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ULVER

Post Rock/Math rock • Norway


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Ulver biography
ULVER are a Norwegian trio who started life as a black-metal band around 1993. 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.

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




Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
Ulver's admission have been agreed by Prog Archives Collaborators.


Discography:
Vargnatt demo (1993)
Split EP with Mysticum (1994)
Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler (1995)
Kveldssanger (1996)
Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden (1997)
The Trilogie - Three Journeyes through the Norwegian Netherworlde (1998)
Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1998)
Metamorphosis EP (1999)
Perdition City (2000)
Silence Teaches You How To Sing EP(2001)
Silencing The Singing EP (2001)
Teachings In Silence EP Incl. both "Silence" EPs (2002)
Lyckantropen Themes (2002)
1993 - 2003 1st Decade In The Machines [Compilation] (2003)
A Quick Fix of Melancholy EP (2003)
Svidd Neger (2003)
Blood Inside (2005)

Ulver official website

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Messe I.X - VI.XMesse I.X - VI.X
Kscope 2013
Audio CD$8.99
$5.39 (used)
Perdition CityPerdition City
Import
MSI:JESTER RECORDINGS 2006
Audio CD$12.91
$11.10 (used)
Madrigal of the Night (Nattens Madrigal)Madrigal of the Night (Nattens Madrigal)
Century Media 1997
Audio CD$13.91
$7.00 (used)
Shadows of the SunShadows of the Sun
The End Records 2007
Audio CD$21.17
$10.49 (used)
Childhood's EndChildhood's End
KSCOPE 2012
Audio CD$2.61
$9.93 (used)
Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven And HellThemes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven And Hell
Import
Jester Norway 2006
Audio CD$24.81
$21.95 (used)
BergtattBergtatt
Import
Head Not Found N'way 2001
Audio CD$42.78
$28.00 (used)
Trolsk Sortmetall 1993-97Trolsk Sortmetall 1993-97
Import
Imports 2014
Audio CD$71.99
Blood InsideBlood Inside
The End Records 2005
Audio CD$7.29
$4.93 (used)
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Wars of the Roses by Ulver (CD, Apr-2011, Kscope) USD $11.95 Buy It Now 2 days
ULVER CHILDHOOD'S END SEALED CD NEW 2012 USD $5.49 Buy It Now 2 days
Terrestrials by Sunn 0)))/Ulver (CD, Feb-2014, Southern Lord Records) USD $11.99 Buy It Now 2 days
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ULVER shows & tickets


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ULVER discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

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

3.99 | 111 ratings
Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler
1994
3.55 | 77 ratings
Kveldssanger
1995
2.92 | 74 ratings
Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne til Ulven i Manden
1996
3.84 | 87 ratings
Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell
1998
3.91 | 153 ratings
Perdition City (Music To An Interior Film)
2000
3.78 | 50 ratings
Lyckantropen Themes
2002
3.27 | 46 ratings
Svidd Neger
2003
3.83 | 129 ratings
Blood Inside
2005
4.01 | 206 ratings
Shadows of the Sun
2007
3.81 | 131 ratings
Wars Of The Roses
2011
3.18 | 55 ratings
Childhood's End
2012
3.95 | 92 ratings
Ulver With Tromsø Chamber Orchestra: Messe I.X - VI.X
2013
3.53 | 20 ratings
Sunn O))) & Ulver: Terrestrials
2014

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

3.50 | 6 ratings
Live at Roadburn
2013
4.00 | 4 ratings
The Norwegian National Opera
2013

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

4.56 | 27 ratings
The Norwegian National Opera
2011

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

3.00 | 1 ratings
The Trilogie: Three Journeyes Through The Norwegian Netherworlde
1997
3.87 | 22 ratings
Teachings in Silence
2002
3.50 | 2 ratings
1993-2003: 1st Decade In The Machines
2003
3.00 | 2 ratings
Oddities And Rarities #1
2012
3.33 | 3 ratings
Trolsk Sortmetall 1993-1997
2014

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

2.00 | 13 ratings
Vargnatt
1993
3.00 | 1 ratings
Rehearsal 1993
1993
2.38 | 18 ratings
Metamorphosis
1999
3.09 | 17 ratings
Silence Teaches You How to Sing
2001
3.17 | 16 ratings
Silencing the Singing
2001
3.79 | 30 ratings
A Quick Fix Of Melancholy EP
2003
2.00 | 2 ratings
Roadburn EP
2012

ULVER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Kveldssanger by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.55 | 77 ratings

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Kveldssanger
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Already, with Ulver's 2nd album, it was apparent that this band was going to be full of surprises with each album. Many people lump Ulver's first 3 albums together saying that it was their black metal trilogy. To me, I don't think you can lump any of Ulver's albums together because each one is so different. Where the first album was black metal but with medieval style singing in many places throughout, this one is all acoustic with Gregorian type chanting in about half of the songs and just instrumental in the others. The third album in this so called trilogy is really noisy and heavy and also the least accessible of the three albums, but it is still quite different from anything else the band has done, even from the first album. But I won't go into detail about that album here since this is about the 2nd album.

Like I said, it is all acoustic and very peaceful, yet still dark and eerie sounding. The vocals do have some variance in them, but they all follow a chanting style and sound like a group of monks singing along with the beautiful guitar and occasional violin. There really isn't a lot of variety between the songs, but some of them are heartbreakingly beautiful. It would be hard to go through each track and break them down because every description would pretty much say about the same thing. But, strangely enough, this never gets boring because the arrangements are diverse enough to keep one's interest, and the album only lasts 35 minutes, so it doesn't really wear out it's welcome. Most of the tracks stay quite short, with only 3 going over 3 minutes (just barely except for the last track which goes for 6 minutes).

These are mostly quite lovely tunes if you don't mind the chanting part. My wife tells me that I must be going Catholic when I listen to this, so that gives you an idea of how authentic it sounds. But it is still quite an enjoyable album, and if you are listening to the discography in order, then it's a nice break between the two loud albums that come before and after this one. My preferred play list from these three albums would be to intersperse them sort of randomly to give it a little more variety.

So, it's pretty good and I can easily bump it up from 3.5 stars to round it off to 4. A little more variety would have been good, but may have sounded out of place, so there ya go.

By the way, lovers of folk music would probably enjoy this album too.

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 The Norwegian National Opera by ULVER album cover DVD/Video, 2011
4.56 | 27 ratings

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The Norwegian National Opera
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by progadicto

4 stars If there is an experimental and innovative band nowadays, that's Ulver and this live album is such a great example of their talent to make extraordinary atmospheres and dark but even proggy compositions.

This concert at the Norwegian National Opera presents some of the greatest titles of the band between 1998 and 2011, including tracks from delightful albums from latest 90 such as Perdition City, Svidd Neger and William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; from their latest and equaly amazing producutions: Blood Inside, Shadows of the Sun and War of Roses, along with some tracks that you'll find into EP's like A Quick Fix of Melancholy or Silence Teaches You How to Speak, among others.

The concert catches you from the first minutes with a dark musical ambiance that shows some sort of acted but cruel execution by hanging. After that, Ulver displays a lot of video material to give their music a kind of visual context that fits perfectly almost any song, turning the National Opera into a phantasmagoric scenario fullfilled with dark and impressive atmospheres.

The concert is a materpiece from the beginning to the end but if I got to pick some highlights I recommend to you listen (and see) very carefully what I call the "Blood Inside Suite", the two songs extracted from Perdition City and Like Music and Not Saved at the end of the album. With no hesitation, 4 great stars...

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 Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.99 | 111 ratings

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Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars ULVER (Norwegian for 'wolves') has become one of the strangest and most eclectic bands in the universe over their two decade span of releasing albums and that uniqueness begins right here on their debut release BERGTATT - ET EEVENTYR I 5 CAPITLER (Spellbound - A Fairy Tale In 5 Chapters). The first thing you hear is a fast drum roll and then kicks in black metal riffing but what really grabs your attention is the Gregorian chant vocals that accompany it. Eventually the clean vocals give way to the expected raspy shrieks and screams more typical of the second wave but the interplay between the two styles is the basis of this entire album which was inspired by Scandinavian folktales. What's really going on here is two distinct styles of the album taking place. One is in an aggressive black metal style and the other is in an acoustic folk style with the monk-like chanting. These two styles usually trade off with each other but often they coincide with one taking the lead role at any given moment.

The album is actually considered part of the "Black Metal Trilogy"even though the second album lacks the metal part of the equation. In addition to the fusion of styles, ULVER set themselves apart from other black metal bands of the day by focusing their lyrics around myths and fantastical worlds instead of anti-Christianity, national pride or other hateful themes. The folk sections consist of beautiful classical acoustic guitar, cello and flute. The black metal parts pack in all the aggressive fury one would hope for but what really works is how well it is all mixed together and all the trading off of sounds is perfect. Before you know it the album goes by way too fast. A very unique album that obviously influenced later acts such as Agalloch and Deathspell Omega. Despite being lumped into the black metal universe it is clear from one listen to this beautiful beast that ULVER were on their own trajectory and it's one that i'm glad I have finally latched on to. 4.5 rounded up!

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 Sunn O))) & Ulver: Terrestrials by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.53 | 20 ratings

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

Review by Guldbamsen
Prog Reviewer Retired Admin

4 stars Terrestrials

The first time i listened to this album really made a lasting impression on me. I was watching the tv series 'The Pacific' with all it's blood and guts - thinking of past lives as a soldier in numerous wars with swords swinging and guns ablazing......then the commercials came on to ruin my ficticious daydreaming. Buy something!.....and forget about the war! I got mad and frustrated - looked at the coffeetable in front of me, where this beautiful cover art seemed like it was smiling at me. Ahh to hell with it and on the stereo I threw it - after all I had about 7 minutes of wallpaper time to spend, so why not spin what, at the time, was the most anticipated release of the year for yours truly.

Well the 7 minutes came and went and by the time the granades had started to fly in a sea of bullits and young men with fear in their eyes, I still couldn't quite get myself to turn it off and return to the war. Instead I turned the volume way up and kept the tv on mute. Something magical happened. The slow almost oozing nature of the music complemented the images of humanity being trambled under foot. The first track 'Let There Be Light' felt like an ode to humanity. The eerie viola creeping and crawling on it's belly seemed to mimic the wounded American soldier slithering through the bloodstained grasses - just as the feedback of Sunn O)))s guitars very similarly interjected an enigmatic sense of fear into the music. By the time the trumpet emerged like a soft beam of light I felt bruised and old - like an old stone. That trumpet though saved me from the terror by breathing light into the piece. From these dark cauldrons of drones and grainy unsubstantial flutters there was suddenly music, by the flick of the switch, and then it grew exponentially in size and gusto culminating in this beautiful catharthic release with the drums rolling by like a series of rhythmic waves, or subdued thunder. The feel is raw and earthy like brown dirt, and it works wonders together with the incomprehensible nature of the surrounding instruments.

By this time I was very close to a mental breakdown or some kind of grim spiritual orgasm - either way I was seriously contemplating turning either the tv or music off.......but I didn't. The following track 'Western Horn' stopped me dead in my tracks with it's yearning trumpet cry. The battle up on the screen had stopped and grey smoke, broken bodies and a sense of detachment filled the screen as if to underline the horrific silence that always follows the bang. The music was perfect. It captured everything about the scene which can never be expressed in words.

Finishing off this journey, 'Eternal Return' acted like an epilogue to all this madness. The stoic yet lonesome voice of Kristoffer Rygg joins in for the first time, and it couldn't have waited for a more perfect moment than this, where frail hapsichord and those ominous and highly vibrant guitar noises of Sunn O))) really come to the fore. Bookends the album like a day of snow in late August.

This is not an easy album to get into by any stretch of the imagination. I gather I was lucky with my first encounter. I saw the record's 'intentions' instantly - and no it was probably not meant as a dramatic backdraft to a cinematic W.W.ll battle, but the feel of the thing - the stuff between the lines - the mental state you have to be in when approaching Terrestrials - that I got from day one no less.

I keep returning to this record - sometimes it's like witnessing an ancient sun ceremony from the feet of a Mayan pyramid, other times I go back to the war....but each and every time I listen to it I get an experience out of the norm. Terrestrials promises you something earthy just through it's title yet what it delivers zooms right out of the soil and tattooes itself in your head....at least it did in me.

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 Childhood's End by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.18 | 55 ratings

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Childhood's End
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

3 stars With Ulver's back catalog of albums and them being the non-specific genre wizards, you would think they would be able to make amazing translations of psychedelic covers from the 60s right? Well, it definitely sounds like it should work.

Being a huge fan of Ulver, I always suggest this band whenever someone asks me for something new and different. There is always a Ulver album for pretty much any taste in progressive rock. When I heard they were doing an album full of psychedelic covers, I thought it was going to be amazing. I hate to admit that I was somewhat disappointed in this album though. All of the songs get the Ulver treatment in that they keep their psychedelic sound, but there is something not right about the production or the sound. The vocals for the most part are emotionless and there is a definite lack of dynamics here, usually something that Ulver has been good at. There are a few tracks that stand out well here like "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night", "Bracelet of Fingers" with it's spooky evil sound, "Dark is the Bark" has a nice instrumental section with a heavy use of synthesized strings, "Velvet Sunsets" and "I Can See the Light" both have some lush and beautiful sounding harmonics which are very original and progressive, and a few others, but there isn't much that stands out here. If there had been a little more emphasis on a specific instrument here or there, it might have made a big difference. As it is, the vocals and instruments all seem to be mixed at the same level with no highlight anywhere in the mix. This kind of gives the music it's psychedelic sound it's true, but it also makes the covers sound rather same-ey throughout. I can't help but with there was a little more variety in the sound.

But, it's still a decent album nevertheless. Just nothing amazing or outstanding like I have come to expect from all of their other albums. I'll come back to it, it's not like it is an album that will be shelved forever. But it's also one that I won't get really excited over either. It might be a good album to get the younger listeners started in exploring Ulver's music or in 60s psychedelic music, but I can't really see much more value to it than that. I guess it's a labor of love mostly for the band, but I wish it had more dynamic and variation to it.

I have to consider this one good, but non-essential. It's not a complete write off but it's nothing outstanding either. 3 stars.

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 Blood Inside by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.83 | 129 ratings

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Blood Inside
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars In this album, Ulver explores sounds, moods, soundscapes, electric and acoustic sounds, original and non-original loops and samples, and traditional composition. Sometimes they do it all at the same time. This creates an amazing sound that is very original. This is prog rock at it's best especially among the sub-genres of Post Rock and even RIO. There is a heavy use of keyboards, both electronic and acoustic and a lot of interplay of dissonance and melodious hooks throughout. If you were to compare this to anything, it would be like a mellow version of The Mars Volta where you can hear a lot going on, but the various sounds, melodies and etc are easier to pick out. There is a similarity to Kayo Dot also especially in the timbre of the vocal delivery and the difficult-to- understand lyrics. I find the instrumentals are easier to follow than they are for Kayo Dot however. Vocals are very mysterious, brooding and dark, but at times they even approach pop sounding vocals, but in a very warped way in that no melodies are easily picked out of the individual tracks.

There is a theme going on in this wonderful cacophony of sound. According to the Garm, the key words that describe the music that is going on here are heart, blood, red, rose, beauty, violence, body, life, death, ambulance, hospital and so forth. It is psychedelic, progressive, sad and sanctified. It is beautiful, strange, experimental. The subject matter deals with birth, death and the suffering in between. There is such an amazing balance of old and new with this album, in the instruments, in the vocals and samples. Sometimes you hear singing that sounds like something from antiquity, other times it sounds very modern, almost like a warped Alan Parsons. You get tastes of electronica at times and at others you get classical elements, even a section from Bach at the end of the amazing song "It Is Not Sound". As far as the vocals; it's almost like the vocals are trying to be optimistic but the lyrics and the melodies keep preventing that from happening. That's the best way I can explain it. You have to listen close, this is not music you can appreciate by just having it play in the background, you have to dig into it.

There is no doubt that this is not for everyone. But that shouldn't keep the serious prog listener from trying it out and really giving it a chance. Listen to it closely though before passing judgment. Don't make the mistake of lumping all of the tracks together though, or you will only get the impression that this is just a wall of noise with a lot of unfocused things going on. First listen to each track individually and pick out the elements in each: a little jazz here, a little classical there, a little bit of something else over there. I think this is just genius. I know not everyone will agree, but I love this stuff! Not everyone can pull this off, the combination of old and new and balance it all out so well, though it probably leans toward the strange and dark more than the normal and humorous. In my opinion, this is a masterpiece of post rock and I will rate it as such. 5 stars.

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 Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.99 | 111 ratings

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Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Thus begins the journey. I was intrigued when I first read about Ulver and how their style is so varied. I just had to explore this band and (for the most part) I have done a thorough job of it. Now, just because their first album turned out to be considered Black Metal, is it really fair to label them as a Black Metal band that has "sold out"? Or are they really a innovative band out proving that music should not be limited to labeling? This first official album by Ulver is definitely Black Metal and considered by many to be one of the best ever. I don't know if I can judge it as being the best since I am not an expert in black or technical metal and am limited somewhat to my knowledge of Progressive Metal, but I do know that this album has an amazing amount of ingenuity and beauty in amongst the noise and discord that is prevalent here. After hearing most of their discography, I would consider Ulver one of the best all around groups ever, because everything I have heard from them is quality material in some form. This album is no exception. Now it might be hard for those who do not like black metal to appreciate this on the first several listens, and I do admit it was hard for me to appreciate it for a while. But listening to this album from time to time has brought out the genius of the music that is here. This album is full of surprises throughout, chanting, growling, clean vocals, folk acoustic and a lot of black metal mayhem. It's all here. This album and this band definitely deserves a place in the Prog Archives without a doubt. They are unpredictable and in most cases, masters of each genre of music they tackle. The one thing that seems to be consistent throughout their discography is darkness, their music is dark and is always dark. It doesn't pretend to be anything else. Opeth, Amathema, and Agollach are all band that I also love and that have also explored many facets of different genres, but not even close to the extent that Ulver has. Those other great bands mostly stay in the realms of variations of customary rock, but no one has ventured as far and as successfully as Ulver. Electronica, jazz, folk, movie soundtracks, poetry/literature, spoken word, ambience, and yes even silence have been explored by this band and always done well. I recommend this album, but then I do recommend that all prog-heads become familiar with all of their discography. You will be surprised many times on your journey. I guarantee it.

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 Sunn O))) & Ulver: Terrestrials by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.53 | 20 ratings

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

Review by frippism
Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

3 stars Deemed by many as the absolute most anticipated semi-pretentious hipster metal album of the year, the collaboration between Norwegian weirdo ambient former metal-heads Ulver, with the ever most terrifying wall of noise that is the drone metal guitar duo Sunn O))), even I was joining the hype. These two bands are practical celebrities of the underground music world, who have inspired and intrigued the world of modern experimental/underground music. I was finally convinced to go ahead and pre-order the thing when I saw its beautiful artwork. "A portrait of our sun, captured in the wavelength of hydrogen alpha light"- sure, whatever dude. But the cover just sucks you right in, and more or less encapsulates the general feel of the album- an eerie, mysterious, though pulsing and violent ambient live improvisation made by two very progressive bands (one of them, sadly, not on this site).

To describe the sound would be a bit difficult. Undoubtedly it attains the subtlety and aurora- like beauty of the later Ulver albums- strong in its ambient colors and its warm melancholic sounds. The great thing about Sunn's presence in the album are the underlying tones they give, the strong guitar feedback which quietly reverberates throughout most of the album. You feel Sunn's presence to be more than cosmetic only after a few listens to the album, but in reality they are responsible for giving out most of the atmosphere here. They do their part and they do it well, often sounding like they are standing away in the not-too-far horizon, dishing out their absolutely brutal walls of distortion in an utmost gentle way. The more traditional sounding instruments do the trick, adding more beautiful textures to the album and giving you something more material to hold on to and to focus on.

The first track- "Let There Be Light" is probably my favorite. The slow build up is beautiful, and the trumpet that comes in really carries this track through all the way to the epic drums that come in towards the end of the track, which are heavy and primitive sounding and take the track to a very satisfying finish. "Western Horn" continues with the... horns, for the most part serving up for a very pleasant listen but it does outstay its welcome a bit. "Eternal Return" also builds up nicely, and ends at the only part with vocals on the album, with Kristoffer Rygg dishing out his instantly recognizable voice. It's a really holy moment when he sings, with a simple yet effective chord progression. The song mellows out slowly, with bits of harpsichord and other weird sounds swimming about before the song sinks to silence.

Overall the Sunn O))) & Ulver collaboration could've been better, longer, somewhat more groundbreaking, but the bands still manage to make a very strong ambient album with positive profound contributions from both bands. It is always a fun listen, with bits that are truly awe-inspiring and beautiful. A good listen for any fans of the band, or anyone who has meaning to try them out. 3.5 I'd say

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 Ulver With Tromsø Chamber Orchestra: Messe I.X - VI.X by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.95 | 92 ratings

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Ulver With Tromsø Chamber Orchestra: Messe I.X - VI.X
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Messe I.X-VI.X' - Ulver (8/10)

I can't think of another band that has so constantly and successfully reinnovated themselves as have Norway's Ulver. Like a modern day King Crimson, Ulver have never stayed in one spot for too long, always pushing towards uncharted territory even well into their maturity. While I'll always have a soft spot for 1995's Bergtatt, their decision to swerve away from their roots in black metal has given Ulver a much longer-lasting musical relevance than most of the bands from the Norwegian Second Wave. No matter where Ulver has travelled with their sound, it's always resulted in something interesting and sincere.

Of course, none of what I've just said should come as any surprise to anyone who has experienced Ulver before. The questions then are: where have they gone with their latest opus Messe I.X-VI.X, and what musical stones are yet unturned? Teaming up with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra, Ulver's latest incarnation is based in minimalist neoclassical music. Slow, brooding and steeped in their unique brand of experimentation, this orchestral approach seems a logical evolution from the band's previous ambient work, particularly the sombre Shadows of the Sun. Messe I.X-VI.X may suffer the pangs of an uneven flow and a few less impressive moments, but its unique marriage of chamber music with dark ambient, electronic and jazz is impressive, and at its best, some of the most sublime material Ulver have ever produced.

Calling Messe I.X-VI.X an 'album' may be improper, as it has more in common with a modern classical work than anything in the popular canon. "As Syrians Pour in, Lebanon Grapples with Ghosts of a Bloody Past" introduces the album with a hauntingly profound soundscape. A hurdy-gurdy carries on a sombre dirge over the crackle of distant gunfire and grim wartime ambiance. Although the exotic atmosphere makes for a slow start to the album, the track ultimately evolves into a more focused modern classical composition. A string section gradually adds layers to a sombre arrangement that immediately recalls Henryk Górecki's "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs". Although first impressions had me yearning for a quicker start to the album, the track is damned near-perfect, both in its composition and execution.

Although Messe seems predominantly inspired by neoclassical composers, it most strongly gives the impression of being the soundtrack for a film that exists only in the listener's mind. "Shri Schneider" and "Glamour Hole (Ostinati)" would be fitting scores for a tense espionage thriller. Blending electronic experimentation with the neoclassical template, Ulver are exploring a fusion of genre I haven't had the pleasure of hearing before. The resulting atmosphere is immense and futuristic. While Ulver may have been influenced by tradition and longheld conventions on Messe, the music is anything but.

In homage to Western classical tradition, Messe I.X-VI.X adopts a liturgical theme, reflected in the work's solemn atmosphere, use of choirs, and minimal, religiously-oriented lyrics. Kristtofer Rygg's voice has remained a constant throughout Ulver's work, and the common utterance of Rygg as one of the most powerful, diverse vocalists out there does not go unfounded. Especially on Shadows of the Sun, his deep, gloomy vocals were profound and emotionally penetrating. Having been a fan of just about every vocal performance I've heard from him, it was all the more surprising and every bit unfortunate that Rygg's vocals seem out of place here on Messe. Although the first half of the album is nearly-perfect in its instrumental ambiance, the vocals on "Son of Man" have never struck me the right way. Maybe it's a result of the lyrics- the religiosity of which feels contrived and minimalistic without being particularly profound- or perhaps I simple became so immersed in the atmosphere of the album that lead vocals of any kind would have hurt my enjoyment. "Mother of Mercy"- the album's other vocal track- fares better both lyrically and musically. Rygg's voice retains its trademark depth and resonance, but the band's neoclassical direction doesn't fit his voice nearly as well as the electronic approach of yesteryear. Although I wouldn't dismiss the possibility that Ulver will find a way to make lead vocals work for this neoclassical style, I'm left with the (possibly) unpopular opinion that Messe I.X-VI.X could have been even better if it had been kept purely instrumental and ambient.

"Noche Oscura Del Alma" is a solid ambient piece, with warped samples of Helen Forrest's "Mad About the Boy" conjuring an impression of the post-apocalypse. Especially compared to the three other instrumental tracks however, it's the weakest offering here and doesn't really work without the two vocal tracks around it. Really, I'm left with two impressions of Messe. While the first half of the album is downright masterful, the second side is disappointing by contrast. The misguided vocals aside, Messe loses its sublime sense of pacing after "Son of Man". To the album's credit though, it would be difficult for any music to follow up the near-perfection heard on the first track and "Shri Schneider". The second half of Messe I.X-VI.X is quite good, but I'm left longing for a more consistently satisfying experience.

The title Messe I.X-VI.X implies the coming of a second installment to comprise the last four movements. If that's true, then I have high hopes for more of Ulver's neoclassical-electronic fusion. While the album does not impress me as much as their best ambient work in Perdition City or the devastating Shadows of the Sun, this next evolution leaves plenty of room for Ulver to create something worthy of awe and wonder.

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 Ulver With Tromsø Chamber Orchestra: Messe I.X - VI.X by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.95 | 92 ratings

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Ulver With Tromsø Chamber Orchestra: Messe I.X - VI.X
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Teaming up with Tromsø Chamber Orchestra, Ulver use the classical backing offered by the orchestra to their advantage in adding weight, power, and gravitas to their post-rock compositions. Ulver have regularly dabbled in orchestral atmospheres ever since they steered away from the black metal of their early albums, with increasing confidence, and here there's a sense that a lot of these experiments dating from their William Blake album onwards are coming to fruition with these stately compositions. The title implies a VII.X-X.X to follow, and if that's the case they've succeeded in exciting and intriguing me. Recommended if you like the idea of a more classical, less electronic take on Ulver's post-rock era.

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Thanks to tony r for the artist addition.

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