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Ulver Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell album cover
3.84 | 129 ratings | 11 reviews | 28% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

Disc 1 (48:56)
1. The Argument, Plate 2 (4:03)
2. Plate 3 (2:48)
3. Plate 3, Following (1:33)
4. The Voice of the Devil, Plate 4 (2:49)
5. Plates 5-6 (2:31)
6. A Memorable Fancy, Plates 6-7 (4:24)
7. Proverbs of Hell, Plates 7-10 (9:06)
8. Plate 11 (2:01)
9. Intro (3:26)
10. A Memorable Fancy, Plates 12-13 (5:59)
11. Plate 14 (2:08)
12. A Memorable Fancy, Plate 15 (4:51)
13. Plates 16-17 (3:17)

Disc 2 (52:13)
1. A Memorable Fancy, Plates 17-20 (11:23)
2. Intro (2:27)
3. Plates 21-22 (3:11)
4. A Memorable Fancy, Plates 22-24 (4:50)
5. Intro (3:59)
6. A Song of Liberty, Plates 25-27 (26:23)

Total Time 101:09

Line-up / Musicians

- "Garm" (Kristoffer -Trickster- Rygg) / vocals, producer
- Tore Ylwizaker / programming & mixing
- "Haavard" (Håvard Jørgensen) / guitar
- "Skoll" (Hugh Stephen James Mingay) / bass
- "AiwarikiaR" (Erik Olivier Lancelot) / drums

- Stine Grytøyr / vocals
- "Ihsahn" (Vegard Sverre Tveitan) / vocals (2.6)
- "Samoth" (Tomas Thormodsæter Haugen) / vocals (2.6)
- "Fenriz" (Gylve Fenris Nagell) / vocals (2.6)
- Fredrik Falch Johannessen / vinyl scratching

Releases information

Artwork: Lamin Nilsen Chorr with Subtopia

2LP Jester Records ‎- TRICK 001 (2012, Norway) New cover art. Track 2.4 precedes track 2.3 due to an error; also there is no extra 20 minutes of silence at the end of track 2.6

2CD Jester Records ‎- TRICK001 (1998, Norway)

Thanks to ivansfr0st for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ULVER Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell ratings distribution

(129 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(28%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

ULVER Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Trickster F.
5 stars William Blake would be proud!

(if he was into experimental Progressive Industrial Music, that is!)

Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, from this moment referred to as simply The Blake Album in this review, is a vital change within Ulver's sound - one that would permanently expose the 'personality' of the group, and show their restless, endlessly seeking minds that would never be capable of releasing a similar album in their career. Before The Blake Album saw the light, nobody had been able to predict this peculiar and extremely ambitious direction in the group's music. The what I like to call "Heathen Trilogy" - the first three full-length Ulver albums - did not quite represent the broad influences and targets that the group would continue attaining throughout their career.

The most obvious and noticeable thing about The Blake Album (but do not expect it to be any simple) is that the signs of the group's Black Metal tendencies of the past are missing completely, meaning both the feeling of the Norwegian underground and the common traits of the genre are absent. It seems a common sense really, but do not expect an excellent rocking out record when approaching this unconventional piece of work. Abandoning Black Metal and Neo-Classical Folk, wherein the group had immense success prior to this release, they stopped making any particular kind of music and seemingly got lost in the abundance of styles that exist in music and finally began their long, impressive row of uncategorisable album that has not stopped yet. It really is exciting to a progressive music fan to experience all the changes within the group's sound, but what is the unfortunate truth is that this album caused a backlash from many of the group's trendy, mislead audience, who wanted everything in a separate box, conventional, obvious and accessible. Not willing to admit that they are no longer into because Ulver, if even owing to their wondering ideas and pride alone, can not allow themselves to release a dozen of nattenmadrigals to please the wielders of 'the only correct taste and vision of music', as corny as that sounds. This scene found their reason to reject the group's subsequent offerings in the argument of such shallow traits that are applied to music too often, as 'pretentious' and 'trendy lack of originality'. While I do not, in any way, think the former describes any music in a negative way, the latter is as remote from the reality as one can imagine. I have noticed for a long time that certain snobs point out how Ulver presumably cashed on on releasing derivative material from various genres, always stealing from someone and never adding anything new to the table. That is absolutely ridiculous, as the group offers us a great variety of original, imaginative records, exploring grounds unknown to their predecessors and yet remaining true to their own unique way of writing and performing music, that after repeated listens reveals just how similar albums from two opposite ends of music, as Nattens Nadrigal and Perdition City, just for example, are. The Blake Album is not an exception, as the resemblance to such artists as Laibach, Godflesh and others referred to as sources of blatant plagiarism, is light at best.

It is quite the opposite actually, as the group's fourth studio album is one of the finest examples of originality, as well as ambition and substance together, in modern music that I can think of at the moment. Including the entire lyrics to the fascinating work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake, which, not surprisingly, makes it by far the Ulver album with the most lyrics, and incorporating elements from industrial, ambient, rock, trip hop, neo-classical and traditional heavy metal, among others, the collective managed to create an incredibly solid and satisfactory release in The Blake Album. Clocking at more than 1 hour and 40 minutes with the music divided on two discs, it is the longest work the musicians offer us. I must say that I had not been able to get into the album until I decided to read the book and having found it deep and thought-provoking, despite contradicting my personal beliefs, I thought I would give it another go, basically predicting to see them spoil an excellent piece of work. Garm's early work with Arcturus, particularly the lyrics to Aspera Hiems Symfonia, may have suggested some that his approach to things outside of music is very sloppy and superficial, however, the way the ideas of Blake were dealt with breathes sheer excellence, leaving no signs of doubt on whether he was inspired by this work of art so much. His pronunciation and accent, while not completely impeccable, is an aspect that is noticeable in so few cases, that, believe me, you will forget Ulver do not speak English naturally. While I do not particularly agree with some means of expressions used for parts here and there, the most important words are emphasized, clearly showing a great understanding of the work and ability to achieve all the ambitions. Moreover, I really can not see a way to introduce the listener to Blake's work via these genres of music anymore creative than done here.

More importantly, without enjoying the music one can not hope to respect this creation for anything rather than a brave attempt at an interpretation of a genius, and the collective does not disappoint in this area either, as The Blake Album has the traits that are very commonly used to describe some of out favourite music - intelligent, creative, emotional and intense - those adjectives are all exceptionally appropriate when describing this unique sound. The interaction between natural music (sung vocals, guitars, real drums, etc.) and artificial music (distortion, effects, all kinds of electronics and ambiances) make an extraordinary, remarkable mix, where both emotion and atmosphere play a big role. The approaches taken for this long and varied record are many and really impossible to point out in a review. To those who do not normally expose themselves to electronic music, the first, more dynamic and natural side of the disc will appear more accessible, although further listens will reveal the mesmerizing moods of the second disc, which relies more on minimalistic tendencies and vibes. Stine Grytшyr, a female singer, guests on the album, her vocals being an essential part of the first half of the album (she does not participate on the second one at all). I find her voice in both neo-classical and experimental electronic parts to be very suitable for the music and also beautiful. Female vocals is not a standard for Ulver's music, however, it is used very well here. The last track is especially tasty. Although it is supposedly more than 26 minutes long (well, it is), there are 20 minutes of silence, separating about five or so minutes of music in the beginning from a very short (and honestly speaking, quite useless musically) ending. What makes the track interesting are those five minutes. First of all, there are three guests on this track, them being the members of former Ulver scene brothers Emperor and Darkthrone. All of them, if my memory serves me correctly, are known for both passion towards electronic music and a radical, extreme philosophy (which is relatively close to what Blake argues here), so it is nor surprising that they are present here. What is ironic is the happy- sounding black metal riff (!) in the middle, that suggests a final demise from the genre. Indeed, The Blake Album is the last album with elements of rock'n'roll in whatever shape, and only the 2006's comeback Blood Inside would show somewhat a return to the rockish feeling.

On the other hand, this album will be difficult to digest for the people with a general repulsive reaction towards ambience, as there is a much of it on this creation, used in order to fulfil the aim of captivating an appropriate mood. However, even if you find those atmospheric ambient parts to be useless, chances are you will still find the other ways of expression as pleasant as I do! Tremendously overlooked when pinpointing a pinnacle of rock mixed with electronics done progressively, Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell must be listened by all Progressive Fans both for education and enjoyment.

A Must-Have!

Review by OpethGuitarist
4 stars This, ladies and gentlemen, is perhaps the greatest left turn in the history of music.

Those familiar with Ulver's discography before their modern era remember an intriguing black metal band, who even then was far from normal. There was the release of Nattens Madrigal, perhaps the quintessential black metal album. But then, what happened between 1996 and 1998? Ulver took a leap of faith, or maybe even suicide as it might have seen at the time for such a band. Abandoning their sound to create a two-disc concept album, one that even brings questions from the title of the album itself, so vastly different from their Norwegian roots.

Ulver transitioned their sound without any noticeable signs of a transition occurring. Gone were the tremelo riffs, the barrage of drums, and the scathing vocals. Replaced was something that perhaps alienated 99% of their fanbase at the time. Programming was introduced. Multiple singers, including female vocals, lended their effect. With the exception of the guitar soloing in 'Voice of the Devil' almost all guitar work is absent. Elements of elctronica and trip-hop were also introduced. Truthfully, you have an almost entirely different band, with an entirely different sound, one that no stranger would recognize as being the same unless you told them so.

The Blake Album has many peculiarities to it. The first disc is where I would reccommend to start, and it is also my favorite. It shares many tendencies with other progressive bands, but in a modern and unique manner. The second is more exploritory and less polished. Their is a heavy amount of ambience, and what may be seen as noise by some. There are some 'rocking' elements, but they are generally few and far between, as it appears the main objective is mood and message.

This album is one of a kind. This is the exploration of a band into new territory, a heroic effort to find something new. This may not be Ulver's best work, but Garm/Trickster G. certainly has captivated many by his vision. The mere guts it took to pull something off like Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell considering the band's history is truly admirable.

Review by aapatsos
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars What a unique piece of music!!!

I remember reading a review of this album back in 1999, where the author claimed that it's a shame that this album has been released in December, because it will not have the chance to be in the top lists for 1998... and he was so right.

Ulver's early albums represented a mix of black metal with some melodic and experimental parts. I was not so impressed by this music I have to admit... Well, my view of them changed since I listened to this album. I did not know what to expect from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell but the title intrigued me as I had already read William Blake's masterpiece...

The result of Ulver's efforts is a combination of industrial music, ebm with lyrical sessions, dark vocals, and a 'devilish' atmosphere that throws you into the depths of the abyss... The narrators of Blake's lines are all astounding and if you are familiar with the book, you feel that this is the perfect way to transform it into music. The album includes a number of musical genres, from progressive to industrial, and from metal to electronica. All these blended together make a record that cannot be forgotten easily.

As you can understand, it is very hard to describe the album with words, just imagine Blake's TMOHAH narrated with the perfect musical background... I was expecting to hear a metal album when I bought this one, but the result was far from disappointing... Surprise!

Enough said, prepare to delve into the 'depths of hell'... A masterpiece of experimental music!

Review by Prog-jester
1 stars I'm terribly sorry if I'm missing something, but ULVER 's music was always beyond me. When I cam across Perdition City I thought I just didn't get it. Too minimalistic, too electronic, too noisy and loose to be MUSIC in my book. I borrowed some other albums (early Black Metal stuff, which is average in compareness to some other Black Metal bands, and this one), and then gave up. I've no further intention to check their recent album or any other I haven't listened yet. I guess it's just not my kind of Post- Rock, not my kind of music, but seriously I wonder why not to review it. I have my own point of view towards ULVER's stuff, and I want to express it to you all! ULVER is mostly an electronic/ambient experimental noise, and if you don't care for melodies/ emotions/moods/arrangements much, you may check them out. Others - beware!
Review by Warthur
3 stars When some bands move away from the genres they are mainly know for, the transition is gradual, and occurs over the process of several albums. Not so for Ulver, whose break from black metal was sudden and absolutely complete; from this album onwards, they would never look back.

Here, their music havers mainly in a post-rock sort of space, with occasional forays into trip- hop and just enough outbursts of industrial metal guitar to establish that whilst black metal was off the table, metal itself was still part of the palette. Over these instrumentals various vocalists recite portions from the poetry of William Blake. To my ears, it's a rather disjointed affair, with the metal and trip-hop and post-rock sections sat next to each other without sufficient connecting tissue to really make them feel like part of the same composition, and the end result is a bit of a jumble. This might have been OK as a 40 minute album but as a double album it begins to lose my attention.

Review by siLLy puPPy
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.

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)

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Having codified the form of folk/black metal fusions with Bergtatt and recorded what is in all likelihood that most savage black metal album to come out of the '90s this side of Marduk with Nattens madrigal, Ulver seem to have felt they had pushed the form of black metal as far as they could push it ... (read more)

Report this review (#1313053) | Posted by CassandraLeo | Thursday, November 20, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Blood red and bible black Dark, but in contrast to heavy, tribal dark, scary electronic dark, red and dark. Blood red and bible black. Pulsating dark. Coral at times, yet still dark. Ambient at times but with a lot of Industrial disturbance to never make it soft. Allways pressing, pushing, c ... (read more)

Report this review (#609547) | Posted by tamijo | Saturday, January 14, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Despite "William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" is one of my preferite poems by a great english visionary poet,i was very far to imagine that three norwegians could done a musical adaptation like this.I can explain my opinion about in two words.Absurd release.In a better way,this ope ... (read more)

Report this review (#117020) | Posted by Kill Fede | Sunday, April 1, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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