Ulver are a Norwegian trio that once started as a black metal band around 1993. Nowadays, the music of Ulver can be best described as a clever and skillful blend of electronic, ambient, post rock and avant-garde, with a distinctive melancholic tone. The band already recorded a great number of albums. Their latest albums are Shadows Of The Sun (2007) and Wars Of The Roses (2011). The musicians on these albums are principally the core members Kristoffer Rygg (vocals, programming), Tore Ylwizaker (keyboards, programming) and Jørn H. Sværen (miscellaneous), assisted by Daniel O'Sullivan (guitar, bass, keyboards, narration), Ole Alexander Halstensgård (electronics) and Tomas Pettersen (drums).
Until May 2009 Ulver mainly were a studio band. However, they became a live band too after receiving and accepting an invitation to attend the Norwegian Festival Of Literature. From that moment on the musicians could be found on stage on a regular base. Tours in 2009 and 2010 followed playing in cities as London, Berlin, Paris and Oslo. The concert at their country's capital was filmed for an intended live release. This concert filmed by six HD-cameras and mixed in the band's own Crystal Canyon Studios has been released on DVD early 2012 and is called The Norwegian National Opera.
This ninety minutes of footage starts with a man hanging on a rope while blood is dripping out of his mouth. Well, these images strike the right key for all the things to come. The weird and bizarre movies at the screen behind the musicians indicate that Ulver aren't an average band at all. The subjects on the screen are just as dark as the music of the band. It's rather difficult to listen to the music without the images of Nazi Germany, suicide, fox hunting or the killing of a zebra by a lion. These images work perfectly while listening to this kind of music. The audience seem to watch everything speechless, just letting the music come over them. Sometimes the songs are very mellow with hardly any rhythm; occasionally the guitarist plays an erupting solo to wake up the audience. At other times it's just as if you're watching a Saw-movie, but this time with a better soundtrack! In a way the music and the ambience on stage gave me shivers down my spine. Once again a man enters the stage during the performance of the last track. He's totally naked, but you can only see him from behind. On his back the word Earth has been written and when the music has finished you can read on the screen: what kind of animal are you? I'm not sure how many people gave an answer to that question, but what I do know is that the band get a standing ovation after this captivating concert.
I think the music of Ulver won't be appreciated by the average devotee of progressive rock. However, people who like a band as Nosound or any other related act should give the music of this unique Norwegian band a try.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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