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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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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

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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.