Ulver - _Nattens Madrigal_
(Head Not Found / Century Media, 1997)
by: Henry Akeley (
The last year or so has seen some high-profile black metal bands depart from their grim, harsh origins in search of a more glamourous and polished style. Ulver is absolutely not one of them. In fact, these guys have chosen to strip away all polish whatsoever from their playing and production. Now, twinned guitars radiate a raw, roaring buzz, as the band rips through track after track of straight-ahead, light-speed material. Containing only one acoustic break and featuring Garm's harshest vocal performance yet, this is strikingly raw on the surface - yet the music is very well recorded. The vocals are very raw and the guitars very distorted, but the mix balances them out clearly, allowing Ulver to display the compositional talent that makes them more than just one more band playing fast black metal. Listen closely, and the blizzard of screaming string signals resolves itself into two guitars playing separate, blazing lead and rhythm lines, accompanied by the trademark slow-picked bass line, propelled by vocal torment and a blasting beat. (The drums are rather low in the mix.) Some of the riffs sound killer. Still, in my book, when it comes to really harsh black metal, the colder, abrasive tones of bands like Vondur and Sort Vokter set the standard. So I think I'd like this album a bit more if the guitar sound weren't quite so warm and buzzy. In addition, the material overall is somewhat lacking in variation or experimentation (two elements, I might add, which also make Sort Vokter and Vondur great). But _Nattens Madrigal_ still comes highly recommended. At a point in time when many bands seem to be acquiring a fondness for "black metal light," you won't find much light in these eight songs.
(article published 7/6/1997)
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