Ulver - Messe I.X - VI.X
Label: Jester Records
Reviewer: Álvaro Rodríguez Ortiz - 2013-09-11
Highlights: Son of a Man, Mother of Mercy
I do think, when you write a review, you need to tear apart your feelings about the band, and focus in the music itself. Sometimes is really easy, because you just “like” one band, but sometimes (like right now), it’s really hard. Talking about your favorite band is always hard, because you tend to love all the music they do, and to talk really excited about them.
Ulver is my favorite band. Period. I’ve never heard anything so different, haunting, special, and yet unique. But let’s talk about a the band a bit. Ulver is a band from Norway, the land of Black Metal. And if you are a bit smart (of course you are, you are reading this in JorZine :P) you know what type of music Norway was exporting in the 80s/90s, Black Metal.
Ulver started as a Black Metal band (in the second wave of Norwegian Black Metal), and to me, they released two of the best Black Metal albums (along with A Blaze In A Northern Sky and Deathcrush) ever: Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler and Kveldssanger. Different from other Black Metal albums, but it has “the Black Metal” core (distorted guitars, blast-beats everywhere, growls, etc), but it was different. You could hear different sounds in Bergtatt, and I guess that drove the band to release Kveldssanger, a really minimalistic acoustic album, with gregorian chants and viking reminiscences.
After that, they released Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden, and the “Black Metal Trilogy” was closed. The circle was closed. And when you finish a period in your life, you are always craving to do something else. Well, Ulver did that, in such a beautiful and perfect way, the Black Metal trilogy was nothing, compared with what came now.
Ulver changed. A LOT. And when I say they changed, I’m not saying they stopped playing Black Metal to play Death Metal. That’s a change, yes, but nothing compared to changing from Black Metal, to Experimental Electronic music. The core of the band (Garm) decided to change their approach. And they released Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. As Wikipedia says: “It is a musical setting of William Blake's book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”. For those who don’t know who is William Blake, I’ll tell you he’s a English poet, writer and painter from the XVI century.
The old fans of Ulver were, dissapointed, or really surprised and excited about Ulver’s new approach. The band stated that this wasn’t just a “experimental album” in their discography, and they were going to keep playing this kind of music. After that album, Ulver has made Trip-Hop mixed with Jazz albums, pure Trip-Hop albums, Dark Electronic ambient music, and everything you can imagine, even pop music (not the kind of pop you are thinking, think twice).
Ulver’s latest album, Wars of the Roses was good. But it wasn’t as “Ulver” as you could expect. It was a really good progressive rock, mix with electronic stuff, but it wasn’t as ambitious as, for example, Shadows of the Sun.
Ulver stated almost a year ago this: Our coming concert commisioned by and composed for Tromsø Kulturhus and the 21 piece Tromsø Chamber Orchestra will take place Friday September 21 2012, twice. The mass is new electronic/symphonic music specifically written for the evening, and it is grave. Again we go to the job with great humility and a dash of horror. The performance will be recorded and form the basis of Ulver's next full-flegded album. Title TBA.
Those expecting rock opera... Think again.
Oh boy, they were soooo right.
Messe I.X–VI.X is the latest Ulver album. And as in every single Ulver album, you need to listen to with new ears. This album is a mix between Classical Music, mix with Avant-Garde electronic sounds and Trip-Hop. Really refreshing, I’m afraid.
The album starts with As Syrians Pour in, Lebanon Grapples with Ghosts of a Bloody Past, which is a soft Classical Music inspired really long intro for the album itself (almost 12 minutes). After that, you can hear really, really, reeeeally dark stuff. The mix between the cellos and the dark ambient atmospheres is addicting and hauting. Don’t expect traditional song structures, or vocals everywhere, this album is more instrumental than anything else, but of course you have Garm’s voice in some songs. His voice, as always, is really low and warm, and, in my opinion, he adds more darkness to the songs, the juxtaposition between the dark melodies and his warm voice makes it even darker.
The “most accesible” song of the album is Son Of A Man, where you can hear Garm’s vocals finally, when the album is almost about to end (it’s a very short album indeed, 6 songs, but as people say, good things come in small packages...)
If you are not afraid of listening to new sounds, and you are really open to anything, then Ulver is made just for you. A piece of advice, I would recomend you to listen to their whole discography in order, from the very early demos, to this album, so you can hear the amazing evolution Ulver has suffered.
By far, and I would be highly surprised if someone releases a better album, Messe is the best album of the year, at least for me.
In the end of their first, and yet only DVD The Norwegian National Opera, they asked us “What kind of animal are you”. I’m a Ulver, a wolf.
If pride is a sin, we are guilty. Forgive us...
Thanks for reading this, and I hope you find Ulver as interesting and unique as I do.