With every album, Norway's resident avant-garde artists Ulver redefine their sound and take it to henceforth unheralded levels. For those unfamiliar with the act, let's take a brief trip down memory lane.
The year is 1993. Ulver forms as a raw, black metal band. In 1994, Bertgatt is released into the black metal community, and many point to it as a landmark genre album, due to it's atmospheric and often crusty blackness. Frontman Garm (the mythical and feral demon hound guarding the Norse Underworld) takes a left turn with Kveldssanger, releasing an acoustic folk album that was almost blatantly proud of it's Nordic folk sound. The Century Media release of Nattens Madrigal found an album so utterly raw and primal in it's sound, some thought it complete trash and others blackened bliss. The songs were also unnervingly odd; all had titles having to do with wolves (Ulver is Norweigan for "Wolf"). Themes From William Blake's Heaven and Hell went on (in 1998) went on to become one of the most divisive albums in metal history. Leaving the Kult of black metal behind, Ulver found Garm metamorphing into Trickster G, and the band playing an abrasive mix of noise and ambient electronica. A concept album revolving around the literary works of William Blake also served to further sever Ulver from the metal masses. As time wore on, Ulver further sank into electronia on Perdition City, recorded ambient soundtracks Lykantropen Themes and Svigg Neder, and have now dropped the clusternut that is Blood Inside.
Few releases so far in 2005 are as strange and utterly different amongst any musical peers as is the daring Blood Inside. The thrumming "Dressed in Black" soon becomes mass produced chaos; piano keys go here and there, random drum clicks twist like rivets, and pulsating, doomy electronica provides the perfect backdrop for the almost gaseous and ethereal vocals masked by the art of distortions.
"For the Love of God" is an excellent track, as a sort of trip-hop song mixes with 80's pop and at one point a spacey guitar solo. "Christmas" has a chimey intro worthy of any Noel evening; hearing the song break into a catchy chorus of sampled strings and plodding electronica beats is pure, light, airy, joy. All such joy evaporates when the grim "Blinded by Blood" slinks by.
Somehow, Ulver takes a sense of ambient electronica so sparse as to be suffocating, and crosses it with folksy and depressing vocals that sound like the soundtrack to a flick like Mystic River. The bouncy "It is Not Sound" is a kicking jam that has tense strings letting loose in an unholy frenzy of straight up fun. G's vocals, normally so distorted and changed as to be almost pretentious and annoying, sound clear and solid here, a needed change.
"The Truth" is spacey neo-classical electronic pop trip hop if such a bastard genre could ever be spawned. The stellar "In the Red" has fantastic and sinister electronica sinking the listener into a cavern of foreboding...such a cavern holds a relic of the past when some bloody lounge jazz breakdowns totally show up over the beats and
catch you off guard completely.
"Your Call" is exactly my call; I proclaim this track to be the weakest here, as it gets highly annoying and repetitive being so mellow and hearing sampled ringtones over and over and over again. "Operator" is short, sweet, and rocking
fast-paced neo-classical mayhem.
If one is looking for something different, yet still sleek and stylish, Ulver will most definitely suffice. The work here is some of the more original and polished electronica I have had the joy of hearing recently. The frequent use of classical and jazz is also very
welcome; a sort of elegant yet swinging pizzazz is added to any track that Ulver properly twists these genres into. My only complaints are that Trickster G's vocals are sometimes completely undecipherable, being so twisted with studio techniques one cannot understand a freaking word. Some of the songs also overstay their welcomes, lasting a bit too long for this reviewer's particular tastes and interests. Regardless, once you pop this into your stereo, it's no doubt Ulver's newest release will definitely be Blood Inside one's gloriously pounding heart.
Release Date: July 12, 2005