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




Post Rock/Math rock

3.84 | 125 ratings

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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars Ulver's 4th full length studio album really pissed off a lot of people, especially lovers of Black Metal. This was their first big step away from that style, though it really shouldn't have been as big of a surprise to anyone. I mean, look at their first 3 albums. The first one was a genius mix of black metal and folk metal, gothic in a way, mostly quite loud, vocals that sounded like harmonized monks and a lot more depth than the typical noise metal. The 2nd album was strictly a dark folk concentrating on the acoustic sound, yes it was dark, and the fans accepted it because of it's organic sound. The 3rd album was a study in harsh noise and was the closest thing to the black metal sound. So it was a surprise at the sudden turn that Ulver took here, it was definitely a much wider leap than they took previously. The band always claimed they were not black metal, and now they were out to prove it.

Kristoffer Garm Rygg (Garm) is the leader of the group, and during the break between "Natten's Madrigal" and "Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", he learned how to utilize computers and electronics to add another dimension to the music. I don't know if he had something to prove about Ulver's music, but he wasn't about to be pinned down to one style of music, and his desire to explore other genres shows that he is truly an artist. This undertaking, to make an album based upon this book, was definitely a daunting one, but he was so affected by the writing of William Blake, the band dove into it completely. What resulted was this shocking turn about that in my opinion is nothing short of a masterpiece.

After listening to Natten's Madrigal, this album will come as a complete shock, and you will think you are hearing another band completely. The music is no longer an inpenetrable wall of noise and growling vocals. All of the vocals on this album are clean, they can be harsh at times, but they are melodic more than anything. Also, four other vocalists were recruited to help out on vocals, both female and male. The styles of music on this album varies extensively, going from ambient to melodic to heavy, but always somewhat complex with passages of avant garde style and industrial metal all through the album. The most shocking thing here though, is the sudden use of electronics in the music. This was probably the hardest thing for fans to swallow. But the use of them in this music is genius.

The album is, of course, a musical interpretation of the poem by William Blake. Together with composer Tore Ylwizaker who Garm invited into the band, Garm developed a plan for the album which ended up going way beyond black metal and incorporating several styles. Sure there are places where the styles clash and the changes are abrupt, but interestingly enough, it all works out. The fact that this music could sound as good as it does is a testament to the genius of Ulver and the huge risk they took to produce a record such as this. It is many times beyond description, or at least hard to describe in just a short review. There are just so many sides to it all, and chances are, there is something here that will attract almost anyone, as long as they can get their head around the material. But there will be passages that will turn many off, so an open mind is definitely needed.

Even then, this isn't for everyone because it is quite complicated and it is also imperfect. But those imperfections all become part of the journey and after some listens, they make sense in the total picture. Because of their willingness to try so many different styles and their varied output, they have become one of my favorite bands. In most every case (there have been a few minor failures), they not only surprise with every album, they do it all so well, jumping from one style to the next. But there is always that dark undertone that comes with their music, something that always makes it sound unique, and you usually know quite quickly who it is you are listening to. Since this was their first major step into unpredictability from one album to the next, it seems right to use this review to discuss this path that the band has chosen. The music is too varied and complicated to try to pick apart and analyze, but the album is worth listening to at least once because of its importance to the band and the compositional complexity of it all. It remains a masterpiece in my opinion and should be something that serious progressive rock lovers should hear.

TCat | 5/5 |


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