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ULVER

Post Rock/Math rock • Norway


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Ulver picture
Ulver biography
Founded in Oslo, Norway in 1993 - Still active as of 2019

ULVER are a Norwegian trio who started life as a black-metal band. They have gradually developed an experimental Progressive Metal style and their avante-garde sound is seen to best effect on their 2005 release, Blood Inside. The current line-up (as of July 2004) is Kristoffer Garm Rygg, Jørn H. Sværen, and Tore Ylwizaker. Former members include guitarist Grellmund who committed suicide in late 1997 and Håvard Jørgensen who contributes guitar on their latest album. Related bands include Coil and Borknagar.

Photo by Kerry O'Sullivan (2009)

Apart from their latest album, "Blood Inside", other notable experimantal and progressive works include Themes from William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", released in 1998 and "Metamorphosis" and "Perdition City" which are even more experimental than the "Blake Album" especially in their use of electronics.

See also:
-Arcturus
-Borknagar

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ULVER discography


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ULVER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.02 | 156 ratings
Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler
1994
3.59 | 106 ratings
Kveldssanger
1996
3.10 | 104 ratings
Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden
1997
3.84 | 118 ratings
Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell
1998
3.92 | 200 ratings
Perdition City - Music To An Interior Film
2000
3.74 | 66 ratings
Lyckantropen Themes (OST)
2002
3.37 | 63 ratings
Svidd Neger (OST)
2003
3.84 | 163 ratings
Blood Inside
2005
4.06 | 268 ratings
Shadows Of The Sun
2007
3.81 | 162 ratings
Wars Of The Roses
2011
3.65 | 73 ratings
Childhood's End - Lost & Found From The Age Of Aquarius
2012
3.93 | 147 ratings
Ulver & Tromsø Chamber Orchestra: Messe I.X - VI.X
2013
3.34 | 46 ratings
Ulver & Sunn O))) : Terrestrials
2014
3.00 | 12 ratings
Riverhead (OST)
2016
3.68 | 92 ratings
The Assassination Of Julius Caesar
2017
4.27 | 13 ratings
Flowers of Evil
2020

ULVER Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.27 | 11 ratings
Live at Roadburn
2013
4.63 | 16 ratings
The Norwegian National Opera
2013
4.03 | 45 ratings
ATGCLVLSSCAP
2016
3.67 | 10 ratings
Drone Activity
2019

ULVER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.59 | 38 ratings
The Norwegian National Opera
2011

ULVER Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.91 | 2 ratings
The Trilogie: Three Journeyes Through The Norwegian Netherworlde
1997
3.79 | 31 ratings
Teachings in Silence
2002
2.89 | 8 ratings
1993-2003: 1st Decade In The Machines
2003
3.00 | 3 ratings
Oddities And Rarities #1
2012
4.60 | 6 ratings
Trolsk Sortmetall 1993-1997
2014

ULVER Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.06 | 21 ratings
Vargnatt
1993
2.00 | 4 ratings
Rehearsal 1993
1993
2.52 | 26 ratings
Metamorphosis
1999
3.32 | 24 ratings
Silence Teaches You How to Sing
2001
3.38 | 24 ratings
Silencing the Singing
2001
3.81 | 39 ratings
A Quick Fix Of Melancholy EP
2003
2.33 | 3 ratings
Roadburn EP
2012
3.69 | 13 ratings
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
2017

ULVER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Flowers of Evil by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.27 | 13 ratings

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Flowers of Evil
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by lukretio

5 stars A new Ulver album is always cause of great excitement for me. I got hooked on the Norwegians' shapeshifting music relatively late, in 2000 when they released their electronic masterpiece Perdition City. I have loved almost all of their albums since then, with very few exceptions (the angular Blood, the drone experiments of ATGCLVLSSCAP). But even those albums that I could not fully get into, I nevertheless listened to with interest and respect, because I consider Ulver to be true artists, who always try to say something new and genuine with their unpredictable musical style. Indeed, if there is one thing I learned from my twenty-year relation with the music of Ulver is to expect the unexpected from their releases, each new album an abrupt stylistic left-turn relative to the previous one. This of course contributes to the excitement of a new Ulver's record, as I never quite know what musical direction they will take next. So what is the surprise this time, you ask? Well, as band leader Kristoffer Rygg (aka Garm) put it himself in an interview, this time the surprise is that there is no surprise! Flower of Evil follows closely in the footsteps of 2017's The Assassination of Julius Caesar, continuing Ulver's exploration with the worlds of synthpop and dark wave, in the vein of Depeche Mode or Clan of Xymox. The two albums also explore similar narratives, with song lyrics that are imbued with historical and artistic references ('Apocalypse 1993' is inspired by the law enforcement siege against the religious sect Branch Davidians, and 'Lost Boy' by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; 'Hour of the Wolf' references an Ingmar Bergman's movie and 'A Thousand Cuts' a Pier Paolo Pasolini's movie).

However, there are also clear differences between the two albums. Julius Caesar was playful and self-indulgent, bursting with instrumental acrobatics that stretched the songs in unexpected directions. Flowers of Evil is much more restrained and focussed. Musical exploration and harmonic complexity are kept to a minimum this time. The arrangements are sparse and minimal, with each instrument only adding essential touches to contribute to the low-key atmosphere of the album. The song structure is kept simple and short, cutting down exploration and jams (the instrumental mini-coda of 'Lost Boy' being a rare exception). There are also subtle differences in sound between the two albums. Julius Caesar had a very warm and vibrant sound, with swathes of lush synths placed at the forefront in the mix. Flowers of Evil is colder, darker and eerier ' obsessive beats and bass lines and Rygg 's morose vocals dominating the scene. A user on an online forum described Flowers of Evil as the 'introverted young brother' of Julius Caesar, and I cannot think of a better way to express the comparison between the two albums.

These characteristics ' minimalism, coldness, lifelessness ' make Flowers of Evil an album that is not as instantly loveable as Julius Caesar was. It took me a while to fully get into the moody atmosphere of the album. However, once I did, I found that there is plenty to appreciate and cherish on this album. The sparse arrangements push Rygg's vocals center stage, and he has never sounded better. His voice and tone are very special and he has a unique ability to craft vocal lines that are catchy, but at the same time sophisticated and dramatic. His croon gives the songs a sombre and melancholic mood that keeps drawing me back for more. Another major attraction of the album is the incredible level of detail and sophistication of the arrangements. Flowers of Evil is one of those albums that are best appreciated with headphones so that one can spot all its hidden contours and colors. Stian Westerhus' guitar lines, for instance, are really minimalist, yet incredibly creative and effective (listen for example to the howls that Westerhus manages to pull from his guitar on 'Lost Boy', or the super-tasty leads on 'A Thousand Cuts'). Eerie sound effects underscore the most dramatic vocal passages on 'Russian Doll', while subtle string arrangements add an end-of-the-world feel to the apocalyptic love story told on 'A Thousand Cuts'. The album is literally a treasure-trove of hidden sounds and effects, and keeps revealing new layers with each listen. Great merits for this go to the production by Martin 'Youth' Glover (Killing Joke) and Michael Rendall (The Orb), which is superb: polished but organic and well-balanced, it gives the album a truly smooth and cohesive feel. Indeed, Flowers of Evil has a flow and consistency across its 8 tracks that make it feel much more like an album than Julius Caesar, whose musical palette was instead more heterogeneous and incorporated a broader variety of styles (psychedelia, gothic, industrial, trance). These influences surface also on Flowers of Evil (both 'Lost Boy' and 'Nostalgia' have a faint 60s/70s feel; subtle industrial touches appear on the gorgeous 'Hour of the Wolf'), but in a much more understated way, without veering too far from the synthpop roots of the album.

The end result is an album that sound more assured and accomplished than The Assassination of Julius Caesar. Fans of the Wolves may be disappointed that the band this time did not take another left-turn to a new unexplored musical direction. I was taken aback too, initially. However, I am now glad that Ulver decided to hover just a little bit longer in the musical space that they first stumbled upon with their previous album. The special blend of gloomy synthpop that they offered on that album had time to mature in the 3 years between Julius Caesar and Flowers of Evil, and this clearly shows on the new album. However, Flowers of Evil is also less immediate and inviting than its predecessor, making it an album that is somewhat difficult to get into. Give it time, though, and it will reveal itself as an extremely deep and rewarding musical journey.

(Originally written for The Metal Observer)

 Drone Activity by ULVER album cover Live, 2019
3.67 | 10 ratings

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Drone Activity
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Ulver's musical interests bounce around all over the place - we're talking about a group whose discography ranges from the rawest of raw black metal to dark folk music to synthpop, after all - so it's nice of them to give this release an apt title to tip us off to what to expect.

Though a live album, Drone Activity consists of all-original material. Don't think "drone" in the sense of, say, Ulver buddies Sunn O))) - instead, think "drone" in the sense of some of the mid-1970s work of progressive electronic masters like Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze. Heck, the album is even structured like Tangerine Dream's Zeit, with its four electronic ambient pieces occupying a timespan which would, were this to get a vinyl release, have each track taking up a side of a double album.

Don't think this is a full-on pastiche of Tangerine Dream, however; the aesthetic of Ulver's vampiric cyberpunk works of yesteryear is thick on the ground here, the band simply using a Tangerine Dream-esque format as a springboard for improvisation in their own distinctive style. The end result is another compelling release from a band who are never less than interesting.

 Sic Transit Gloria Mundi by ULVER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2017
3.69 | 13 ratings

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Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Back in the first years of 1980, I visited (with some fearless friends, of course) some catacombs in Palermo, Italy. It is an event that will stick in my mind forever. The catacombs were located close to one of the major cathedrals in Palermo in the cemetery yard next to the church. We paid an entrance fee, descended some stone stairs burying us underground, opened the creaky door and were admitted into the strangest world that was a combination of the sacred and the profane. Here, the famous, religious dead were on display in their official Catholic robes and hats. Some were displayed along the walls, others were sitting in their thrones or lying in their crypts, all on full display for the living to either idolize or wonder about. These dead people were in various stages of decay, but were somehow preserved so as to not give out the usual unpleasantries of death (odor, rot), however, they were some of the scariest things I've seen, their eye sockets empty and their mouths agape, some looking like they were laughing, others looked like they were screaming. It was strangely intriguing, but definitely not in a religious way, at least in my own mind.

Why do I tell about this experience? Well, first of all, this album cover depicts exactly what it looked like. These people ruled in their religious world at one time and their idolizers for some reason wanted to remember them and visit them. Now they reign through fear, fear of the dead or fear of their sins. The music on this EP reflects the atmosphere of these catacombs. Ulver has hit the nail on the head as to this weird obsession of the religious and the dead and the atmosphere that is generated from this obsession. So many dark, black and heavy metal bands have tried to depict this with their loud music, but Ulver, instead, kept the atmosphere but ditched the loudness years ago and ended up coming up with the real atmosphere that I felt in those empty, soulless catacombs, from the album cover to the music.

There are 3 tracks on the CD and the digital versions of this EP. The first two tracks come from the same mold (probably recorded in the same sessions) as the album they released prior to this EP; "The Assassination of Julius Caesar". The first track is "Echo Chamber (Room of Tears)" which uses synth loops and lines that give an echo-y sound with the unique vocals. The music has a moderate beat that stands out among the layers of synth, almost a pop-like sound, but far from being radio friendly. However, even though it hints at the more accessible sound of "Julius Caesar", it still reminds one of long, empty caverns and traditions or beliefs long dead.

"Bring Out Your Dead" uses rhythmic synths along with melodic keys, sounding a bit like Depeche Mode, but with a Tangerine Dream texture, mysterious, yet appealing. However, no band reaches the mysterious atmosphere that Ulver can obtain, the one that gives them the edge over any other music that widens the depth of their sound like no other. The music goes into an atmospheric feel as it ends.

The last track is a surprising cover of "Frankie Goes to Hollywood" "Power of Love". While it may seem strange a band as innovative as Ulver would resort to a cover like this, you need to hear it before you judge. The atmospheric piano and synths make this a much better version than the original, with some excellent effects that seem almost squeezed out of the instruments. The lyrics take on a whole new meaning with the new arrangement, giving it more emotion than ever before.

I wish I had a copy of the vinyl that was released in 2018, a year after the digital version. It contains 4 more tracks, live tracks originally recorded for the album "The Assassination of Julius Caesar" recorded in various venues. I am curious to hear the live treatment of those tracks since Ulver can completely recreate their music in a live setting. Maybe I will someday and then I can add that to this review.

Anyway, the music on this EP reflects the same style that was on the Julius Caesar album. Like the catacombs that I mention in the beginning of this review, this music has a certain vibe to them, where you can hear a false joy to the tracks that is somewhat covered with a bit of despair and grief. The real sense of the catacombs is an emptiness, but in reality, the bodies are there, but they are only empty husks, things that have long ago been transformed into just another inanimate object. The life that possessed these objects has passed from them, and the music here represents the long ago memories of that have actually been dowsed by the grotesque display of death. In an effort to try to make these church officials eternal by displaying their bodies, people have instead turned the memory of them into an ugliness that out shadow any joy they may have brought (supposedly) to those that wanted to remember them. That might not make sense to you, but to me, it best describes this music which to me portrays this goofy practice. If you delve deeper into Ulver's music, you will notice contrasts of both emptiness and beauty, you will even better understand how obsession with death is just an emptiness, dark and lonely, yet the promise of life and things that are better will bring a beauty to everything, even death.

 Silence Teaches You How to Sing by ULVER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2001
3.32 | 24 ratings

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Silence Teaches You How to Sing
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Moving from black and folk metal to instrumental and moody soundtracks, at this point Ulver had finally come out into an electronic style. When they released their acclaimed and excellent 'Perdition City', everyone was interested in where they would go next. However, during the sessions for that album, Kristoffer Rygg was experimenting around with taking things to a subtle and ambient place, and during that time, recorded music that was not intended for that album, but was to be released separately, mainly because of the ambient and experimental nature of the music. This music filled up two EPs and it was decided to release them in limited editions. Since that time, the demand to make them more readily available, the two EPs were combined onto one disc (called 'Teachings in Silence', again in a limited edition, which was later released more widely a few years later. However, the two separate EPs have since been made available for download in 2013 and are now easily available on Bandcamp.

'Silence Teaches You How to Sing' is one of these two EPs. On this one, there is only one long track with the same name as the EP. This track, however, is obviously made up of shorter sections that pass along through time like a lesson in how to make a combination of music and atmosphere come together in new and interesting ways. The first 5 minutes is quite atmospheric and less structured, but all the while, it is interesting and meaningful while being moody and colorful. After a while, keys tend to pick up a repeating melody with less of a free form feel, but glitchy noise and interesting sounds keep it sounding like it is moving forward. More textural changes continue, but each change is built upon some type of structure, sometimes more noticeable than others. Even broken pieces of vocal sounds are added in and for a short time, tend to lead the passage of time as it continues on, but then a smoothly phrased wordless vocal loop is produced while glitches and short musical phrases play. As usual with this EP though, change is inevitable.

Both EPs use both repetition and unpredictability together very effectively. However, while 'Silence the Singing' relies more on longer repetitions and has a slightly more structured feel to it, 'Silence Teaches You How to Sing' tends to have more variation in its single track that lasts just over 24 minutes. However, there is much less dynamic inflection in this EP, but that doesn't mean it isn't just as interesting. On this EP, you can expect more change in texture and style as it can happen more often, where on the companion EP, the three songs are distinct and more focused. Either way, the ambience/noise is effective and brilliant, and just like the other EP, this is better experienced through headphones. If it is still possible to get the combined EPs on one album (which, by the way, is called 'Teachings in Silence'), then that is the best way to get them, as they tend to work better together. But, if not, then definitely download the two EPs and put them together into one experience.

 Silencing the Singing by ULVER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2001
3.38 | 24 ratings

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Silencing the Singing
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Moving from black and folk metal to instrumental and moody soundtracks, at this point Ulver had finally come out into an electronic style. When they released their acclaimed and excellent 'Perdition City', everyone was interested in where they would go next. However, during the sessions for that album, Kristoffer Rygg was experimenting around with taking things to a subtle and ambient place, and during that time, recorded music that was not intended for that album, but was to be released separately, mainly because of the ambient and experimental nature of the music. This music filled up two EPs and it was decided to release them in limited editions. Since that time, the demand to make them more readily available, the two EPs were combined onto one disc (called 'Teachings in Silence', again in a limited edition, which was later released more widely a few years later. However, the two separate EPs have since been made available for download in 2013 and are now easily available on Bandcamp.

'Silence the Singing' was one of the two EPs containing this atmospheric and ambient music. It is comprised of 3 tracks that together take up almost a half hour run time. It begins with 'Darling Didn't We Kill You?'. Even with this formidable title, the music is quiet, yet dark and foreboding. There is an unsettling beauty to the music, again all mostly electronic or processed loops and sounds. The music all works together to create a simple, yet somehow complicated beauty heard not just in the music passages, but the use of sounds and noise to give a unique and interesting experience. Even though some of it may seem random, you can't help but feel that it is all purposefully placed because of how well it all works together to develop the sound, and you will notice slow progression into alternative themes as it continues, slowly building a level of movement that never gets loud, but definitely gets more intense even so. The creativity is in the slow and repetitive nature of the music in the foundation, but also in the adding and taking away of atmospheric noises, clicks, hisses and so on, with a high pitched, but even hardly heard synth improvising softly over it all.

'Speak Dead Speaker' doesn't rely on a beat or repetitive loops like the first track, but is much more ambient, allowing itself to be carried forward by glitchy noises, pops and such while quiet violin and piano are used to create texture more than melody. This is one best experienced with headphones so you can hear the subtle changes in texture as at times, the 'drone-like' foundation that lays lightly on the background created by static can suddenly stop leaving you feeling like you are hanging in mid-air. But, as it can quickly stop, it can also quickly begin again while the phrased violin motif continues on gluing it all together. But the few times when almost all sound stops, the silence can be the most deafening thing about the track. Towards the end, the strings increase in volume as does what sounds like some kind of string drum. But, again, it never really gets loud, just more intense.

'Not Saved' is a glitch-noise masterpiece. A solemn organ keeps the sound consistent in the background, but the unpredictable noises are the centerpiece here, and they are used so effectively well. It's like some warning trying to break through the silence, and the scariest parts is when it just about succeeds. Along with this, a clanging bell chimes at regular (?) intervals, and even it gets manipulated by the mysterious force clouding over the entire thing. Again, headphones will give you the best experience here. When the sound fades, you think you are safe, but then it suddenly bursts through your speakers with a vengeance, the bell seems to desperately try to disperse the uneasiness of it all, but even their sudden increase ends up only encouraging the darkness of created by the strange noises going on around. This just goes to prove that you don't need heavy levels of noise to create dark textures, that maybe, just maybe, the silence and the ambience can be scarier than heavy blasts of noise. It's simply astounding.

This won't be for everyone because you might need a higher level of patience, but it is guaranteed to grow on you if you let it. It is also easy to get lost in the atmosphere of it all, and Ulver, somehow, created a masterpiece out of it all. It is one of the best recordings of its kind, and has even ended up being more influential to ambient/noise soundscapes than what it may have intended. This, along with the companion EP 'Silence Teaches You How to Sing', is one of the best studies of the use of music, noise and silence around, but you have to let it work on you to really feel and understand it.

 Drone Activity by ULVER album cover Live, 2019
3.67 | 10 ratings

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Drone Activity
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars My first thought on hearing this album was "Wait. This is the same band that did The Assassination of Julius Caesar in 2017?" I guess the title and the very apt artwork should've hinted that this would be a bit different.

As well-executed as Drone Activity is, I'd probably be more impressed if I wasn't already familiar with early Tangerine Dream or with Klaus Schulze's 1970s output. Certainly the twenty-two-minute centerpiece "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" is Schulzian, and while the rest of the album doesn't sound precisely like 1970s ambient Krautrock, it resembles it in spirit. For example, compared to "Twenty Thousand," "Blood, Fire, Woods, Diamonds" is more obviously constructed using virtual instruments on a DAW, but nonetheless, it's a seemingly endless loop with minor variations.

Similarly, although swaths of the opening and closing works ("True North" and "Exodus") are more atmospheric and more amorphous than the middle tracks, it all fits. And it's pretty spacey. Listening to Drone Activity, I get the feeling once in a while that an Ozrics tune or a Barrett-era Pink Floyd number is right around the corner - - although much more frequently, I get the sense that whatever loop I'm currently experiencing is truly endless, and I begin to wonder whether I'm imagining tiny deviations or actually hearing them.

Like Ulver's last full-length album, The Assassination of Julius Caesar, Drone Activity is unspectacular but good. But that's about the only point of similarity. The Assassination of Julius Caesar was popular music: verses and choruses, melodies and rhythms, lyrics and hooks - - that sort of thing. Drone Activity is art music. Rarely does it allude to any sort of traditional western form, and then only vaguely (e.g., parts of the middle and end of "Exodus"). And whereas The Assassination of Julius Caesar was quite evidently a group effort, much of Drone Activity is so focused as to suggest a single vision. And its resemblance to a studio-assembled work further strengthens the sense I get of Drone Activity is the product of a single artist.*

Anyway, this is a good album. The most obvious downside is its length; although I'm not aware of a vinyl LP release, the four songs here are each roughly an LP side long; this is, in effect a double album. And like so many double albums, it might've been better as a single album - - in particular, I can imagine the interior tracks ("Twenty Thousand" and "Blood, Fire") constituting a unified, thirty- or forty-minute work.

Although Ulver is listed as a post-rock group, I'd recommend Drone Activity to anyone interested in a modern take on the spacey side of 1970s Krautrock.

====

*According to Ulver's bandcamp page, my sense is wrong; via intentionally imprecise language, Drone Activity is presented as a live album performed by a group.

 Drone Activity by ULVER album cover Live, 2019
3.67 | 10 ratings

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Drone Activity
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This is a live album? Could've fooled me! (Again).

Another great album of ambient mood adventures--four epic length ones--once again enlisting the participation of multi-instrumental journeyman and all-around prog all-star, Daniel O'Sullivan (GUAPO, GRUMBLING FUR, ÆTHENOR, MOTHLITE, MIASMA & THE CAROUSEL OF HEADLESS HORSES, CHROME HOOF, CERBERUS CHOAL). (I guess after ten years of work with Kristoffer Rygg & Co. I should be finally accepting as fact that he is a real and permanent part of Ulver.) Upon repeated listens, I find two of the songs draw me in and keep me there while two lose me. That fine line between droning background music and exciting, engaging foreground music is one that Ulver has always had trouble negotiating with me--except in concert format: I've found everything the band does in concert to be mesmerizing and thoroughly engaging. (But, then, the video and light shows accompanying their stage performances--not to mention their enlisted participation of choir and/or orchestral support--definitely add a different dimension to their music--one that is perhaps under-represented in the studio album versions. I guess the point is: see them live or buy their DVDs, that's where you'll experience the real magic of Ulver music!)

1. "True North" (16:11) (23/30) 2. "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea" (21:48) (41/45) 3. "Blood, Fire, Woods, Diamonds" (16:43) (28/35) 4. "Exodus" (15:50) (27/30)

Total Time 70:32

Four stars; a solid contribution to the Prog World lexicon.

I still think this is a studio album.

 Svidd Neger (OST) by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.37 | 63 ratings

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Svidd Neger (OST)
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars By 2003, Ulver had already established the fact that they were a lot more than a doom metal band. They had released their 3 "black metal" albums, though there was a lot of variation in their sound even then, then made the ambitious album based on William Blake's "Marriage of Heaven and Hell", and proved to the world that they were not going to be pigeonholed into any one type of sound. Then there was the excellent album "Perdition City" which many consider their best album which showed that they could pretty much explore any sound they wanted to. After diving into a more minimalist approach, they released the EPs "Metamorphosis", "Silence Teaches You How to Sing", and "Silencing the Singing" and then exploring it further in the album "Lyckantropen Themes". Now, the band was going to release their first real soundtrack for a full length film "Svidd Neger" which was music inspired by an actual Norweigian film of the same name.

This music proves to be less minimalistic than the previous album, yet it is still mostly instrumental. The music is quite laid back, yet they also proved that laid back music could also be sinister and dark. The movie was very controversial, and had an angry overtone which included racial slurs, axe murders, and other questionable themes, but the music itself is quite beautiful and heartfelt. Most of the tracks are quite orchestral and short. There are 16 tracks, but the total time is only 32 minutes with the final track taking up over 6 minutes, leaving the other tracks to be 3 and a half minutes or less. The music is also soft and pensive, lovely and sometimes slightly dissonant, but always looking inward. Most of the tracks flow into each other like one continuous track, but the individual tracks each have unique thoughts and atmosphere to them. There is a lot of use of keyboards and orchestral styles, mostly with real instruments, strings and brass, not electronically produced, except for maybe a lot of the percussion.

The music is not just good for background, but also for serious listening. It is enjoyable enough to just put on and sit back, listening closely and letting your mind interpret the music on its own. Even with a lot of beauty, there is also some elements of horror and foreboding connected to some of the more experimental tracks as "Somnam" and the contrast of screaming sounds against the lovely piano notes playing the main theme in "Wild Cat". There are plenty of dynamic texture in this album too, like the sudden outburst of dramatic intensity and heavier drumming in "Rock Massif, Pt. 1" and "Pt. 2". One of the highlight themes is that presented in "Waltz of King Karl", with the obvious 3 / 4 time of the waltz contrasting with the soft trumpet, accordion, sawing sounds of the cello, the plucked strings and the menacing undertone of it all, which also continues in "Sadface", but with a slightly adjusted meter sounding like waltz in cut time, while disturbing electronic sounds come in later that follow a completely different meter.

When all is said and done, this is an excellent soundtrack album, albeit short. The music is right on the high standards of other soundtracks presented by other great bands like Art Zoyd. Though, in this album, there is less of an avant-prog sound than AZ, there are some elements of experimentalism in there, but the music flows along beautifully for the most part. Yes, there are better Ulver albums out there, but this one should not be ignored just because it is a soundtrack album. It shows the continued growth of a band that has proven that they can dabble in almost anything they want, make it sound great and put their own stamp on it. This is easily a 4 star album.

 The Assassination Of Julius Caesar by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.68 | 92 ratings

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The Assassination Of Julius Caesar
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars A very modern, electronic album,The Assassination of Julius Caesar is nothing like what I'd expected. First of all, I thought it had something to do with, well, the assassination of Julius Caesar. Interesting concept, I thought. Second, although they're classified as Post Rock here, I had understood Ulver to be a progressive-metal outfit. So you can imagine my surprise when The Assassination of Julius Caesar turned out to be an art-pop (or maybe art-rock?) album on which Julius Caesar is at best a minor character.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar has been referred to as synthpop, and I agree. Among the influences here is Gary Numan: the lyrical mood of The Assassination of Julius Caesar is dark and often introverted, but not quite as robotic as Kraftwerk - - and much more somber than Kraftwerk or Devo. In this respect it reminds me of some Human League songs (e.g., "Seconds").

As to the lyrical content, there is a vague theme, even if it's not the assassination of Julius Caesar. Many of the songs reference dark moments in history, sometimes prosaically: "Nero lights up the night / 18th to 19th of July, AD 64;" "There used to be a house at 6114 California Street / 'Helter Skelter.'" In addition to the Great Fire of Rome and the Manson murders (by way of the Church of Satan), reference is made to the Bubonic Plague, the death of Princess Diana and the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. But there are many less literal lyrics which seem to fit the theme, such as "an army charges upon the land to the sound of retreat." This is all fodder for religious allusions, and the lyrics duly name-check a pair of Catholic saints; cite, but do not name an "ancient goddess of the moon;" and refer to both the Roman persecution of Christians and the Second Coming. And perhaps as an amplification of a Greco-Roman lineage of tyranny, Oedipus makes an oblique appearance in the second of two songs to mention Nero. The title of one of the songs, "Angelus Novus," may also hint at the lyrical concept. Angelus Novus is a 1920 graphic-art print about whose subject Walter Benjamin wrote, "where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet." This déjà vu is also represented by repetition: in addition to literal repetition of stanzas, there are other repetitions; two of the eight songs mention the moon, while two other mention the sun, for example.

As well thought-out and economical as the lyrics are, the concept underlying The Assassination of Julius Caesar is more engrossing than the actual product. There are several excellent musical passages, but there are also plenty of mundane melodies and chord progressions.

Nonetheless, I consider The Assassination of Julius Caesar to be a "good" album: imperfect, but better than average. I'd especially recommend it to fans of 1980s synthesizer-based pop or rock music.

 Ulver & Sunn O))) : Terrestrials by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.34 | 46 ratings

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Ulver & Sunn O))) : Terrestrials
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars Ulver is the band of the ever-changing genre, and with their 13th album 'Terrestrials', which is actually a collaboration album with the drone band 'Sunn O)))', they continue to prove this. The album was released in 2014 and is comprised of 3 long and live improvised performances that were later enhanced with other studio additions. The music is slow moving, based on the droning quality of 'Sunn O)))' and the experimental style (or non-style) of 'Ulver'.

'Let There Be Light' is based around a drone style that slowly changes chords in a deep, dark background while heavy percussion crashes and a trumpet provides a slow moving improvisation on top of everything. The music builds on a slow crescendo until when it reaches the end, becomes quite majestic.

'Western Horn' has a more unsettling sound beginning with a deep, wavering drone, then other layers start building over the top of this, creating their own droning sound and a wavering metallic texture created by brass and strings. The sound has got an ancient prehistoric vibe to it. Emerging from the thick drone is a higher pitched texture that just wavers on the edge of being able to break away from the increasing wall of sound. This track is carried slowly forward by a sustained chord progression and by another slow crescendo. At almost 10 minutes, it is the shortest track on the album.

'Eternal Return' starts with the deep chiming of a guitar that sounds somewhat distant while a violin and vibe-like keys move along slowly and cautiously. It has an almost lumbering feel to it and the keys, even though they are bright, do not brighten things up much at all. At 7 minutes, the background noise stops and the track enters into a more melodic sound and Rygg sings in sotto-voce, soft and airy while the strings play and the piano churns out slow chords. Later, he sings out more as the melody takes him to higher notes. After 10 minutes, things get a bit noisier and then tapers off to a more ambient, yet discordant style.

Considering the amazing talent of the two bands involved here, you would have high expectations for quite an amazing collaboration, but the expectations never really get reached. You have to be in the right mood to really enjoy this completely, and even though it is good, meditative or trance-like music, it doesn't quite deliver the goods you would expect. Sure you should expect atmospheric, droning and slow moving music, but it seems to be a little aimless and not quite at the level one expects. It is good for the occasional listen, but there are so many other great albums out there, by both bands, that I would choose over this one. The bar is set so high for both bands though and more direction would have gone a long way for this collaboration.

Thanks to tony r for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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