From Wikipedia: Ulver (Norwegian for “wolves”) are a Norwegian experimental musical collective founded in 1993, by vocalist Kristoffer Rygg.
Their early works, such as Bergtatt, were categorised as folklore-influenced black metal but have since evolved a fluid and increasingly eclectic musical style, blending genres such as rock, electronica, symphonic and chamber traditions, noise and experimental music into their oeuvre. 1997 marked their international debut with the release of their third album Nattens madrigal through German label Century Media.
However, following discord with the label,Kristoffer Rygg formed his own imprint Jester Records in 1998. In 1998, multi-instrumentalist Tore Ylwizaker joined the band marking a drastic change in direction for Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell - a double album incorporating elements from drum and bass,progressive rock, spoken word, industrial music, and black metal, fused into a somewhat ambient new style. Further exploring trip hop, jazz, ambient music, spoken word and electronica on 2000’s Perdition City, before moving into a more experimental, minimalist, ambient direction, and soundtrack work. 2005 marked another change in the band’s sound, returning to standard instrumentation, combined with orchestral instruments and arrangements.
British composer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel O'Sullivan joined the collective in 2009, and the band performed some of their first live concerts in their 15 year lifespan, including the prestigious Norwegian National Opera. Ulver have sold in excess of half a million records, have well over 18,000,000 plays on Last FM, been twice nominated for the Norwegian Grammy Awards, Spellemannsprisen, in different categories, won Album of the Year at the Oslo Awards for Shadows of the Sun in 2008, won the NATT&DAG award for Best Live Act in 2011, and earned a global reputation for stylistic unpredictability. Acclaim from the artistic community includes controversial director of films Kids and Gummo, Harmony Korine, who commented, alluding to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "There's a real lineage from a composer like Wagner to a band like Ulver." Author and musician Julian Cope has said, "Ulver are cataloguing the death of our culture two decades before anyone else has noticed its inevitable demise." The Black Metal Trilogy Debut album, Bergtatt, the first part of what has become know as Ulver’s “Black Metal Trilogie,” was issued in November 1994 through Norwegian label Head Not Found. The album was met with critical acclaim, and was notable for blending together black metal, harsh vocals and blurred, buzzing guitars with quiet, folk-like acoustic passages.
It was praised for its unique atmosphere and was described as “mysterious, melancholic, eerie, and oddly tranquil.” Ulver expanded on the quiet, folk-like acoustic elements present for their second album Kveldssanger, issued March 1996 by Head Not Found. Incorporating classical guitars, cello and choral chamber chants overlaid with subtle orchestral landscapes - eschewing the black metal elements - the album was a drastic contrast to Bergtatt, whilst still retaining the atmospheric and folk themes.
Vocalist Rygg 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 album was praised for its atmosphere, evoking a feeling of quiet, eerie solitude. Following the success of their first two albums, Ulver signed with German label Century Media for their third album Nattens madrigal, issued in March 1997 - marking the band’s international debut.
The album showcases a black metal style similar to Bergtatt, abandoning the acoustic and atmospheric elements, with an intentionally underproduced sound. The album has been described as “raw and grim black metal at it's blackest.” A common myth about the album is that band spent the recording budget on Armani suits, cocaine and a Corvette; and recorded the album outdoors in a Norwegian forest on an 8-track recorder.
Kristoffer Rygg, however, has stated that this is not true; and possibly a rumour started by Century Media. The album has been described as “so fast and ferocious and the vocals so garbled that it's best just to take the sheer sonic force as reflecting the band's concept, rather than trying to piece it all together.” The Blake Album Rygg invited composer and sound architect Tore Ylwizaker into the collective in order to expand their artistic and musical visions; and together they stepped over the boundaries of black metal aesthetics, creating a genre-defying work in Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, released in December 1998.
The album was issued through Rygg’s own imprint, Jester Records, a label born out of discord between Ulver and Century Media. Musically, the album 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 The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, utilising guest vocalists on several songs. The album received widespread acclaim from critics within both the rock/metal and alternative music press - being awarded ‘album of the month’ in several high-profile magazines such as Terrorizer, Metal Hammer, and Rock Hard and ranked very highly in their end of year's best polls.
However, the album’s transitional nature perhaps alienated many fans of the band’s first three albums - causing a backlash from the black metal scene. The Metamorphosis Ulver, now only consisting of Rygg and Ylwizaker, issued an EP, Metamorphosis, in September 1999. The music moving to the more heavily electronic approach, bridging the gap to the film-noir ambiance of 2000’s full-length album Perdition City.
In the sleeve notes to Metamorphosis, 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.” Perdition City, issued in March 2000, was described as moody, atmospheric electronica, cinematic in scope, evoking a soundtrack for an imaginary film.Kerrang! praised the album, ranking it top ten that year, noting "This ain't rock 'n roll.
This is evolution on such a grand scale that most bands wouldn't even be able to wrap their tiny little minds around it." Musically, Ulver not only explores new genres, but also shift from extrovert, into more introverted moods, or interior music. The band followed up Perdition City with two improv/minimalist/ambient/glitch companion EP’s, called Silence Teaches You How to Sing and Silencing the Singing, in September and December 2001, respectfully. The material featured here was loosely recorded during the sessions for the Perdition City album.
The style is more experimental/atmospheric and less beat-oriented; rather mood pieces that revolve around the Perdition City theme. Due to the experimental nature of the music, both Silence EP’s were limited to two thousand, and three thousand copies.
However, both EP’s were re-released as one disc, issued through American independent label Black Apple Records, under the title Teachings in Silence, in November 2002. Ulver, now with more confidence in their ambient sensibilities descent into the world of film soundtracks, producing scores for Lyckantropen (issued asLyckantropen Themes, in November 2002), Svidd neger (issued as Svidd neger, in September 2003) and a joint soundtrack with singer/songwriter Tom McRae for the multiple award-winning Uno. Ulver were praised for their soundtrack work, and their ability to adapt and providing a sense of continuity to each film.
The song Silence Teaches You How to Sing was later used in the 2012 supernatural horror film Sinister. Second Decade in The Machines In August 2003, Ulver issued an EP, A Quick Fix of Melancholy, essentially a teaser for the forthcoming album, Blood Inside.
A delicate marriage of orchestration and electronica the EP features text by Christian Bök and a remix of a song from Kveldssanger. In 2004, the group collaborated with Sámi vocalist Mari Boine and percussionist Marilyn Mazur to score Mona J. Hoel’s filmSalto, salmiakk og kaffe.
The film premiered in August 2004, however, the soundtrack remains unreleased. (… ).
Don't be afraid. It's only music.
- January 1994
- Head Not Found
- January 1996
- Head Not Found
- March 1997
- Century Media
Themes from William Blake's 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell'
- December 1998
- Jester Records
Perdition City - Music for an Interior Film
- March 2000
- Jester Records
- September 2003
- Jester Records
- June 2005
- The End Records
Shadows of the Sun
- October 2007
- The End Records
Wars of the Roses
- April 2011
- May 2012
Live at Roadburn
- April 2013
- Roadburn Records
- August 2013
- Jester Records
- February 2014
- Southern Lord Records
- January 2016
- House Of Mythology