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Ulver - Wars Of The Roses CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.80 | 174 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The best Ulver album in a very long time!

Maybe in 15 years.

Now I say that not being a big fan of electronic music...even the Ulver electronic works I really like, such as "Blood Inside" and "Themes" are not exactly high up on my overall music list. After Ulver's very moving yet boring "Shadows of the Sun" I had no clue what to expect with this album. Hell, can we ever have any clue what to expect with any Ulver album? Well, I finally picked it up and was pleasantly surprised.

I have no clue what to classify this album as. At first I thought maybe post-rock? Perhaps Art Rock is best, or.....dark electroambient? All I do know is this is a challenging and rewarding album. Unlike Ulver's previous album which suffered from a little too much minimalism and being samey, "War o the Roses" is quite textured and progressive. It is subtle of course, but if you take a deep listen you will uncover a world of noises floating around, truly a soundscape. The use of drums on this album is great, it adds a rock feel and gives the album a feeling of movement, instead of just drifting along straight forward. Also adding to the albums movement and power is Daniel O'Sullivan of Guapo on guitar, and a plethora of musicians to fill the environment.

The songs are also varied, starting off with the upbeat and almost poppy "February MMX" and it's a really cool song. Done well and in typical Ulver fashion, it throws a curve ball to catch us off guard. Again, the drums help fuel a powerful climax.

"Norwegian Gothic" is more ambient track that slowly builds. "Providence" is like something out of Godspeed's book. Very good song. "September IV" is actually one of the more accessible songs on the album and my personal favorite. This is countered by the minimalist, synth heavy "England" complete with perfect drumming and atmosphere. "Island" is more experimental, ripe with electronic noises and again is very atmospheric and drifty.

Finally, the big hitter...the 15 minute "Stone Angels" which is the most challenging on the album by far. Largely a spoken word piece, filled with ambient synths filling the background, punctuated by electronic noises, clarinet, bowed guitar, and sparse percussion. It creates a very melodic and beautiful atmosphere that works perfectly with the deep speaking voice, and naturally the whole song is giant crescendo. It builds to a haunting choir with a militaristic sounding drum rhythm, which is the most powerful feeling after sticking with the song. Maybe not the best on the album, but it is the most rewarding.

I've repeated several words here: Atmospheric, building, subtle, powerful and moving. That is the best way to describe this album. On "War of the Roses" Ulver goes back to rock, but mixes it with their electronic work, (don't worry electronics dominate the guitars) and the result is grand. This post/art rock album is not about songs per se, but atmosphere. Every musician involved not showcasing their skill, but each playing their role to create a soundscape. Sonic collages, are more accurate than "songs".

While Shadows in the Sun was a very powerful and moving album it lost me fast, but by adding more instrumentation, especially drums, Garm fuller sounds and the album can really move now. That it does, with grand crescendos, peaks and valleys. Garm's vocals are the final piece, and as always are perfect. Deep, haunting, a little dark, beautiful and always forceful, even when so melodic.

A very atmospheric, ambient, textured and challenging album but the most complete and well composed Ulver has made in a very long time.

Four Stars

JJLehto | 4/5 |


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