nonsense lyrics are spliced between the narrative just for the sake of doing so it seems. The song also lacks a chorus which makes it even more of an oddity in pop music and, yet, this unlikely single became one of the most easily recognised songs in British pop culture.

Considering that there are songs from 8 different releases on Greatest Hits, and noting Queen’s lack of inhibition when it came to crafting their sound, it should be of no surprise that the songs do not always flow from one to the next effortlessly. What is more remarkable is that everything featured here was released in a short period of 6 years.

After Bohemian Rhapsody the listener suddenly finds themselves a world apart in the mind numbingly repetitive bass hook from funk rock hit Another One Bites the Dust. More twists and turns ensue with the jovial piano-driven Killer Queen about a call girl and the sentimental You’re My Best Friend was written by bassist John Deacon for his wife. The centre piece of Greatest Hits is the infectious rock ‘n’ roll of Crazy Little Thing Called Love featuring hand claps, an acoustic guitar and Freddie Mercury’s Elvis-inspired performance but the bass is the underlying source of the momentum here. Jumping from that to the gospel arrangement on Somebody to Love or the jaunty nature of Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy lacks even the pretence of consistency.

Greatest Hits is concluded with the two iconic anthems from News of the World; We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. Often cited as a rock anthem, We Will Rock You is actually devoid of rock music entirely until Brian May’s guitar solo at the end. The rest of the song is made up of the instantly recognisable stomp/stomp/clap body percussion arrangement.

Immediately beyond the realm of a Spartan approach to music, Queen offers an absolute gourmet of songs that are loosely ordered into two halves as the best way to present the eclectic collection. The first is mostly material from Night at the Opera and Jazz whereas the second is divided evenly between Day at the Races, News of the World, Queen II and the ‘Flash’ theme song. Both halves have one song from Sheer Heart Attack and two from The Game, which produced four charting singles from 1979 and 1980, along with ‘Flash’ from the aforementioned film soundtrack.

Releasing this compilation at such a prosperous time for Queen must have played a big part in not only to the success of Greatest Hits as a business and marketing opportunity, but also in immortalising their contributions to music. Going on to sell over 25 million copies globally, it is one of the best-selling albums of all time and the best-selling album in their home country with 6.3 million copies sold to date.

For all the inconsistencies one could imagine finding on a compilation album, due to the nature of the format more than anything else, it isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to listen to all the way through. It will give newcomers a good oversight into the first half of Queen’s career and from there, a course can be plotted to specific albums based on any preference they find.

Ultimately, the flamboyant personality embodied by Queen combined with their immense creativity exemplifies what has made them endure as strongly as they have while attracting listeners, both new and old, to this day.

Performers:

Freddie Mercury: Lead vocals, piano, finger snaps, bicycle bells, handclaps, acoustic guitar, organ, synthesizer, foot stomps, co-lead vocals on “Fat Bottomed Girls” (chorus)
Brian May: Acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals, bicycle bells, handclaps, piano, synthesizer, foot stomps, co-lead vocals on “Keep Yourself Alive” (bridge)
Roger Taylor: Acoustic guitar, percussion, backing vocals, timpani, gong, triangle, chimes, bicycle bells, handclaps, woodblocks, tambourine, foot stomps, cowbell, co-lead vocals on “Keep Yourself Alive” (bridge)
John Deacon: Acoustic, bass and electric guitar, piano, bicycle bells, handclaps, foot stomps

Additional Performers:

Mike Stone: Co-lead vocals on “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy”
Roy Thomas Baker: Stylophone on “Seven Seas of Rhye”

External Links:

Queen Homepage
Queen on Wikipedia
Greatest Hits on Wikipedia

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Turisas Battle Metal Review

General Information:

Artist: Turisas
Album: Battle Metal
Genre(s): Folk Metal, Symphonic Metal
Subgenre(s): N/A
Released: 2004
Length: 57 minutes
Language(s): English, Finnish, Swedish
Label(s): Century Media Records

Track List:

01. Victoriae & Triumphi Dominus
02. As Torches Rise
03. Battle Metal
04. The Land of Hope and Glory
05. The Messenger
06. One More
07. Midnight Sunrise
08. Among Ancestors
09. Sahti-Waari
10. Prologue for R.R.R
11. Rex Regi Rebellis
12. Katuman Kaiku

Turisas Battle Metal Cover

Turisas Battle Metal Cover

Turisas Battle Metal Review

Battle Metal is the debut album of Finnish metal band Turisas. Stepping beyond the reach of the main subgenres of heavy metal, Turisas incorporate a choir, violin, recorders, an accordion, acoustic guitar and keyboard instruments into their sound; a unique blend of both the folk metal and symphonic metal fusion genres.

Turisas set a high bar when they introduce themselves to the world with the intro piece Victoriae & Triumphi Dominus. It is a proud procession composed of keyboards used to emulate trumpets, marching percussion and a dramatic choir arrangement. The former instrument is somewhat unexpected given the number of multi-instrumentalists and session musicians enlisted to bring this album to life but they are effective in their goal nonetheless.

While the lyrics for the intro piece have never been published in the album booklet or on the internet, they sound like some variation of the song title. The lyrics elsewhere focus on medieval battles, adventuring and the riches found afar, drinking and pagan themes. Between all of this and the image projected by the band in the booklet and elsewhere the question is with such an ambitious and all-encompassing vision on a debut album, do Turisas reach their lofty aspirations?

Living up to the Battle Metal title, both As Torches Rise and the title track throw the listener straight into the middle of the medieval fantasy realm. Lyrically this is done through the first person narrative in As Torches Rises. It details a failing battle with both moral and human losses (“I think of my family, I think of my home/Interrupted by a fearful tone:/”We’re practically dead, they’ll slaughter us all!”/Through a cloud of dust I see our right wing fall”). The last verse goes on to describe a bloody scene while contrasting it with descriptions of nature and the surroundings, a common theme found often in the band’s lyrics.

The narrative changes to third person for the title track (“They’ll crush your skull with a blow/And pile them in a row” and “As the battle rages the dearest to you, you hold in your hand – and stick in their lungs!”). This back and forth in perspectives can be found on other songs while, musically speaking, the listener is thrown into it the world of Turisas through the frequently bombastic arrangements, folky interludes and often gruff vocals that are sometimes accompanied by gang shouts. Guitars are almost always present and work in tandem with the instruments traditionally not found in heavy metal. They aren’t given the particular spotlight common to heavy metal so the bridges and interludes of the songs tend to be led by the non-metal side.

Prologue for R.R.R. is an inversion of everything else on Battle Metal. It is a third person monologue that uses textural keyboard effects to evoke a timeless space between present day and the past. Over the course of three minutes the speaker asks the listener to “remember those memories; grand and tearful which still, after hundreds of years, remain now radiant with the brightness of sunlight” in reference to their ancestors. This leads right into Rex Regi Rebellis and is performed in a mix of English, Finnish and Swedish. This is a bit pointless since the monologue before was performed entirely in English and breaks away from the strong narrative that Turisas was building if you don’t understand the three languages.

On the other hand Sahti-Waari is an effortlessly joyous drinking song in the folk metal vein. It is sung exclusively in Finnish and references the pagan narrative also found elsewhere in Battle Metal when they sing “No Christian sword will break us” in the second verse. It is one of the finest moments on Battle Metal and warrants multiple listens on its own.

Battle Metal ends with a second instrumental piece, Katuman Kaiku, with the first half being folk-orientated and the electric guitar coming in for the second half, if only to remind you that this is still a metal album, but it is a far cry from where Battle Metal began musically and thematically.

Midnight Sunrise and Among Ancestors are effectively one song linked together by an overly long recording of wind sounds that should really be on a separate track between these two songs. Along with The Land of Hope and Glory, that features an organ interlude that isn’t bad in its own right but is out of place, Turisas show some minor progressive rock leanings but they never becomes a significant component of the song-writing.

Turisas have wide-ranging scope for Battle Metal and what they want to present to the world. Some parts could have been fine-tuned but it is fair to say that their aspirations have been achieved here and that the band landed on both feet with their debut.

Performers:

Mathias Nygard: Vocals, recorders (alto, soprano and sopranino), programming, additional percussions
Jussi Wickstrom: Acoustic, bass and electric guitars, double bass
Tude Lehtonen: Drums, bongos, congas, djembe, udu and electric percussion
Antti Ventola: Hammond organ, Piano, synthesizers, vibraphone
Georg Laakso: Acoustic and electric guitars

Additional Performers:

Riku Ylitalo: Accordion
Olli Vanska: Violin
Emmanuelle Zoldan: Vocals

External Links:

Turisas Homepage
Turisas on Wikipedia
Battle Metal on Wikipedia