Jonathan Hill Dot EU

A Soapbox for Uninformed Opinions

By

Ulver Metamorphosis Review

General Information:

Artist: Ulver
Album: Metamorphosis
Genre(s): Ambient, Electronic, Trip Hop
Subgenres(s): Dark Ambient, Trance
Released: 1999
Length: 25 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Jester Records

Track List:

01. Of Wolves and Vibrancy
02. Gnosis
03. Limbo Central (Theme from Perdition City)
04. Of Wolves and Withdrawal

Ulver Metamorphosis Cover

Ulver Metamorphosis Cover

Ulver Metamorphosis Review

Metamorphosis is the first EP by Ulver. Following the release of the diverse “Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” double album a year earlier, Metamorphosis acts as both a stepping stone in the bands musical legacy and as a statement to their fans – more specifically the fans of their metal albums who didn’t like Ulver’s change in direction. Before you get to the music you can find a message in the CD case stating that “Ulver is obviously not a black metal band and does not wish to be stigmatized as such…” to try and cut ties with the heavy metal community as it becomes quite evident that they no longer want to play metal or be associated with the scene any longer since the Themes album apparently didn’t send a clear enough message.

In the event that the written message got overlooked Ulver went out of their way to shake off any lingering detractors and made it as clear as possible by writing an all-out trance song called Of Wolves and Vibrancy to start the EP. After starting with some moody ambience the song proves to live up to its name when it kicks into life and since it is the only trance song in their catalogue, it gives the distinct impression of being a statement to further separate them from the heavy metal scene.

Another twist comes with the second song, Gnosis, which combines dark ambient with trip hop and features lyrics from Bad Blood, a poem by the French author Rimbaud. For Ulver’s take on the poem it is sung entirely in English by Kristoffer Rygg who worked under the pseudonym Trickster G. on this EP. It is the only song to contain any vocals and Limbo Central (Theme from Perdition City) is another trip hop song with a more abrasive and experimental edge. As implied by the songs subtitle, this is the genre that would be embraced on their next album, Perdition City.

Of Wolves and Vibrancy is an up tempo song, as implied by the name, so it follows on that Of Wolves and Withdrawal would be subdued in comparison. This proves to be true as Ulver crafted a 9 minute dark ambient song that is nearly impossible to hear unless you turn your speakers all the way up. You half expect a sudden dramatic shift in sound that will deafen you because of this as well as the eerie nature of the song, which doesn’t do you any favours in this respect. The song ebbs along slowly and proves to be a convincing effort but the decision to make the recording so quiet for one song is still questionable.

There aren’t any stepping stones between Ulver’s black metal/folk era and their Themes album so in this instance the Metamorphosis EP gives the listener an opportunity to look at their transformation and embracement of electronically produced music. If nothing else this EP, which spans 3 distinct genres, proves that Ulver are more like chameleons than their namesake (wolves in Norwegian) at this point in their career.

Performers:

Trickster G: Various instruments
Tore Ylwizaker: Various instruments
Havard Jorgensen: Various instruments

External Links:

Ulver Homepage
Ulver on Wikipedia
Metamorphosis on Wikipedia

By

Ulver Shadows of the Sun Review

Ulver Shadows of the Sun Review

Artist: Ulver
Album: Shadows of the Sun
Genre(s): Ambient
Subgenres(s): Ambient
Released: 2007
Length: 40 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): The End Records, Jester Records

Track List:

01. Eos
02. All the Love
03. Like Music
04. Vigil
05. Shadows of the Sun
06. Let the Children Go
07. Solitude (Black Sabbath Cover)
08. Funebre
09. What Happened?

Ulver Shadows of the Sun Cover

Shadows of the Sun is an ambient album by Ulver. By this point in their career, anyone familiar with Ulver should know that you can’t predict what direction they’ll take on their next album and to live up to their reputation, they followed up their noisiest album in about a decade (Blood Inside, 2005) with one of their softest albums to date.

Unlike the swirling keyboard sounds that are common to ambient music, Ulver utilises live instruments to make up the bulk of the album and go as far as including a theremin on Eos and Funebre while hiring a string quartet that appears on many of the songs. If sombreness could be personified by any musical work it would be Shadows of the Sun.

If you listen to Shadows of the Sun casually a lot of the music can blend into a long soundscape but if you pay attention you will hear thoughtful piano melodies and dramatic strings that make Shadows of the Sun an exceptionally cohesive, low key album perfect for the small hours. Kristoffer Rygg’s voice remains within the baritone range for most of Shadows of the Sun, which suits the theme of the album perfectly and happens to be one of his strongest performances with Ulver.

Ulver shakes off the hazy atmosphere by weaving glitchy noises and thudding percussion together on songs such as Like Music, a calm piano ballad that turns into an eerie dark ambient soundscape and Let the Children Go, which builds up to a dramatic martial industrial anthem with another appearance of the trumpet to avoid any accusations of monotony.

Another standout moment is the cover of Black Sabbath’s Solitude, which holds true to the original but Ulver manages to make it their own song by making the bass more prominent and replacing the flute with the trumpet. It holds the same feeling as the original and surprisingly, it fits in with the rest of Shadows of the Sun despite it being the only rhythm based song on the entire album.

The cover art for Shadows of the Sun is actually a good reflection of the album once you’ve heard it and although music doesn’t fit neatly into a single genre, ambient is the closest you will get given the texture heavy nature of the songs.

Shadows of the Sun is a creative set of soundscapes that continue to explore the prevalent melancholic themes Ulver revel in to create (and reinvent) their unique musical vision with.

By

Ulver Perdition City Review

Ulver Perdition City Review

Artist: Ulver
Album: Perdition City
Genre(s): Electronic
Subgenres(s): Trip Hop
Released: 2000
Length: 54 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Jester Records

Track List:

01. Lost in Moments
02. Porn Pieces or the Scars of Cold Kisses
03. Hallways of Always
04. Tomorrow Never Knows
05. The Future Sound of Music
06. We Are the Dead
07. Dead City Centres
08. Catalept
09. Nowhere/Catastrophe

Ulver Perdition City Cover

Perdition City is the first full electronic album by genre hoppers Ulver. After dabbling with electronic music for their experimental album Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, they followed up with the aptly titled Metamorphosis in 1999 and a year later released Perdition City, the culmination of their musical progression.

Ulver settled on trip hop to form the foundation of Perdition City and being the experimentalists that they are, they weren’t able to settle for a single sound and chose to incorporate elements of jazz music on certain songs that make for an interesting fusion of genres that work to the advantage of Perdition City.

Unfortunately the knack Ulver has for experimenting goes awry with the introduction of We Are the Dead, a haunting dark ambient/spoken word song that spills over into Dead City Centres to make a 2 part song that ends with the audio of a fake film trailer. While not inherently bad on their own, they disrupt the flow of Perdition City and you’ll want to skip over them on future listens.

Ulver then goes off at the deep end with Catalept, which is just a retitle of the song Prelude from the 1960 film Psycho with a simplistic drum beat slapped over the top. Much like the fake film trailer at the end of Dead City Centres, it is poor quality filler material and does nothing but hinder Perdition City.

Thankfully The Future Sound of Music shows Ulver’s experimental tendencies moving in the right direction. It starts out as another unsuspecting trip hop song that suddenly explodes into an overdriven barrage of intense hammer-like percussion and warped noises. It lives up to its name and there is no other song on Perdition City or any other album that comes close to mimicking it.

Ulver explored and even reinvented the trip hop sound in some instances on Perdition City. It is a shame that they never made a follow up trip hop album to refine and expand on this sound before moving onto another genre. They let the music do the talking for the most part and in doing so, they flow between rich and varied instrumental passages complemented by the jazz tinged moment that explore their introverted moods, or interior music as the albums subtitle allures to, in great depth.