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Ulver - Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

4.02 | 157 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler' - Ulver (90/100)

What is the definition of a classic? The medium regardless, I'd like to think of a classic as an album that would still turn heads even if it came out today. A lot of people malign the term, usually thinking of a classic as any older, respected album. With black metal in particular, the distinction between timeless and merely influential is blurred in most albums from the Second Wave. A relatively small group of people unleashed a disproportionate number of masterpieces within a few years, and most of them still sound great. But how many of them are genuinely timeless? Burzum's two peak albums come to mind, and so does Ulver's Bergtatt.

I am near-positive that Bergtatt would get people excited if it came out a week from now, let alone in 1995, when Garm and the rest of these legends-to-be were either in their teens, or just barely out of them. how could it be that such young musicians created such a well-realized album? I am not sure, personally; compared to the adolescent lo-fi fuzz of most of their contemporaries, Ulver approached Bergtatt with a distinctly artistic ambition that went against the Second Wave iconoclasts. Nordic folk and even echoes of progressive rock found their way into the Bergtatt formula. Add to that the virtually blasphemous trait of relying largely on clean vocals, and Ulver's debut still sounds like a monolith unto itself.

Even if the album's sound is familiar in the wake of Agalloch and others that found their own success with the template, I'm not sure how many bands have ever come close to nailing it as well as Ulver. No time is wasted getting things started with "Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild"; a drum fill takes the album into full swing with a simple but evocative riff. Compared to most albums of the time, Bergtatt has a feeling of being very relaxed for the most part as black metal goes. The guitar parts sound like they were carefully crafted to make the most with the least, and even the drums sound transcend aggression. Garm's voice sounds quite a bit more adolescent than the deep croon of later albums, but even then, he makes full use of what he's got, often sounding like the soloist of some monastic choir. A relevant bass presence and near-perfect production gives the album an incredible warmth. Despite its relative brevity (clocking in shortly over half an hour) Ulver cover a pretty wide dynamic range. The times Bergtatt dives into full-force black metal aggression (such as "Capitel III: Graablick Blev Hun Vaer") are pretty scarce amid the folk interruptions and reserved melancholy. Even at their heaviest and most conventional, Ulver manage to excel. The dynamic keeps every gear-shift sounding fresh in a way less nuanced artists fell damnably short of.

The strange and even frustrating thing about Ulver is the way they've continued to evolve. No matter how enticing a new sound may be, they've always kept moving onward. With the next album following Bergtatt, they'd capitalize purely on their dark folk threads; on Nattens Madrigal after that, they went for a much more traditional black metal style. Nonetheless, Bergtatt has inspired many followers since, and for good reason. The album sounds rich and entrancing in a way few other Second Wave masterworks can dare to compete with.

Conor Fynes | 5/5 |


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