Ulver - Wars Of The Roses

Having been lucky enough to see Ulver play their new album Wars Of The Roses in its entirety last month in London, I was eagerly anticipating sitting down and digesting the work in detail. And, upon closer inspection, we do indeed have a rather fine offering from this most progressive of bands. The brainchild of Kristoffer Rygg, Ulver were originally very much part of the infamous 90s Norwegian black metal maelstrom, though they have since steadily moved a long way from their origins and now lead the diametrically opposite scene of electronic-laden ambience.

Whereas 2007’s Shadows Of The Sun was a very dour, introspective affair, Ulver have gone for a broader pallet on Wars Of The Roses, the shifts in tempo and mood helping to keep the rapt attention of the listener; from the opening of lead single ‘February MMX’ the pace is noticeably quicker, if a little more conventional in build, whilst ‘Norwegian Gothic’ by contrast is a more chilling, sparse episode. But this comparatively simplistic approach to the material does not last long, as firstly ‘Providence’ and then the powerful ‘September IV’ swirl and shift between ethereal plains, the multitude of synths and toys that the band deployed in the live setting come to the fore; as indeed do the drums at last, the frenetic battering they receive in the second half of ‘September IV’ equally as exciting and unexpected as it was upon the first listen.

The dark, brooding ‘England’ has emerged over many listens as the strongest, most formidable track on Wars Of The Roses, the haunting piano playing counterfoil to the layered vocals and the disturbing fuzzy bass rumbling underneath it all. The force of the drive inherent in the song is surprising given the naturally downbeat manner in which Ulver approach the music, yet is a testament to the supreme craftsmanship on display.

The closing fifteen minute epic of ‘Stone Angels’ is once again a turnaround in form and approach, a continual cycle of construction and deconstruction as the huge waves of echo-drenched sound wash over the listener, always coalescing around Daniel O’Sullivan’s laconic abstract narration. As the final strains die off into nothingness, the impact and weight of the album is suddenly apparent by its very absence, and you know that Ulver have quiet possible created the finest piece in their substantial gallery.

Overall

9

out of 10

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