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Ulver

Ulver, 22 february 2010, Kraków
Background information
Origin Norway
Genres (early)
Black metal/folk metal
(later)
Experimental music
Electronic music
Ambient music
Years active 1993–present
Labels Jester Records, The End Records, Century Media Records, Head Not Found
Website www.jester-records.com/ulver
Members
Kristoffer Rygg
Jørn H. Sværen
Tore Ylwizaker
Daniel O'Sullivan
Former members
Håvard Jørgensen
Torbjørn Pedersen
Grellmund
A. Reza
Erik Olivier Lancelot
Carl-Michael Eide
Hugh Steven James Mingay

Ulver (Norwegian for “wolves”) is a musical group 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”.[1]

Contents

Musical overview

Black Metal Trilogie

Although Ulver’s first three albums are often called their “Black Metal Trilogie”,[citation needed] 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.[2]

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.[2]

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.

The metamorphosis

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.[3]

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.”[4]

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.”[5]

Live appearances

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 the Norwegian Festival of Literature. The three band members were accompanied by guest musicians: Lars Pedersen (aka When) on drums, Daniel O’Sullivan (also in Æthenor, Guapo, Mothlite) on guitar and bass, Pamelia Kurstin playing Theremin and Ole Aleksander Halstensgård (from Paperboys). Subsequently the only live appearances outside Norway were held at the Brutal Assault Festival in the Czech Republic on Aug 7th and at the Gagarin205 club in Athens,Greece (November 16th). More festival appearances in Norway were announced: Øyafestivalen at Middelalderparken, Oslo (Aug 11th), Møllafestivalen in Gjerstad (Aug 14st), Pstereo'09 at Marinen, Trondheim (Aug 21st) and London's Queen Elizabeth Hall (October 9th). It has recently been announced on the official Ulver website that the core three members of Ulver have become four with the addition of British composer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel O'Sullivan.[6]

The Sopranos

On the American television program The Sopranos, the children of main character Tony Soprano have a Nattens madrigal - Aatte hymne til ulven i manden poster on each of their bedroom walls.

Discography

Full lengths

Other releases

Contributions and guest appearances

  • FeuersturmCentury Media Records compilation (1997) – "Soelen gaaer bag aase need"
  • Souvenirs from Hell – compilation (1997) – "Synen"
  • Ablaze CompilationAblaze Magazine compilation (1998) – "Hymn VIII"
  • Lords of Chaos: The History of the OccultLords of Chaos compilation (2002) – often called "(untitled exclusive track)", but in fact it is a rehearsal of "Hymn VI" from Nattens madrigal
  • Frog Remixed and RevisitedMerzbow remix compilation (2003) – "Denki No Numa (Frog Voice mix)"
  • The Lotus EatersDead Can Dance tribute compilation (2004) – "In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Are Kings"
  • Uno – soundtrack (2004) – "Uno", "Avhør", "Brødre", "Brødre Rev.", "Flukt", "Gravferd", "David til ulvene"
  • Salto, salmiakk og kaffe – soundtrack (2004) – unreleased
  • Gods of ThunderKiss tribute compilation (2005) – "Strange Ways"
  • Sunn O)))WHITEbox (2006) – "CUTWOODeD"
  • ShockadelicaPrince tribute compilation (2008) – "Thieves in the Temple" (feat. Siri Stranger)
  • Agony & Irony - Alkaline Trio (2008) - strings, programming, vocals on "Lost & Rendered" and "In My Stomach"
  • Pay For It (Single) – Mindless Self Indulgence - "Pay For It [RMX]"
  • Genghis Tron - Board Up The House Remixes Volume 3 - "I Won't Come Back Alive" (Ulver remix)
  • The Wall Re-Built!Pink FloydMojo (December 2009, issue 193) tribute compilation – "Another Brick in the Wall Pt.1"

Members

Current members

Former Members

  • Grellmund – guitar on Vargnatt (committed suicide on 31 Dec 1997)
  • A. Reza – guitar on Vargnatt
  • Robin – bass guitar on Vargnatt
  • Carl-Michael Eide (aka Aggressor; Czral; Exhurtum) – drums on Vargnatt, guest drums on Blood Inside
  • Håvard Jørgensen – guitar (Vargnatt through Themes…), session guitars on Metamorphosis, Perdition City and Blood Inside
  • Hugh Steven James Mingay (aka Skoll) – bass guitar (Bergtatt through Themes…)
  • Erik Olivier Lancelot (aka AiwarikiaR) – drums, flute (Bergtatt through Themes…)
  • Torbjørn Pedersen (aka Aismal; Tykje) – guitar (Bergtatt through Nattens Madrigal)
  • Knut Magne Valle – guitar on Themes…

Session and guest musicians

  • Lill Katherine Stensrud – vocals on Vargnatt and Bergtatt, flute on Bergtatt
  • Steinar Sverd Johnsen (also known as Sverd) – piano on Vargnatt and Bergtatt
  • Alf Gaaskjønli – cello on Kveldssanger
  • Jan Axel Blomberg (aka Hellhammer) – drums (on the song "Synen", released on the Souvenirs from Hell compilation)
  • Stine Grytøyr (aka "her") – vocals on Themes…
  • Tomas Thormodsæter Haugen (aka Samoth) – vocals on Themes…
  • Vegard Sverre Tveitan (aka Ihsahn) – vocals on Themes…
  • Gylve Nagell (aka Fenriz) – vocals on Themes…
  • Rolf Erik Nyström – saxophone on Perdition City
  • Ivar H. Johansen – drums on Perdition City
  • Kåre J. Pedersen – drums on Perdition City
  • Bård G. Eithun – drums on Perdition City
  • Øystein Moe – bass on Perdition City
  • Bosse – guitar solo on Blood Inside
  • Jeff Gauthier – violin on Blood Inside
  • Mike Keneally – guitar on Blood Inside
  • Andreas Mjøs – vibraphone on Blood Inside
  • Maja S. K. Ratkje – choir on Blood Inside
  • Knut Aalefjær – drums and percussion on Blood Inside
  • Mathias Eick – trumpet on Shadows of the Sun
  • Christian Fennesz – supplemental shimmer on Shadows of the Sun
  • Espen Jørgensen – acoustic and electric guitar on Shadows of the Sun
  • Pamelia Kurstin – theremin on Shadows of the Sun
  • Hans Josef Groh – cello on Shadows of the Sun
  • Dorthe Dreier – viola on Shadows of the Sun
  • André Orvik – violin on Shadows of the Sun
  • Vegard Johnsen – violin on Shadows of the Sun

Related bands

  • Coil – Probably the band by which 2000-2002 era Ulver is most inspired by and analogous to. This British-based experimental band has redefined the essence of electronic and minimalist music
  • Arcturus – Another project of Ulver members Garm and Skoll, as well as Ulver session members Sverd, Knut Magne Valle, and Hellhammer, which started as symphonic black metal and transitioned into avant-garde metal. Garm left the band in 2003.
  • Borknagar – Norwegian folk-inspired black metal band that featured Garm on vocals on their first two albums.
  • Ved Buens Ende – Side project of Skoll and Carl-Michael Eide. Since disbanded, reunited and disbanded once more in early 2007
  • Head Control System – a duo of Garm and the Portuguese metal musician Daniel Cardoso.

References

  1. ^ Craig McLean, "And the Ass Saw the Angel", The Face, July 2000. [1] Access date: October 4, 2008.
  2. ^ a b "ULVER: The MetalKult Interview". MetalKult.com. 2007-11-12. http://www.metalkult.com/videos/ulver-the-metalkult-interview/. 
  3. ^ Scott Seward, "Werewolves of Norway", Village Voice, May 6, 2003. [2] Access date: October 4, 2008.
  4. ^ quote was taken from Head Control System page (link is dead now)
  5. ^ "ULVER official site". 2007-07-13. http://www.jester-records.com/ulver/ulver.html. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  6. ^ "ULVER official site". 2009-11-26. http://www.jester-records.com/ulver/ulver.html. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 

External links








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