Ulver "Wars Of The Roses"

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon ReviewsRating: 0.99/1
Ulver "Wars Of The Roses"
  • Album: Wars Of The Roses
  • Year: 2011
  • Label: Kscope
  • Artist: 
  • Norway

Kristoffer Rygg is an incredible musician, a vocalist and producer that over its  approximately 20 years of activity has managed to both impress and take my surprise an audience extremely diverse when it comes to musical preferences and stylistic perception or innovation. ULVER is an has been a CULT band, one that everybody talks about with admiration and respect. I personally do not know of any other band that can so easily go from Norwegian Black Metal with Folk/Heathen themes and til Noise, Experimental, film music or Trip-Hop influences! I do not know if the 7 existing albums have been of every ones taste, but it is clear that every release has won its new advocates, supporters from ‚’different worlds’ and perhaps only the most conservatory of the Metal heads have slowed things down when it comes to ULVER. But, when we speak of ‚’Garm’(stage name), the entire underground Metal scene takes a bow, due some fabulous albums made under the name ARCTURUS or BORKNAGAR! His collaborations, more or less transient, have made their mark in history: Gehenna, Hagalaz Runedance, Aphrodisiac, Fleurety, Kåre João, Magenta, The Gathering, Emperor, Merzbow, Solefald, Sunn O))), Darkthrone, Solefald, Star Of Ash, Zyklon, Sindrom, Professor Fate, Aethenor,... or with his other project, Head Control System. 

Its not really fair to only mention Kristoffer, as in 1998 Tore Ylvisaker joined him and in 2000 Jorn Henrik Svaeren did too. This trinity has been ‚’remodeled’ not long ago, when another artist joined them officially, coming from the Experimental Rock scene, the famous Daniel O' Sullivan (Guapo, Mothlite, Aethenor, Miasma & the Carousel of Headless Horses, Sun O)))). "We all know that God exists as three persons, but now is the dawn of the triangular pyramid", was what ULVER were declaring at the end of 2009. Their live formula also includes Tomas Pettersen (King Midas) - drums and Ole Alexander Halstensgard - Electronics (Paperboys), so that an ULVER concert can only be a journey of initiation into a hallucinating universe, one that intelligently harmonises with its visual aspects, thus creating a hypnotic atmosphere!


It is difficult to categorise them into a genre as ULVER has its own style: a cosmopolitan form of Dark Music, combined with cu Psychedelic Rock, Progressive, Electronic, Symphonic, Noise, Experimental, Soundtrack, Trip-Hop and even some Pop. . "February MMX", the first track of the new album, confuses through its too rhythmic and commercial Pop Rock manner, where the voices are the only elements specific to the sound and perhaps some unveiling forms of keyboard. Starting with "Norwegian Gothic"everything becomes complicated, strange and grave... violins are made heard, experimental forms that alternates with avantguard-like tones, Noise shadows and sober voices. "Providence" starts with a soft piano and friendly male voices, on a background of violin filled effects and not only, after which, the vocal apparition of the R&B singer Siri Stranger takes front stage, very fragile and atmospheric... towards the end all the instruments explode, some sax come into play as well I think, the musical chaos having a certain savour, reminding me, here and there, of The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. I think that this particular sequence is the most complex and, at the same time, the most representative for ULVERs 8th album.

The sinister atmosphere recedes with the very peaceful and light accords of the track entitled "September IV", o romantic jewel that seems to belong to a different world altogether. Obviously that the calm only last for 2 minutes, the keyboard, the piano and a lot of other instruments that remain completely indecipherable to me, frame once again a tranquilising, hazy and noisy journey. "England" slams down the pedal of that sound conducted by commanding voices, filled with diverse intonations and a simplistic piano, while the atypical percussion's that play no perceivable rhythm make the delight of the musical sequence. Another short track is "Island", but with some Psychedelic influences that remind me of PINK FLOYD – the less commercial version. Again, the vocal ensemble is superbly settling onto a sound staff that is both slow and tangled up. And, after having listened to the first 6 tracks, I can say that for a half an hour I have travelled through a world that lacks shapes, signs or logic... I am as confused as I am pleasantly surprised. The last track, "Stone Angels", is even more poetical, or recited, if you want... we are talking about 15 minutes of somber, sinister atmosphere, where Daniel is sharing something written by the America poet Keith Waldrop, the background carrying different instruments. I would have preferred to listen to other 2-3 tracks than this long narration, but it probably logically sits within the entire concept of the album. I have learnt that the album hosts other artists as well, some more known than others, like Stephen Thrower  (Coil and Cyclobe), Stian Westerhus, Steve Noble and Alex Ward. The material was mixed and produced by the legendary John Fryer (Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins, Swans). What is left to mention is also this: Thematically, the album deals with same issues that ULVER have always dealt with: the human condition and a world in decline.


But this time the landscape is viewed from a bird's eye perspective, exposing culture and tradition rather than the personal vulnerability expressed on previous albums.

ULVER is ULVER and it is good that no album is like the previous one. It is clear though that ”Wars Of The Roses" needs to be listened to with care in order to be understood and assimilated to its true value, especially as this time the four musicians are visibly hovering around the Progressive dimension... And yes, this is a truly valuable album, an artistic and elevated album, where originality and the mastered interpretation continues to wonder! As far as Garms voice is concerned... wow... it is no wonder he was nominated for a Spellemannprisen, a sort of Grammy Awards in Norwegian version... it is unmistakable!

Ulver at the Opera 2010 from Mothlite on Vimeo.