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ULVER

Post Rock/Math rock • Norway


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Ulver picture
Ulver biography
Founded in Oslo, Norway in 1993

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.

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.

Photo by Kerry O'Sullivan (2009)

See also:
-Arcturus
-Borknagar

ULVER Videos (YouTube and more)


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Buy ULVER Music


BergtattBergtatt
INDIE RECORDINGS N.A. 2019
$16.98
KveldssangerKveldssanger
Head Not Found 2019
$16.98
Norwegian National OperaNorwegian National Opera
KSCOPE 2017
$25.85
$31.38 (used)
Childhood's EndChildhood's End
KSCOPE 2018
$25.12
$30.80 (used)
The Assassination Of Julius CaesarThe Assassination Of Julius Caesar
House of Mythology 2018
$23.46
$26.98 (used)
Sic Transit Gloria MundiSic Transit Gloria Mundi
EP
House of Mythology 2018
$8.25
$8.38 (used)
Messe ( Lp Gatefold )Messe ( Lp Gatefold )
KSCOPE 2013
$18.49
$25.95 (used)
Perdition CityPerdition City
MSI:JESTER RECORDINGS 2006
$18.89
$29.99 (used)
Wars Of The Roses (CD)Wars Of The Roses (CD)
KSCOPE 2017
$7.86
$9.26 (used)
AtgclvlsscapAtgclvlsscap
House of Mythology 2018
$13.62
$7.99 (used)
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Schattenthron ?- Der Alte Thron, Siechend Im Schatten CD(ltd.500)- Ulver -Drudkh USD $7.00 [0 bids]
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Wars of the Roses by Ulver (CD, 2011, Kscope) Prog/Black Metal/Electronic  USD $5.00 Buy It Now 2 days
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Infernö - Utter Hell Orig Promo CD 96 / Aura Noir, Mayhem, Beyond Dawn, Ulver USD $15.00 [0 bids]
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My Own Wolf - A New Approach To ULVER Tribute DIGI 2CD NEW & SEALED! USD $17.89 Buy It Now 4 days
ULVER Perdition City / 2000 / MC CASSETTE BORKNAGAR, TAAKE, AGALLOCH, KVIST USD $26.99 Buy It Now 4 days

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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)

4.03 | 149 ratings
Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler
1994
3.55 | 99 ratings
Kveldssanger
1996
3.09 | 101 ratings
Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden
1997
3.77 | 109 ratings
Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell
1998
3.93 | 190 ratings
Perdition City - Music To An Interior Film
2000
3.74 | 65 ratings
Lyckantropen Themes (OST)
2002
3.25 | 61 ratings
Svidd Neger (OST)
2003
3.83 | 156 ratings
Blood Inside
2005
4.06 | 250 ratings
Shadows Of The Sun
2007
3.88 | 157 ratings
Wars Of The Roses
2011
3.49 | 70 ratings
Childhood's End - Lost & Found From The Age Of Aquarius
2012
4.04 | 141 ratings
Ulver & Tromsø Chamber Orchestra: Messe I.X - VI.X
2013
3.45 | 45 ratings
Ulver & Sunn O))) : Terrestrials
2014
3.18 | 11 ratings
Riverhead (OST)
2016
3.81 | 81 ratings
The Assassination Of Julius Caesar
2017

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

3.33 | 12 ratings
Live at Roadburn
2013
4.62 | 15 ratings
The Norwegian National Opera
2013
4.06 | 42 ratings
ATGCLVLSSCAP
2016

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

4.42 | 36 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 | 30 ratings
Teachings in Silence
2002
2.88 | 7 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
2.49 | 25 ratings
Metamorphosis
1999
3.08 | 21 ratings
Silence Teaches You How to Sing
2001
3.17 | 21 ratings
Silencing the Singing
2001
3.81 | 38 ratings
A Quick Fix Of Melancholy EP
2003
2.33 | 3 ratings
Roadburn EP
2012
3.22 | 9 ratings
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
2017

ULVER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 1993-2003: 1st Decade In The Machines by ULVER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2003
2.88 | 7 ratings

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1993-2003: 1st Decade In The Machines
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This compilation album, which is really a remix album, was released as recognition to Ulver for their first decade of music. The remixes here were carefully done by artists selected by Ulver, and are all glitch, noise and ambient artists, plus one new Ulver track. The sound is quite similar to the minimalist approach that Ulver was taking at the time with their music. The remixes take small snippets of past Ulver tracks and turn them into something new, but, for the most part, don't expect to recognize the originals, because these tracks have been changed up into completely new tracks by the remix artists. Most of the tracks are based on source material from 'Perdition City' and the 3 EPs that came out around the same time. But there is also source material from the 'William Blake' album, 'Lyckantropen Themes' and 'Nattens Madrigal', but the remixes don't just concentrate on only one track, but incorporate aspects from various tracks within an album. I'm not going to attempt to tell you where the source material comes from on each track, because, quite frankly, it is very hard to determine in most cases. I will try to tell you what to expect though, on a track by track basis.

The album starts out with 'Crack Bug' which is the Ulver original. Starting with some percussive sounds, a moody and dark non-melodic and processed sound plays and this evolves into a sudden loud orchestra of tonal noise. It's interesting, and quite different from where the band was at at the time, because they were experimenting with minimalism and ambience, but this almost the opposite of that.

''A Little Wiser Than the Monkey, Much Wiser Than Seven' (Alexander Rishaug) begins with a high pitched metallic noise/drone with clicks and ticks. Finally, a tonal pattern starts from a synth which establishes a quasi melody, then a rough, industrial guitar sound begins and it seems to pulsate more than strum. The glitchy quality that surrounds the otherwise constant sound gives it an interesting personality. Suddenly the sound stops and things turn more ambient. The heavy sound returns later, but a bit more subdued, but it soon expands into a noise drone. This again diminishes before the end.

'Track Slow Snow' (Information) starts ambient with fluttering clicks and staccato percussive noises. Manipulated tones try to break through and this established a pattern a found and lost again quasi-melody. For a while it goes quite minimal before a processed bass begins to bring it back again. The manipulated pattern recommences. This is very cool sounding and has a slight funk/jazz feel to it even while being mostly minimalistic.

'Lycantropen Remix' (The Third Eye Foundation) utilizes processed snippets of the theme from the soundtrack surrounded by clicks, pops, and processed bell-like sounds. This is probably the most melodic of the tracks thus far, but even then, it is quite sporadic sounding. Later, swirling sythns and guitars give an almost dreamy, dronelike quality that stays in the background.

'Lost in Moments (Remix)' (Upland) has a drone in the background, some various noises like whispered voices, and some percussive glitching. The drone swirls around everything and a drumming pattern lurks subdued in the corner.

'Bog's Basil & Curry Powder Potatoes Recipe' (Bogden Raczynski) has a chip-glitch melody and style that sounds like a humorous video game soundtrack of sorts. It's a nice light-hearted track among a lot of dark and brooding ones. The frantic 1st half gives way to a more laid back 2nd half.

'Der Alte' (Martin Horntveth) starts with German dialogue, possibly from a movie maybe (?) while a string-like melody plays in the background. A soft percussion pattern starts when the dialogue stops and the melody continues. The spoken word starts again, and then suddenly everything else breaks down except for a minimal synth sound and the dialogue continues. Soon the strings come back and establish the melody again.

'He Said ' She Said' (Neotropic) is quite ambient with various noises for the first 2 minutes, then a sudden loud and heavy processed riff takes over with a steady rhythm. At 3:30, it breaks down to atmospheric sounds and a static style drone with occasional percussion. After a minute, the heavy riff and rhythm returns. There seems to be a heavily processed voice trying to sing out, but it stays muffled. The last minute returns to ambient sounds.

'I Love You, But I Prefer Trondheim, Pts. 1 ' 4' (A. Wiltzie vs. Stars of the Lid) begins with a nice, processed yet full orchestral sound, with an introduction that sounds quite familiar. After 3 minutes, this is replaced by a beautiful piano/electronic passage that moves along slowly. After a few minutes, there are some slight orchestral swells and the keyboards fade as the swells become a dynamic drone that ebbs and flows. Soon, a shimmering sound accompanies the loud to soft wave-like pattern. Definitely a stand-out track at over 10 minutes of beauty.

'Only the Poor Have to Travel' (Fennesz) is a mix of glitchy sounds with occasional keyboard snippets and atmospheric sounds traveling from one speaker to the other. It's a good one to hear with headphones and has a nice apocalyptic or otherworldly atmosphere to it.

'Ulvrmxsw5' (Pita) is the first of the last 4 tracks which are all noise oriented tracks. This one is more of a organized noise track that breaks up the source material into a virtual sound collage. All of this is under-layered by a somewhat high-pitched drone. All of the snippets seem to be sucked into the vortex of the drone becoming part of it, layer upon layer.

'Wolf Rotorvator' (Jazzkammer) is a short, dynamic noise piece that can get rather loud for short bursts. It's like 'Nattens Madrigal' was put into a blender. 'The Decent of Men' (VM) seems like a continuation of the previous track, with more noise and less dynamics. Once again, it is rather short and is probably a great track for those that like the sound of a vacuum cleaner on the fritz.

'Vow Me Ibrzu' (Merzbow) is another 10 minute track. It starts out with a repeating musical pattern that sounds like all of the sound has been flattened. It's not long before a huge layer of noisiness comes in. Among the noise drone, you can hear shadows of mostly unintelligible Ulver tracks, all mixed together. This finally stops after 4 minutes and it turns into a more minimal sound of repeating patterns but quite subdued and much fewer this time. At 6 minutes, you can hear a familiar section from one of Ulver's classics with some female vocals in the background. All of this is mixed somewhat flat, and soon, evil sounding noises come along and eat it all up, and then new repeating riffs and patterns create another noisy drone.

This is an interesting mix of styles. There are only a few places where you can recognize snippets of Ulver music, but it is mostly so processed that it all becomes new. I like most of it, but some of it can drag on a little long, and I get tired of the noise tracks quite quickly. Except for a few tracks, I would consider the Ulver original tracks much better. It is interesting to hear what you can do with recycled music, but I would put on an Ulver album over this anyday. There are some nice tracks and passages throughout though, so I believe everything evens out into a 3 star collection/collaboration.

 The Norwegian National Opera by ULVER album cover Live, 2013
4.62 | 15 ratings

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The Norwegian National Opera
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Wow! What a show! What a concert! The band (with the help of some stellar all-stars like Christian Fennesz and Thomas Pettersen) brings out the best in each song from the span of a long career of diverse musical sounds and styles and fuses it all into one seemless show. The visuals on display on the above-stage film screen couples well with the extraordinary lighting. I love the editing throughout though perhaps more time could have been spent on Garm while he's singing his powerful and heart-felt vocals and less on rather routine and unsurprising keyboard manipulations.

Each time I play this disc I end up watching the whole thing because I get sucked into feeling as if I'm right there in the audience. Favorites include virtually everything though this version of one of the greatest songs ever written, "EOS" from "Shadows of the Sun," tops even the wonderful original. "Little Bird," "A Memorable Fancy," and "Not Saved" are striking, memorable, and sublime.

This is a concert that I would have loved to have been present for but am so glad the DVD exists. Highly recommended.

 Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.09 | 101 ratings

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Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by sgtpepper

2 stars Originally, I wanted to give it a harsh one star but after several listens, there is a certain music quality in this - bleak motives, a beautiful acoustic (and only one) passage in the first song.

The albums suffers from being a parody and most importantly - from having a terrible sound - you actually only hear a voice, a guitar and a few drums.

Thankfully, Ulver abandonen this low quality output after this album and improved the sound. For a conventional black metal fan, this is at least an average album, for a progressive fan it is an antonym of progressive music, therefore 2 stars only.

 Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.03 | 149 ratings

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

Review by sgtpepper

5 stars Ulver starts young and already ambitious! Looking for a black metal album that will inspire you to listen to other music styles such as beautiful acoustic music, folk traditions and progressive rock landscapes? Do you want to experience the melancholic winter in the northern Norway while sitting in your armchair at home without having to open your eyes? Then you are the right place!

Bergtatt serves as a phenomenal standout album praised by almost all fan circles - black metal purists, progressive metal/rock open minds, Viking metal fans. The album is well balanced with its soft passages and brutal raw black metal blasts. The music is not very complex but compositionally remarkable and shows that the young lads have listened to something before recording this.

The restrained mood starts with the melodic first song. Worth mentioning are good vocal harmonies and Opeth-like riffing in the second part.

A short beautiful Genesis-like intro produced by flute and acoustic guitar follows and then we're thrown into shrieks and crueless blasts with interesting vocal lines in the background.

The third track "Braablick Blev Hun Vaer" also has a short acoustic intro before exploding into a simple black metal pattern but the menacing chords after a minute have a deep effect and don't get scared by a thunder! ;-) The beautiful pattern that displays a human being walking in a snow, became a popular pattern for the Viking metal bands - here it is accompanied by a classical piano that does not suit the overall concept though. The chord structure that follows is less menacing than in the previous part.

The next song predates the future music orientation on the second album - vocals supported by minimalist guitars. Female support adds to the colour.

The last epic track "Bergtatt-Ind I Fjeldkamrene" features beautiful soft acoustic solo that must have been heard by Mikael Akerfeldt before "Morningrise". The chords are dark and if I can hear well, there are even brass instruments used to a great supporting effect. The storm lasts for a few minutes before the acoustic outro with nature's sound closes this masterpiece.

Even though this album won't be liked by a conventional proghead, I have to attribute it 5 stars as a masterpiece of progressive black metal. There only four similar good releases to my knowledge - one album each by Borknagar, Enslaved and Agalloch.

 Vargnatt by ULVER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1993
2.06 | 21 ratings

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Vargnatt
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 'Vargnatt' is Ulver's 6-song demo recording, recorded in 1993 during the Norwegian black metal explosion. The demo was released originally with only 200 copies, but has later been remastered and released in 2003 because of the increased interest in Ulver's music. This demo shows Ulver in their rawness, before they began their exploration into almost every type of progressive music. Even the remaster is not very clean or polished.

What the remaster does do is help brings out some of the interesting sounds that were buried in the terrible original recording. Vocals are dirty, as to be expected, and there are times when vocals are sung in a high pitch, and they sound just plain awful.

The first track 'Her Begynner Mine Arr' is all heavy black metal with a few riffs that wander off on their own that actually show a slight penchant for exploration even in those early days. 'Tragediens Trone' starts out interestingly enough and not quite as loud, but that is soon lost in the wall of black noise that explodes. Again vocals are screechy when they are high and annoyingly bad when there are a few attempts to make things melodic. Other than that, there is a lot of growling.

'Trollskogen' sounds completely out of place on here because it is a beautiful acoustic solo. You can hear echoes of their 2nd album, which while considered black metal, is actually more dark gothic folk. There are a few whispered vocals, but this track is mostly instrumental and quite nice, at least on the remastered version. The original version sounds like a bad demo, which is what it is. 'Ulverytternes Kamp' starts off pensive enough with a full band and a mix of electric and acoustic guitars. This hints at some ingenuity in the beginning minute, but when those dirty vocals come in, the metal also kicks in and any chance of hearing any more ingenuity is lost. Towards the end at least, you hear some Black Sabbath style riffs.

'Nattens Madrigal' is the name of the 5th track, and would later become the name of their 3rd black metal album, which incidentally has become quite critically acclaimed and many have said it helped set the bar for some of the loudest black metal. After an atmospheric beginning, a sharp guitar crashes in and begins the havoc again. The vocals are more subdued this time, buried under the noise that is until the high pitched singing starts again. The track, even though it shares the name with that 3rd album, is still very low quality, making it hard to pick out any nuances, even on the remaster. The last track is the title track 'Vargnatt'. It starts with a decent drum riff, soon interrupted by a loud guitar riff and more bad vocals.

These tracks, if they were recorded better, actually have some saving grace to them in that Ulver could have made another decent early album out of them. Those that love black metal at it's most raw and intense should love the remaster. But, be warned, that this is worse than any of their first 3 albums by quite a ways, but if you yearn for more of Ulver's style of black metal, this may help. As for me, it's not my cup of tea, and I only listen to it on few occasions when I want to take a trip through the dynamic universe of Ulver's albums. That is the only interest they hold for me as I am always more eager to get to their better albums. I am a big Ulver fan, but I don't see any redeeming qualities to this demo which should only be of interest to black metal fans and collectors.

 Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.77 | 109 ratings

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Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" is the 4th full-length studio album by Norwegian ex experimental metal/rock act Ulver. The album was released through Jester Records in December 1998.

"Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" is a 2 Disc conceptual release and as the title suggests the lyrical theme revolves around the novel "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" by William Blake. The album probably came as a big surprise for most fans of the band when it was originally released. The three albums that preceeded this one are all rooted in black metal and Scandinavian folklore. The acoustic folky second album "Kveldssanger (1995)" probably also came as a big surprise when it was released as the debut album "Bergtatt (1994)" is a black metal album. Mo Most fans still saw Ulver as a black metal act though and when they returned with their third album "Nattens Ma Madrigal (1996)", which also saw a return to the black metal style of the debut (but adding a grimmer more raw sound), that se seemed to hold true. "Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" takes Ulver music in a wh whole new direction though and while they probably lost a few of their most conservative black metal fans they gained new mo more experimental minded music fans with this release.

Ulver's music on "Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" can no longer be called metal. Ther There are sections with distorted guitars but metal it ain't. Instead there's much focus on vocals (both male and female, and quit quite a bit of narration), ambient electronic elements, and a strong emphasis on dark atmosphere. Ambient and atmospheric indu industrial tinged rock/metal could be a valid description. It's an album which is all about atmosphere, and listeners craving riffs and and hard rocking parts should look elsewhere.

"Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" is both well performed and well produced, and to those in interested in dark atmospheric and ambient music, it's quite an interesting and obviously well composed album too. Personally I fi find it lacking memorable moments and it's a bit overlong too. When the band finally break the ambient monotony and play so some louder more rock/metal oriented parts, it's still pretty monotone and just goes on and on an on with little to hold on to. Su Subjective opinions and taste in music aside, it's still obvious that "Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven an and Hell" is a quality release performed by skilled and passionate performers, and therefore a 3.5 star (70%) rating is de deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 The Assassination Of Julius Caesar by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.81 | 81 ratings

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The Assassination Of Julius Caesar
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "The Assassination of Julius Caesar" is another foray into another genre for Ulver. This time, they experiment with, of all things, pop music. From Black Metal to Drone Music to Post Rock to theatrical soundtracks, minimalism and jazz, Ulver has always sounded like professionals at any type of music they delve into. So, now, what about alternative pop music?

"Nemoralia" is quite straightforward. It does sound like Depeche Mode at its lush-est. It is one of the most radio friendly tracks that Ulver has ever done. Yet there is still no doubt that it is Rygg singing those vocals, with his dark and seductive singing.

"Rolling Stone" continues with the updated alternative sound with a straightforward rhythm, but with some great lyrics and an excitingly interesting chorus with some guests backing him up. The synths and the driving bass drive this forward and are very reminiscent of the better side of Depeche Mode, but it is done in a way that doesn't sound like a cheap copy. Definitely catchy and well developed at over nine minutes. The wolf theme from previous Ulver albums also continues on this track. In the 2nd half of the song, things get a little more experimental as a wall of sound starts to build layer upon layer and things end up getting dissonant and chaotic with instruments fighting to get control of the track, from screaming guitars to screeching sax. They just had to remind you that this is still Ulver.

"So Falls the World" again has a mid tempo and basic rhythm. But it's the words and the vocals that are the focus here, as it was on "War of the Roses". On this track, even though the music is straightforward, the melody itself is the thing that is the most non-traditional. There is a sudden change at around the 4 minute mark when the tempo suddenly quickens and you get some interesting textures while keeping things accessible.

This flows into "Southern Gothic" which is a pretty typical sounding alt-pop track, nothing really stands out on this one, but it is short at least.

"Angelus Novus" slows things down quite a bit, and again uses poetic lyrics like in "So Falls the World". This is a surprisingly beautiful ballad-like song, but with enough of a challenge to the melody to keep things interesting. The same thing happens in the next track "Transverberation", except with a faster beat. The melodies in both are not typical, and that is what keeps things interesting.

"1969" is a synth heavy song, again with that unique melodic feel and poetic lyrics with a mostly basic track underneath. What is amazing is how well it all fits together.

The last track is the almost 8 minute "Coming Home". This one sounds like something that could have felt right at home on a Velvet Underground album, with atmospheric synths and both spoken and sung vocals, sometimes at the same time, puts it somewhere between a Lou Reed and a Leonard Cohen register. This one is also experimental enough to have been on the "Blood Inside" album, which also hinted around at popular music at times. This is my favorite track on the album.

There have been many progressive artists that have been able to effectively balance progressiveness and popular music. Artists include Alan Parsons, Yes, Pink Floyd and others. There have been major failures at this also, including Genesis, ELP and ELO. Ulver can now be counted among the artists that have done this effectively with this album. But, don't forget, this is Ulver, and you never know what you will hear next. The thing that makes Ulver unique in their endeavor is that they didn't really have to dumb down their lyrics and songwriting to do so. There is also that darkness that permeates Ulver's music. But, without a doubt, this is the most accessible album Ulver has ever done. And they do it well. Because of the progressive traits that remain in the melodic lines here, this album easily gets a four star rating. It's not their best, but it is progressive pop at its best. It still proves that Ulver can do virtually anything.

 Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.77 | 109 ratings

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Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

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 Grytøy, 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.

 Wars Of The Roses by ULVER album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.88 | 157 ratings

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Wars Of The Roses
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars "War of the Roses" is the 8th full-length studio album in Ulver's discography of ever changing and always surprising endeavors. Where many of their other albums have usually followed a certain style on an individual basis, this one is more of a variety of the styles that they have perfected in the past. One of the things about this band that I love is their ability to try different kinds of styles and stretch them to new limits. Their music is unique, and so is Kristoffer Rygg's vocals.

It starts off with "February MMX" which is quite accessible, but still different enough so that it is still unique. It is upbeat and very catchy. This is contrasted immediately by the next track "Norwegian Gothic" which is the opposite of accessible, very experimental and strange, and very reminiscent of something that could have come off of "Kayo Dot"s album "Blue Lambency Downward". There is a great use of dissonance here.

Next up is the softer sounds of "Providence" which is more minimalistic, but with Kristoffer's expressive vocals accompanied by additional vocals by Atilla Csihar and Siri Stranger. There is a sudden change of mood halfway through when it takes on a more jazz fusion improvised feel with a squealing sax and crazy percussion for an extended instrumental break, then suddenly going back to the soft vocals, piano and violin. The accessible section soon goes to an experimental ambience. This excellent track has many moods and textures yet it sounds coherent and not haphazard as each section gets a chance to develop as the track goes over the 8 minute mark.

"September IV" again is a more mid-tempo and accessible piece, but with Kristoffer using his best mysterious sounding voice. Things get more progressive and chaotic as things continue. "England" is more cinematic and the vocals get more expressive as the song continues. Strange atmospheric sounds under the layers of music keep things eerie.

"Island" has a more minimalistic approach, very airy and soft. The instruments remain more dream-like through this track. Again, the vocals get more expressive as it continues.

The last track is the almost 15 minute track "Stone Angels". The style here is mostly experimental ambient with spoken word vocals. Atmospheric organ, dissonant clarinet and violin, and minimal percussion drive this forward. The feeling is one of a sparse and dark landscape. Percussion in the form of a march, eventually comes in later, while spoken word vocals and ambient music continues.

Throughout the album, even the more accessible tracks have that odd atmosphere about them that let's you know that this music is anything but run-of-the-mill. And with other tracks that dive deeply into ambience, jazz, progressiveness and experimental, you get a beautiful combination of the best possible music. Even though the band is listed as post rock, it is actually more experimental and ambient. The overall feel is minimalism, but that is probably more because of the long, final track because the other tracks explore several styles, with a lot of freedom to expand the boundaries. Ulver continues to be one of my favorite bands because of their unpredictability and their ability to make their exploration of styles authentic. For me, this is another essential album in their discography.

 ATGCLVLSSCAP by ULVER album cover Live, 2016
4.06 | 42 ratings

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ATGCLVLSSCAP
Ulver Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Ulver, of course, is a band that has no specific style, other than art rock, only because that is the closest anyone can come to giving their style of music a name. Never a band to stick with any one single style, the only genre they could fit under is progressive rock. Always unpredictable, yet almost always producing and creating the best music possible. They are probably the most diverse band out there. Yet, not many people know who they are, even with an impressive discography as they have.

The album 'ATGCLVLSSCAP' is no exception. The title is derived from the first letter of the signs of the zodiac. The music on this album is considered 'free form'. All of the music is improvised and recorded live during one of their recent tours. The improvisations are all based on previous songs released by Ulver from various albums. The band collected the best of their free form experiments for the album and in the process, created new songs out of old songs.

The first track is 'England's Hidden' which is very drone like and atmospheric. It is based off of the track 'England' from 'The War of the Roses'. Vocal samples are used and manipulated to create the drone-like feel of the track. 'Glammer Hammer' is more upbeat and more traditional than the last track. It is an improvisation from 'Glamor Box' from 'Messe I.X ' VI.X'. This recording is excellent and dramatic full of strength and extremely dynamic. I have never heard a 'newly realized' song to sound so good, especially improvised. Amazing. 'Moody Stix' is based off of samples of 'Doom Sticks' from 'A Quick Fix of Melancholy'. This is another dramatic and cinematic track. The percussion drives the track which is excellent and so is the overall mood of the piece.

'Cromagnosis' takes it's sweet time to establish itself with atmospheric and psychedelic sounds, but it all culminates eventually in a rhythmic and melodic track eventually. When it does, it feels like coming out of a forest into daylight. It is very krautrock sounding when it settles into it's spacey groove. There is a sudden change at the 6 minute mark, a more frantic beat and bass line take over, almost reminding one of early 'Hawkwind' instrumentals. Everything speeds up during the last minute and then stops like everyone has fallen to the floor exhausted.

'The Spirits That Lend Strength Are Invisible' is a shorter, experimental track. The sounds at the foreground are harsh and metallic, but in the background you can hear a melody playing, but it is mostly drowned out by the noises in the foreground. This one is a spooky sounding track, but is homage to the talent and imagination of the band. 'Om Hanumate Namah' utilizes soundscapes that can remind one of being in the cold arctic, standing at the top of the world listening to the sounds reflecting off of the surface of the Earth and echoing back to you. After 2 minutes, percussion kicks in and there are distant whispered vocals (whispering the title of the track) along with a nice guitar that has a very distinctive mid-Eastern flair. Again, the hints of krautrock become apparent. It grows in intensity as it continues. It might seem repetitive, but that is only if you listen to it on it's surface. Deep down in the mix, there is a lot of activity going on. Only those paying attention will notice.

'Desert Dawn' builds slowly on soft sounds that could actually be sounds of the dawn approaching on the desert. As the volume increases, you start to pick up new sounds and textures. This track is very hypnotic. You could easily get lost in this sound. All of the sounds eventually get lost in the sound of sustained notes from an organ. After it fades some, it comes back very orchestral and majestic. Beautiful! 'D-Day Drone' is a soft drone, possibly created by syths I believe, is layered under a mysterious sounding instrument, something like a processed sitar and guitar feedback, but staying ambient and sparse-like. I swear I can hear voices or singing way down deep inside the drone. Eventually, you will hear voices being transmitted just keep listening closely. 'Gold Beach' is a 5 minute, ambient electronic piece, very pensive and quiet.

'Nowhere (Sweet Sixteen)' is a rearrangement of 'Nowhere/Catastrophe' from the album 'Perdition City'. It is quite a surprise as it is the first track on the album to have lyrics. The vocals are probably the most perfected vocals that Kristoffer Rygg has ever recorded. They are sung at full voice, no whispers or subdued vocals. This is probably the closest thing to a radio friendly track on the album. It even has the majestic flair of some of the best Pink Floyd songs. 'Ecclesiastes (A Vernal Catnip)' is a reimagining of parts of 'Tomorrow Never Comes' also from 'Perdition City'. There are spoken vocals in another language. It is driven by a beautiful piano loop and swirling ambient sounds. Later, Kristoffer sings in English, the lyrics are the words from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. I think that the melody might be improvised, but it is melodic enough that it is hard to tell and could easily be composed, not improvised. The vocals are surprisingly emotional. 'Solaris' is a short 2 minute epilogue to the album. It is a atmospheric piece, with processed effects and sounds. Very peaceful and calming.

This album reveals new things everytime you listen to it. Every new realization and improvisation completely re-writes the source material that it comes from. If there is such a thing as Progressive Remixes, this is it. Everything about this album is new, even if it came from older sources. You can call this hypnotic, psychedelic, art rock, avant-prog, ambient, or whatever and you are right in all cases. The final result of this experment results in a dynamic, ever changing landscape of music that is exciting and new everytime you listen to it. I would go so far as to say this is one of the best Ulver albums in my opinion, and with the range of their discography, that says a lot. There is so much variety here among the tracks, and a surprise at every turn. And there is plenty of variety so that there is something here for everyone. This is an experiement that can be considered a huge success. Ulver continues to surprise and excel at almost everything they do. Their output has not always been perfect, but it has always been intriguing if nothing else, but this one is close enough to perfect to be 5 stars.

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

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