Ulver (Norwegian for ?wolves?) is a musical trio from Norway. Since their first, folklore-influenced black metal release entitled Bergtatt - Et eeventyr i 5 capitler (1994), Ulver?s musical style has been fluid and increasingly eclectic, blending genres such as avant-garde rock, trip hop, symphonic and chamber traditions, noise and experimental music, with heavy reliance on electronic recording techniques.
The acclaimed film director Harmony Korine once remarked that ?There's a real lineage from a composer like Wagner to a band like Ulver?.
In 1999 the group declared:
Ulver is obviously not a black metal band and does not wish to be stigmatized as such. We acknowledge the relation of part I & III of the Trilogie (Bergtatt & Nattens Madrigal) to this culture, but stress that these endeavours were written as stepping stones rather than conclusions. We are proud of our former instincts, but wish to liken our association with said genre to that of the snake with Eve. An incentive to further frolic only. If this discourages you in any way, please have the courtesy to refrain from voicing superficial remarks regarding our music and/or personae. We are as unknown to you as we always were.
Black Metal Trilogie
Although Ulver?s first three albums are often called their ?Black Metal Trilogie?, they are quite different in style, with only two of them belonging at all to the black metal genre. The archaic Dano-Norwegian lyrics were inspired by Baroque poets such as Ludvig Holberg and the hymn-writer Thomas Kingo. The themes of the lyrics were greatly influenced by Scandinavian folktales.
The album Bergtatt - Et eeventyr i 5 capitler is placed in the folk-themed black metal genre for its occasionally fast tempo, distorted electric guitars and croaky screaming vocals intermitted with melodious acoustic passages with singing, and for having a fantasy storyline. The title Bergtatt translates as ?taken by the mountains?; in Norwegian folklore the word refers to people who wander off into mountains, lured by trolls or other mythic creatures. The narrative of the album?s lyrics follows a maiden as she becomes so mountain-taken. The subtitle translates as ?A Tale in 5 Chapters?. Bergtatt features a melancholic, fully acoustical song ?Een stemme locker? (?A Voice Beckons?).
Kveldssanger, Ulver?s second album, contrasts with Bergtatt as it uses classical guitars, cello and chamber chants, completely eschewing the metal elements of Bergtatt, while still having a folk theme. Garm has since remarked that Kveldssanger was an ?immature attempt at making a classical album?, later adding that the performance was immature, yet the content is strong when their youth at the time is taken into account.
The third album, Nattens madrigal (?Madrigal of the Night?), saw the band returning to a black metal style similar to Bergtatt. Unlike on Bergtatt, however, the only acoustic instruments appear in a brief interlude in the first track. The album is intentionally underproduced, akin to Darkthrone?s Transilvanian Hunger, with buzzing guitars and rather muffled drums. There are rumors surrounding this album and its recording, the most famous being that the band recorded this album in a forest. A lesser-known rumor is that the band purposely recorded the album on a four-track cassette recorder and used the money that Century Media gave them for other things, like Armani suits, haircuts, cocaine, beer, and/or a new car. When questioned on this matter, Garm only affirmed that the band have expensive tastes.
The Blake album
Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, released in 1998, was different from what Ulver had made before. Tore Ylwizaker, a new composer and sound architect, added to Garm?s expanding artistic visions, and together they stepped over the boundaries of black metal aesthetics, creating a genre-defying work. In this album, the musicians blended electronics, industrial music elements, progressive metal and avant-garde rock, adding ambient passages. Lyrically, the album incorporates the entire text of William Blake?s poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and relies on guest vocals. Despite confounding and perhaps alienating many fans of the band?s first three albums, the album received widespread acclaim from critics within both the rock/metal and alternative music press. For instance, it was reviewed as album of the month in several high-profile magazines such as Terrorizer, Metal Hammer, and Rock Hard. It also ranked very high at many year?s best polls that same year.
Ulver?s next two releases, the EP Metamorphosis and full-length album Perdition City, were even more experimental and pensive than the Blake album. The band moved further away from rock and metal and into a more ethereal style, much like that of Coil. The use of programmed sound and atmospheric arrangement is dominant here, unlike the previous albums. Neo-classical composer and film scorer Craig Armstrong may have been an influence on Ulver as his use of electronics and trip hop beats over strings and pianos is somewhat reminiscent of Ulver?s later works.
Teachings in Silence and soundtracks
The band followed up these two releases with two minimalist/ambient/glitch works Silence Teaches You How to Sing and Silencing the Singing. These works featured minimal melodies and often had subtle, weird and unnatural noises within the song structures. Due to their individual rarity, they were later amalgamated as Teachings in Silence.
Having proved their proficiency at making atmospheric music, Ulver were hired to make music for cinema films like Lyckantropen (see Lyckantropen Themes), Svidd neger (see Svidd neger (soundtrack)), and Uno.
Second decade in the machines
Since 2003, Ulver graduated into a more symphonic style. They released the EP A Quick Fix of Melancholy, which kept the minimalist, sparse styles of their previous albums, albeit adding more dramatic and symphonic elements, with various string sounds and operatic vocal styles.
In July 2004, the band had recorded their sixth album, Blood Inside, which was released on June 6, 2005. Bringing back more traditional rock instruments like guitar and acoustic drums, combining them with classical instruments, brass horns, and their rich electronic inventory.
Ulver later joined the drone band Sunn O))) on a fifteen-minute track which appears on Sunn O)))?s WHITEbox box set, released in July 2006. Additionally, the trio had announced back in 2002 that they had been working on a string remake of Nattens madrigal, but Garm later stated on the message board of his alternative rock band, Head Control System, that the project ?is in a state of total dormancy.?
The band?s seventh album Shadows of the Sun was released on the 1st of October, 2007. Garm described it as ?our most personal record to date.?
On May 30th 2009 Ulver performed live for the first time in 15 years, at Maihaugsalen (part of Maihaugen) in Lillehammer, Norway. The concert was a part of a Literature Festival. The three band members were accompanied by guest musicians: Lars Pedersen (aka When) on drums, Daniel O?Sullivan (from the band Guapo) on guitar and bass, Pamelia Kurstin playing Theremin and Ole Aleksander Halstensg?rd (from Paperboys). Subsequently the only live appearance outside Norway was held at the Brutal Assault Festival in the Czech Republic on Aug 7th. More festival appearances in Norway are announced: ?yafestivalen at Middelalderparken, Oslo (Aug 11th), M?llafestivalen in Gjerstad (Aug 14st) and Pstereo'09 at Marinen, Trondheim (Aug 21st).
All Ulver lyrics
- Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild
- Capitel II: Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Need
- Capitel III: Graablick Blev Hun Vaer
- Capitel IV: Een Stemme Locker
- Capitel V: Bergtatt - Ind I Fjeldkamrene
- Dead City Centres
- Little Blue Bird
- Lost In Moments
- Porn Piece Or The Scars Of Cold Kisses
- We Are The Dead
All lyrics are property of their respective owners and are strictly for non-commercial use only.