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Ulver - Wars of the Roses CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.78 | 179 ratings

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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.

TCat | 5/5 |


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