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Ulver - Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.84 | 125 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars Kristoffer Rygg is one of those musicians who truly has ants in his pants. Musically speaking he cannot sit still and defiantly genre hops from one genre for most of his career as the frontman for both his bands Arcturus and ULVER. While ULVER began as a second wave black metal band, this group became a musical collective and shapeshifter accordingly so while the debut "Bergtatt ? Et eeventyr i 5 capitler" was black metal, the second album "Kveldssanger" wasn't and engaged in an acoustic form of classical and folk guitar, however on the third album which was technically part of a trilogy, "Nattens Madrigal," the band unleashed one of the most ferocious black metal attacks of all the 90s. Seemingly having exorcised themselves of those sonic demons, the newly liberated ULVER completely transmogrified into an entirely new unrecognizable musical outfit.

The lengthy titled THEMES FROM WILLIAM BLAKE'S THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL found ULVER escaping the black metal paradigm completely 100% and instead went in a completely opposite direction that took the ambitious route of adapting William Blake's poem "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" into a sprawling double album soundtrack that musically aggregated electronic trip hop, industrial, ambient, post-rock with the occasional progressive metal bombast for contrast. While the album threw fans of their earlier albums completely for a loop, if one kept up with the restless nature of Kristoffer Rygg, then in hind sight, it all made a lot of sense. ULVER was started as a rotating collective and once Rygg coerced the keyboardist and composer Tore Ylwizaker into the band, the entire musical paradigm shifted to the sound of conceptualist's musical leanings which in this case found a smattering of classical, rock, industrial, metal and ambient all duking it out for musical domination.

THEMES FROM WILLIAM BLAKE'S THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL was a major undertaking. It consists of five core musicians with a another four well known black metal names as guest vocalists which include Stine Gryt°y, Ihsahn, Samoth and Fenriz all adding their vocal stamp to the long drawn out liturgies of William Blake's imitation of biblical prophecy that expresses his own personal beliefs about the nature of revolution. A nebulous and mystical cosmic concept, the storyline narrates the proverbs of hell which delves into Dionysian energy and the repressive nature of conventional morality and institutional religion. How one would go about tackling such a huge undertaking is beyond me and this grandiose nature of the album is one that exemplifies an artist's appetite being bigger than its respective ability to pull it off.

While THEMES FROM was widely acclaimed by rock and metal critics and a hit with the alternative press, personally i find this album to be a very poorly designed creation. There is no rhyme or reason as to how the music coincides with the lyrical developments. If THEMES FROM has the grandiose proposals of an opera or other great classical works, ULVER unfortunately doesn't deliver the goods as the different styles of music whether they be electronic trip hop, progressive metal, art rock or ambient don't seem to gel well together and after a sprawling double album of this inconsistency, i find it a very difficult listen. "Proverbs Of Hell, Plates 7-10" for example is a 9 minute track of trip hop beats that goes on and on with some electric guitar adding some extra flair but symbolizes the album as a whole that delves into certain modes and then plods on for too long.

I've sat through this one many times to try to allow it click but after several spins my conclusions are always the same. This album should've been trimmed down to a single disc and then reworked so that the music actually corresponds to the emotional impact of the lyrical content, a tried and true method for higher art classical compositions to connect with an audience. Another problem i have is with the lackluster vocal performances including the overindulgent long periods of spoken word narrations, a style i abhor. Overall, i find THEMES FROM to be a rather tedious trawl through way too much filler space in order to get to the true moments of glory. Much of the second half of the first disc leaves me cold but i do enjoy how the first few tracks develop and the majority of the second disc. As an album with some great tracks this is a must for the electronic / post-rock phase of ULVER but as a concept album that conveys the subject matter as intended, this is a friggin mess.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |


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