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What is the definition of a classic? The medium regardless, I'd like to think of a classic as an album that would still turn heads even if it came out today. A lot of people malign the term, usually thinking of a classic as any older, respected album. With black metal in particular, the distinction between timeless and merely influential is blurred in most albums from the Second Wave. A relatively small group of people unleashed a disproportionate number of masterpieces within a few years, and most of them still sound great. But how many of them are genuinely timeless? Burzum's two peak albums come to mind, and so does Ulver's Bergtatt.
I am near-positive that Bergtatt would get people excited if it came out a week from now, let alone in 1995, when Garm and the rest of these legends-to-be were either in their teens, or just barely out of them. how could it be that such young musicians created such a well-realized album? I am not sure, personally; compared to the adolescent lo-fi fuzz of most of their contemporaries, Ulver approached Bergtatt with a distinctly artistic ambition that went against the Second Wave iconoclasts. Nordic folk and even echoes of progressive rock found their way into the Bergtatt formula. Add to that the virtually blasphemous trait of relying largely on clean vocals, and Ulver's debut still sounds like a monolith unto itself.
Even if the album's sound is familiar in the wake of Agalloch and others that found their own success with the template, I'm not sure how many bands have ever come close to nailing it as well as Ulver. No time is wasted getting things started with "Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild"; a drum fill takes the album into full swing with a simple but evocative riff. Compared to most albums of the time, Bergtatt has a feeling of being very relaxed for the most part as black metal goes. The guitar parts sound like they were carefully crafted to make the most with the least, and even the drums sound transcend aggression. Garm's voice sounds quite a bit more adolescent than the deep croon of later albums, but even then, he makes full use of what he's got, often sounding like the soloist of some monastic choir. A relevant bass presence and near-perfect production gives the album an incredible warmth. Despite its relative brevity (clocking in shortly over half an hour) Ulver cover a pretty wide dynamic range. The times Bergtatt dives into full-force black metal aggression (such as "Capitel III: Graablick Blev Hun Vaer") are pretty scarce amid the folk interruptions and reserved melancholy. Even at their heaviest and most conventional, Ulver manage to excel. The dynamic keeps every gear-shift sounding fresh in a way less nuanced artists fell damnably short of.
The strange and even frustrating thing about Ulver is the way they've continued to evolve. No matter how enticing a new sound may be, they've always kept moving onward. With the next album following Bergtatt, they'd capitalize purely on their dark folk threads; on Nattens Madrigal after that, they went for a much more traditional black metal style. Nonetheless, Bergtatt has inspired many followers since, and for good reason. The album sounds rich and entrancing in a way few other Second Wave masterworks can dare to compete with.
Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg and his friends in Ulver crafted quite the masterpiece in their full-length debut album 'Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler'. With the Norwegian black metal scene already booming by the time of this album's release; one could imagine that it was another Gorgoroth; as in, another new black metal act sounding eerily familiar to Burzum.
Varg Vikernes, the man behind Burzum, was indeed innovative with his experimentation with black metal and ambient music at the time, but Ulver were probably the first full-fledged black metal act incorporating strong neofolk elements to the raw and aggressive black metal; thus creating something rather special.
'Bergtatt' can be seen as a concept album, with lyrics in something that appears to be old Danish, or some kind of Danish/Norwegian hybrid, and is written in a poetic fashion. The album showcases Ulver's ability to go from harsh, primitive black metal to calm, sophisticated folk music effortlessly. Naturally, there are the somewhat repetitive electric guitars and drums; creating a hypnotizing atmosphere. A good example of this is the opening track "I Troldskogen faren vild", which contains a melodic, and very memorable, main riff. Garm's vocals are clean and overdubbed; increasing the dreamlike atmosphere furthermore.
The more interesting aspects of the album become more evident in the next track called "Soelen gaaer bag aase need", which opens in a pure neofolk fashion with gentle plucking on an acoustic guitar and flutes before the song breaks into a berserking black metal song. Here, Garm uses both the throaty black metal growls and the clean singing. This song really shows what 'Bergtatt' is all about. The album continues in a similar fashion until the last second; going from raw, intense fury to soothing tranquillity, but always remaining engaging and progressive.
There are no real stand-out tracks or moments; apart from the extremely creepy, yet soothing bit of "Graablick blev hun vaer", where you hear the footsteps of the female character the lyrics are about running in the woods. Cracking branches, brushing grass and a flamboyant and somewhat unnerving piano playing in way you feel as if you're standing outside a creepy mansion in the woods and listening to the bizarre owner playing. 'Bergtatt' is an album that is best, if you listen to it from start to finish, because all the tracks are great. Incredibly atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful.
Ulver would go on to release 'Kveldssanger'; an album where the music was neofolk entirely, and then 'Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne til Ulven i Manden'; a truly grim and raw black metal album in its entirety. Both of these albums are excellent, but 'Bergtatt' is the strongest of the trio, since it incorporates the best of both worlds. It stood the test of time and still sounds as fresh and innovative as it undoubtedly did in the mid 90s.
Whenever I am listening to such an astounding and distinctive album like "Bergtatt" I cannot help but admire the musically adventurous outlook and the low-key, mellow and beautiful vibes that "Bergtatt" has to offer. Although somewhat well-known and well received and respected in the metal realm, this album has always seemed to stay in the shadows and has become quite an influential masterpiece. Due to the fact that it shows that black metal does not need to be harsh, evil and forceful to make a musical statement. Ulver are among the most innovative and exciting bands within the genre always experimenting, creating new textures of music and have been playing other genres than metal in the past few years. "Bergatt" portrays darkness, loneliness, reflection and the aspects of nature but also shows a lighter side with hope, strength, courage and perseverance. The vocals are absolutely stunning blending the usual but thoroughly done black metal vocals with what appears to be a choir singing in the background.
The title of "Bergtatt" when translated from Norwegian to English also gives indications that the entire album is based on a fairytale and has a mystic and spiritual side to it. Another key element that fascinates me about "Bergtatt" is that the instrumentation always stays subtle and balanced throughout, where each song flows together perfectly and swiftly like the current of a stream. It gives the unique feeling of wandering through a mountain pass, with snow falling from above while witnessing the humbling beauty of nature. "Bergtatt" is also one of those peaceful and relaxing albums that is perfect to listen to on winter days while sitting next to the fireplace and looking outside the window at the snow covered surroundings. The gorgeous and very well played guitar solos are another distinct highlight on this album and leaves traces of influences from vintage and pioneer Scandinavian bands such as Bathory. The way that the instrumentation moves together along with the vocals that add to the overall mood often leaves me in a trance and in awe.
Although the production of "Bergtatt" is not very crisp or bold, I consider it to be actually another positive element to the album because it gives it more of an edge and a slightly dreamy approach. On the same note, "Bergtatt" seems like a lucid interval and feels as though one is actually exploring the mysterious and utterly beautiful land of Norway with everything it has to offer. Strangely enough there are even some influences from progressive rock from the seventies to be slightly heard whether it is the atmosphere of Camel or even the musical flow, progression and mentality to go beyond the regular expectations of a usual black metal band. Overall Bergtatt is definitely the most relaxing and soothing black metal album I have ever heard. It's ability to do more while doing less musically speaking makes "Bergtatt" stand out not because of it's simplicity and minimalism but due to how it's unique approach was able to create an absolute masterful and beautiful work of art. After many listens to this day, "Bergtatt" still leaves me as speechless and mesmerized as the first listen.
Everyone seems to have their own take on black metal and there is a certain expectation with releases from the early Norwegian bands that they will contain that frisson of excitement that has made the genre so fascinating since its inception. Ulver and 'Bergtatt' are exceptions to that rule, not only because Ulver later moved away from black metal, but because at the time of release their first album seemed quite a distance from the philosophy of the other Norwegians, though time has seen many of the ideas on this album accepted more widely.
First of all, the clean vocals and acoustic guitars are striking, 'I Troldskog Faren Vild' alienating or ensnaring the listener from the off with Garm's floating folktale lilt drifting over a low-key churn of guitars and rather loud pondering bass. The acoustics take a backseat in the opener, which prefers to set the scene with subtle vocals and atmospheric leads, but they come out in full (with flute) on the following 'Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Need' and the non-metal 'Een Stemme Locker'. All this brings the album a folky feel reminiscent of the first Satyricon album and suits it slightly better to the fairytale that the 5 "chapters" tell than pure aggressive black metal. There are much heavier moments, with traditional black metal double bass, frantic tremolo riffs, and a wild vocal delivery - particularly in the closing 'Bergtatt - Ind I Fjeldkamrene' - but they accentuate the more dramatic and despairing parts of the storyline, as though they were the parts of a play that had flashing lights and thunder in the background.
On the basis of music alone, however, this album is very difficult to reckon. It is in the lyrics and the detail that 'Bergtatt' really becomes interesting, with a dramatic storyline told across the five tracks in poetic Norwegian, although I believe the song titles and possibly some of the lyrics are in Old Danish. This gives the whole thing an air of impenetrability that is at once frustrating (especially for those of us not gifted with a Norse tongue) and enchanting, since that very impenetrability is what made black metal so interesting in the first place. Without giving anything away, the story is in keeping with the black metal aesthetic: it relates to the lost past and there being something beyond our understanding, and it produces the same sort of conflict between emotional resonance and otherworldly untouchability that made the lyrics of Burzum's 'Hvis Lyset Tar Oss' equally compelling. I would advise reading the lyrics with the album on the first listen and getting a good sense of the story both in the original language and in translation, because there is a lot of depth to a fairly simple story and the conviction in Garm's voice makes it a powerful part of the recording. If a bewildered tear doesn't creep into your eye at the climax, I'd say you were...a body become stone ;)
The concept aside, there's some very worthwhile black and folk metal, all of which is soaked in the pungent nostalgia that makes this period of musical history so intriguing. Riffs tend to be thoughtful and atmospheric but can show a lot of teeth on occasion, while the few lead moments are highlights. The drums are the heaviest thing about the album and the bass is weirdly front and centre, but adds a beautiful lost feeling to the slower and atmospheric parts and a barbarity to the heads-down riffs. It's tough to decide whether 'Bergtatt' stands up on the pure strength of the music or relies a little too much on the storyline, though it's enough to know that there isn't another album quite like this anywhere else. All in all, a thoughtful and compelling titbit from the second wave.
Black metal, in general, is a genre that I’ve been very, very picky about. I was never into the classics, like the early work of Darkthrone, Burzum, Emperor or Mayhem, but Ulver’s debut “Bergtatt” always stood out for me. It broke the mold of what was considered black metal at the time and on its own is a damn near perfect release that I’ve never gotten tired of, despite the numerous listens I’ve given it. Back in 1994, “Bergtatt” (the first of a folk/black metal trilogy) was very much ahead of its time, incorporating elements that were virtually unheard of at the time, and creating a sound that would inspire some of today’s folk and black metal mammoths.
Sound wise, “Bergtatt” creates a very moody and atmospheric blend of folk acoustic guitars, flutes, clean singing and piano and a blistering and dark brand of black metal, which was pretty experimental at the time, but the result is beautiful and genius, but it feels natural, not pretentious or forced in any way.
The range of the sound is amazing, from very grim and tortured black metal to the melancholic folk elements is perfectly done and complements each other beautifully. Garm’s voice is pretty astonishing honestly. The cleans themselves sound very depressed and soulful, especially when they go into more Gregorian chant like sections (I.E. “Een Stemme Locker”) while the black metal vocals sound rough and grim, they sound very bleak, very raspy, and the contrast between the two styles is perfectly done and adds a lot to the atmosphere.
Same with the instrumental work, which is fantastic. A lot of melodic and talented guitar work with memorable riffs, violent, but not overwhelming, drumming, and plenty of calming and peaceful (even beautiful at times) folk brought to the mix. As I said, the way the black metal and the folk elements play off each other is perfectly done and very even. Meaning both are very evenly blended together there is not too much black metal and not too much folk.
It goes from these fast and visceral black metal sections to some very peaceful acoustic parts, and all accompanied by flutes and piano and some haunting female singing on the track “Een Stemme Locker”.And the way that all of this is crafted together into this one sound not only keeps the album varied and stops it from getting boring or repetitive but also achieves a very authentic “woodland/forest” type atmosphere and a strong “fairy tale” (if you will) feel to the whole thing. The raw production does help the atmosphere as well.
Its also a short record. Only five tracks that total clock in at just over a half-hour, so it’s not at all an overbearing album.
As a whole, “Bergtatt” is great album without any real noteworthy flaws. It’s a masterpiece and highly recommended release, well worth the thirty-five minutes it takes to listen. If only the band had stuck with this sound for the rest of their career.
...apart from all the inferior copies it has inspired through the years, that is. What you're looking at here is the possible genesis of all the modern, not-quite-black metal that exists in the current climate, both good and insipid. Really, this album is quite far from black metal. Though I must say that its all the better for it. The recent trend of "shoegaze" black metal can also quite possibly be traced back to Bergtatt's dreamy passages and echoing clean vocals, its use of chords and atmosphere, and overall "soft" production quality that are completely unlike what almost everyone else was doing in 1994 and sounds a lot more like today's so called innovators than many give it credit for. This is a band that was doubtlessly many years ahead of its time, and continues to be, in its ever changing chameleonic trajectory from black metal to trip hop, ambient and rock.
Bergtatt is not so much an evolution of the preceding Vargnatt demo as it is a sideways step. The almost goth tinges of Vargnatt are gone and replace with a much more natural, "foresty" feel that has lead to this album being praised as one of the foremost examples of folk metal. Also gone are the avantgarde black metal elements that led me to strongly compare it to countrymen (and avant BM pioneers) Ved Buens Ende in my mind, alongside VBE's Carl Michael Eide who drummed on the demo. In their place is a unique and enthralling concoction of dreamy riffing and vocals, folky acoustic guitars, and elements of black metal in the shape of harsh vocals and blast beats. This is not harsh or aggressive music. The blast beats and screams are more like flavourings that give the overall sound more variety and are highly effective, and definitely do add to the intensity when required. Garm's clean vocals are the star of the show, however. He utilises a brilliant, almost Gregorian chant style of singing here (as opposed to his more "epic" style on the Borknagar debut) that really aids in whisking you away to the dreamland that this music inhabits. Conceptually the album is a "faerietale" that follows a story of a character being "spellbound into the mountain in 5 chapters", as the back cover says. The language is not Norwegian, but an old form of Danish that lends itself perfectly to Garm's voice and to the music in general.
The performances of the musicians are fantastic, from the instantly recognisable drum roll that opens "I Troldskog Faren Vild" and its unforgettable guitar solos, the delicate piano in the middle of "Graablick Blev Hun Vaer" to the stark beauty of the acoustic guitars, whispers and chanting that makes up "Een Stemme Locker". There is no shortage of moments on this album that I can only describe as "epic", as overused a word as that may be. It really takes the listener somewhere else, if he or she is willing. One I must draw attention to is "Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Need" and its incredible passage beginning at 2.10 into the song, which is probably the single highlight of the album, if I must choose one. This album is just magic. How anyone can think of it any anything other than one of the greatest pieces of music ever made is a little beyond me, but there you go. Variety is the spice of life I guess, and not everyone is going to agree on that. Those who do share my opinion, will most likely have treasured this album as I have done for many years, and will continue to do so for many more. Bergtatt is, simply put, one of my favourite albums ever.
“Bergtatt” is the first album by Norwegian black metal band, Ulver. It is the first installment of their astonishing black metal trilogy. And in all honesty, it could be one of the best albums of all time.
The album is well written and well executed. It combines clean vocals, folk acoustic guitars, flutes and really aggressive black metal. And the result is fucking beautiful!
The vocals on “Bergtatt” are performed by Garm. As we all know, Garm is a very classy vocalist. Everything the man touches turns to gold and “Bergtatt” is no exception. If you have heard all of his works, you know he uses a different style of vocals on every release. Here, he uses both clean vocals and blackened screams. His clean vocals on “Bergtatt” are probably his weakest singing he has recorded. However, this does not stop the singing from being absolutely gorgeous. He sings atmospherically here, with no Garm-like power that he usually does. He sounds like an innocent young man that would not hurt a fly. Unusual for black metal, huh? But here, it works. It works so well that Garm gets a whole song to sing. “I Troldskogg Faren Vild” is a masterpiece song with no harsh vocals whatsoever. It contains pure atmospheric singing with less aggressive black metal music. A masterful performance. Garm also uses black shrieks. They are not quite Garm’s venomous vocals from Arcturus’ “Aspera” or Borknagar’s “Borknagar”, but they get the job done.
Guitars are simply astounding. Guitarist Aismal is a very talented man. He plays beautifully and handles all the distorted guitars. Some of his leads and solos on “I Troldskogg Faren Vild” are fucking stunning. Along with beauty, Aismal applies anger into his riffs. Nasty, aggressive guitars run rampant in “Graablick Blev Hun Vaer” and “Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Need”. Some of the most amazing guitar work I have ever heard. Aismal shares the stage with Haavard, the acoustic guitarist. He is equally as good as Aismal in his respective position. He is utilized on “Bergtatt” nicely adding a classical and folk feel. Haavard is like the less violent side of the guitars. He is there to balance out the aggression offering a more tranquil sound. He also gets his own song with the acoustic instrumental, “Een Stemme Locker”. This is a nice, repetitive song with spine-chilling female vocals in the background.
AiwarkiaR is the man behind the drum set. He is definitely one of black metal’s most underrated drummers. His performance here is his personal best; and an incredible effort for all drummers in general. AiwarkiaR performs three of the four standard time signatures of black metal on “Bergtatt”. 12/8, 4/4, 6/8 and blast beats. The only one I don’t hear on this album is 6/8. His 12/8 and 4/4 are nothing spectacular, but AiwarkiaR really shines when it comes to blast beats. His violent, fanatical drumming is what gives “Bergtatt” a hostile sounding environment. The man really knew how to make his drums sound terribly ugly and raw. This sound is perfect for “Bergtatt”.
While AiwarkiaR, Aismal, and Garm contribute to the vicious side of “Bergtatt”, there are lighter sides as well. Of course Garm shows up here with his light clean vocals and Haavard contributes his unruffled melodies, but there are a few session musicians that supply relaxing segments to the album as well. I mentioned a female singer earlier, but did not say that she provides the flute on this album as well. “Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Need” has an amazing opening that features her magnificent flute skills. The flute is intertwined with Haavard’s acoustic guitar and it sounds so peaceful. Of course this unflustered moment is mangled by aggressive guitars and blast beats. But a very beautiful moment indeed. Another session musician is Sverd of fellow Norwegian band, Arcturus. As always, Sverd performs masterfully and is used during the ambient break in “Graablick Blev Hun Vaer”.
Every song is a highlight on “Bergtatt”. There are virtually no flaws. The only blemish about the album is the length. It is way too short. Only running about 35 minutes, this album could have added at least one more eight minute song. But what can you do, huh? Overall, “Bergtatt” is a masterpiece. It is well worth the $15 that most go for. I highly recommend!
Bergtatt is the first of many Ulver albums. This now legendary band has produced all different kinds of music over the course of their career. They have released black metal, folk metal, acoustic folk, ambient, trip hop, electronic, and some others. This now legendary album would fall under the black/folk metal category. Bergtatt is the first out of three albums in Ulver's "black metal trilogy." Well from my listening experiences with this band, they should've stuck to playing black metal. I've never heard their second album, Kveldssanger, but its probably amazing considering the other two albums of the black metal trilogy (this and Nattens Madrigal) are classics in my book.
One word that describes this album perfectly is beautiful. Now most people might think that the word beautiful and black metal don't mix, and most of the time you would be right, but it definitely applies to this album. Acoustic guitars and clean vocals play a large part in making this album what it is. Don't get me wrong though, there's still plenty of blast beats and insane black metal vocals, this album just doesn't focus on that the whole time like on Nattens Madrigal.
The thing about this album that makes it perfect for me would be how unpredictable it is. One second you have Garm screaming like a mad man and the next second he's singing in one of the most melodic singing voices you will ever hear. Also one second there could be fast tremolo picked guitars and the next second beautiful acoustic guitars start playing. At one point in the album there's a part where there's just a piano playing with the sound of somebody walking through a forest. Some people may think that this part is pointless, but I think it adds to the image that this album trys to give you and compliments this song and this type of music perfectly.
Another thing about this album is the amazing atmosphere that it has. We all know that atmosphere is one of the key ingredients in making a great black metal album and this album definitely has plenty of it. This album is perfect for a long, lonely car drive in the middle of nowhere or just taking a walk on cool fall day. Its also perfect for just sitting around in the dark like I'm doing as I write this review.
Overall, this album is perfect. Fans of later Ulver who have never heard any of their early album's owe it to themselves to check this out. Even if you're not a huge black metal fan, you will probably still end up enjoying this album. Like I said earlier, if you are a fan of only later Ulver and you want to check out their earlier stuff, this is definitely the album to start with. Nattens Madrigal would probably be to rough on a new listeners ears. Anyways, fans of metal, especially black or folk metal, should check this out right away if you haven't already.
When a musical outfit like Ulver have managed to keep an audience that have been with them since their early days, its not all that complicated to see how that is. Ulver have always been consistent with providing shifts in their musical exploration, and it has become quite typical to expect something from whatever their latest or final (?) release that’s, for the most part, completely ‘backwards’ to its predecessor. That's the Ulver we are familiar with now, and have been for quite sometime, but back in 1994 this musical outfit was just another young Norwegian band attempting to contribute their own take on what would become known to be the infamous and well documented Norwegian black metal scene of the commonly named “second wave” of black metal. With the release of their impressive debut “Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler”. They would sooner than later be heard properly by audiences, not only in Norway, but everywhere fans of the black metal genre called home.
As the first track of Bergtatt begins to play, you are instantly overtaken by a perfectly created atmosphere of what can best be described as the sound of that which is serene. Although this may not be the initial intention of the song lyrically, it’s definitely what the listener may get from the music that’s presented. This formula of calmness is very prominent throughout the entire album, along with its accompanied folk and more ferocious black metal side. As the black metal and folk passages blend together they create a melodically dazzling unique approach that is very impressive even to this day, as most other metal bands who’ve also followed this same approach tend to sound quite similar in someway, shape, or form. Simply, they just don’t really provide anything nowadays that was as refreshing as Bertgtatt was upon its release in the early-to-mid 90s. That’s not to say there hasn’t been any bands since who haven’t offered anything that can’t contend with Bergtatt, there just isn’t that many who have shown they deserve the worthiness as much as Ulver’s debut does. The addition of flutes and the playing of a piano (not really anything new), along with the acoustic guitars and the usually neglected bass guitar that is actually heard throughout, show just how unique certain bands of the black metal genre like Ulver could be at the time and shows exactly what they would soon become altogether. That being an entity of many sounds.
Bergtatt is also such a delight thanks to its wonderful vocals, courtesy of Kristoffer Rygg. Better known in the earlier days when he still went under the name Garm. Garm is well known for his vocal range abilities, and Bergtatt is where audiences got their first "official" taste from the then very young and talented vocalist, as he showcases his ability to conjure the emotions of beauty with clean vocals, as well as the ghastly with his grim shrieking vocals black metal is notorious for. Bergtatt’s production is very solid and does an excellent job in providing the listener with the proper amount of atmosphere, which plays a huge part in making Bergtatt the standout that it is. The atmosphere that is created can actually make the listener feel as if they’re in the very mystical forests of the Norwegian mountains themselves. Overall the production is just about as perfect as it gets for an album that consists of folk inspired black metal.
Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler is nothing short of a black metal masterpiece, even though it only plays for an estimated time of about 35 minutes, which really is not all that big of a deal seeing as how Ulver still managed to create what they did with it. There really shouldn’t be any good reasons as to why this early stepping stone in Ulver’s musical catalog is not given the well deserved respect and praise that it’s usually surrounded by. But then again that’s just one’s own opinion. While Ulver’s second effort Kveldssanger consists mainly of beautifully created Scandinavian folk music that’s predominantly all acoustic, and their third effort the lengthily entitled Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne til Ulven i Manden consists mainly of some of the most amazingly harsh black metal ever recorded, the first of what is known as the black metal ‘trilogie’ of Ulver still remains as the most essential to any black metal collection.
I will start off by saying that I am not really much of a black metal fan, nor have I been for at least a year, ever since I started gravitating towards more complex, riff-oriented forms of metal, and extremity for extremity's sake lost its appeal to me. Once you join the Church of Riffs and appreciate thrash, USPM, and other more traditional forms of metal, black metal appears formulaic, unimaginative, and above all, boring, at least in its unadulterated state, and especially minimalist abominations like Transilvanian Hunger, an album so dreary it could be a Satanic lullaby, and the related genres of norsecore blasturbation (see Marduk and 1349) and "bedroom" black metal bands whose guitars sound like synths and whose synths should be banned by international law as forms of torture. Sure, you have the thrashy riffcraft of Mayhem, the layered "maximalism" of Emperor, and bands that depart the black metal genre altogether and become things completely new and strange (see Arcturus), the genre as a whole is fairly creatively barren, and the farther one strays from the original early '90s Norwegian scene, the lower the quality gets.
If Marduk and Blut Aus Nord are the unfortunate reality of what black metal has become, Ulver's debut album Bergtatt is definitely what it should have become. Grafting on elements of traditional heavy metal and folk music, it has the lonely, dreamy atmosphere that made black metal special to begin with, but strips away the "minimalist" incompetence, bad production (be it the "necro" fuzz of a myspace band or the lifeless, sterile overproduction of a 1349 or Dimmu Borgir album), and the so-called "evil" that is actually nowhere near as scary as, say, "Darkness Descends". There is no pretension in this, no corpse-painted teenager twisting knobs to see how "necro" he can make the mix sound, but a sense of honesty and inspiration that makes this album truly a work of art.
The clumsily titled Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler (Taken into the Mountain - A Fairy Tale in Five Chapters) is certainly not the heaviest thing ever recorded. The guitar tone is pretty much all midrange with little bass, the bass guitar is warm and bright, and the drums are relatively laid-back even during blastbeats. This works to Bergtatt's advantage, as it perfectly captures the lonely, desolate "wilderness" atmosphere that so many black metal albums strive for but few attain. It's not a headbanging record nor is it "evil" at all (it is, as the title suggests, a black metal fairy tale), but rather it is simultaneously relaxing and engrossing to listen to, sucking the listener into its own world, where the myths and fears of ancient man come alive.
The production is just about perfect, clear but very atmospheric, and resembling more than anything a well-worn vinyl record from the 1970s. All of the instruments, even the bass, come through clearly but retain very natural, organic tones. The soundstage is distant and slightly muffled, and with enough reverb to get a worn, old-fashioned sound without being muddy. It's not overly aggressive, nor is it intended to be. The overall mood is of pensive contemplation, not fury, and the album is best enjoyed alone.
The structure, too, is pretty much unique. While the opener ("I Troldskog Faren Vild") and closer ("Ind I Fjeldkamrene") make great songs in their own right, as a whole Bergtatt is the ideal concept album, a continuous musical narrative with the natural flow and suspenseful pacing of a good novel. "Progressive" is a label that could certainly be applied to it, as it has the sort of linear, advancing structure of 1970s prog rock epics, but it maintains its cohesion despite the endless procession of different riffs and sections, gradually ratcheting up the intensity as it goes along.
Of course, for an album like this, you need musicians who know what they're doing, and the members of Ulver are definitely up to the challenge. Guitarists Haavard and Aismal display serious talent with their precisely played riffs, occasional leads, and surprisingly intricate acoustic playing in the more folk-oriented parts. Skoll is quite active on the bass, often playing counterpoint melodies against the guitar riffs or injecting harmonies wherever needed, and he is easily discernible in the mix. Aiwarkiar is a truly excellent drummer with a lot more tricks up his sleeve than just blastbeats. His fills and grooves are very technical at times, and he seamlessly swaps between a vast array of ordinary beats, double bass, blastbeats, and cascading snare and tom rolls. However, Ulver mastermind Garm himself is the most immediately impressive talent, with a very emotive clean vocal style reminiscent of Gregorian chants, and a vicious, gritty black metal shriek that never wears out or loses control. His range isn't that great and the shy chant-like clean vocals would sound weak and misplaced on say, an Iron Maiden clone, but here they fit seamlessly into the Ulver sound.
Ulver puts its best foot forward with opener "I Troldskog Faren Vild", and to this day I haven't heard anything else quite like it. It has plenty of that misty atmosphere but the techniques and stylings are pretty much straight heavy metal, with clean vocals and riff-based guitar work from start to finish. The riffs are numerous, and all of them are quite melodic and very good. Perhaps the guitar solos are perhaps too restrained, being pretty much elaborations on the underlying riffs instead of displays of virtuosity, but they do the job well enough and the song never gets boring even after almost eight minutes. This is a fairly gentle, melodic exposition to ease the listener into the story, with a sort of "wandering" feel evoking the little girl lost in the woods referenced by the lyrics. There is no rigid structure here at all, but a natural development and progression from the opening drum roll to the ending fadeout.
Black metal is introduced with "Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Need", with a tremolo riff shattering a calm acoustic pattern to represent the danger the girl is suddenly in as night falls and the trolls come out for the hunt. This track and the following "Graablick Blev Hun Vaer" sort of meld into one long musical unit, with the tension steadily increasing and the blastbeats-and-tremolo sections becoming more and more dominant as the trolls begin to close in on their prey. There's a sense of urgency, a continuous escalation of danger as the night becomes ever darker and hope of escaping the forests becomes ever more remote. The second half of "Graablick Blev Hun Vaer" features the sound of running footsteps after the music fades away, as if the trolls have finally discovered the young protagonist and she must flee for her life. A crazed, swirling piano rides above the soundscape before the black metal returns at an even faster and more frantic pace. Serpentine, harmonic bass lines undulate beneath the mournful guitars and bloodcurdling screams of Garm, with no folk or traditional-metal segments forthcoming to relax the tension, indicating that the adventure has now taken a turn for the worse.
The eerie "Een Stemme Locker" is entirely acoustic, soft but sinister, as the trolls trap the young girl under their spell and take her to their mountain home. The acoustic folk is far more ominous now, as hope fades away and the evil magic of ancient myth seems to become more and more overwhelming.
An incredibly mournful tremolo riff and a wordless scream open the final chapter, "Ind I Fjeldkamrene". No hope of rescue or survival is left, and even the occasional acoustic moments are loaded with grief and sorrow. The trolls have the girl now, and begin to turn her to stone. The heavy metal segments of "I Troldskog Faren Vild" return, only far more chilling, as we learn that there will be no happy ending in this fairy tale. The guitars on this song are truly amazing, the riffs dripping with emotion, the terror and misery of hell on earth coming through with every note and chord. Iron Maiden-like harmonies appear, but instead of being uplifting and anthemic, they play heart-crushing minor chords that are reminiscent of wailing mourners at a funeral. The opening riff returns to the accompaniment of acoustic guitar and slowly fades away as the acoustic guitars come to the forefront. All is lost, the young girl is gone, and the story is ending. A bittersweet, delicate acoustic melody plays to the sound of rain, as the magic and myth fade away, and the listener is once again in the real world, enchanted, shaken, and maybe even enlightened by his glimpse of the harsh yet fantastic things that still lie outside of human civilization and in the subconscious depths of even modern man's mind, and the thought that there still may yet be slivers of that primordial danger and wonder in this mundane 21st-century world. But should we seek it out, or remember the fate of that young girl and remain secure in our comfortable, everyday existence? Bergtatt leaves that decision to the listener.
At about 35 minutes, Bergtatt feels just the right length, telling all that it set out to tell but not wasting a moment in doing so. Some people wish it were longer, but that would probably ruin the pacing of the whole thing, for to see Bergtatt as a set of five songs is to do it a great disservice--the album is a single work of art that transcends mere entertainment to lay bare the ancient shadows of the human psyche. And in this sort of evocative, intimate fantasy, it finds black metal's proper place in the metal world. If epic power metal fantasy is the equivalent of a heroic ancient saga recited in a royal court, Bergtatt calls to mind the grizzled elder of the medieval village, sitting with his grandchildren besides a fire and telling them the folklore and stories of his own childhood. It's like no other metal recording before it and probably no metal recording since, a slice of the dark reality that lay under the gleaming veneer of medieval "high fantasy", where people died young and children who wandered too far from home were claimed not by the trolls, but by the freezing cold and the prowling wolves and bears.
In short, this is a musical monument, a one-of-a-kind treasure that should be sought out by metalheads of all stripes. Listen to it on a lonely afternoon or evening, and let its magic sink in and take hold, and it will be a truly amazing experience. It's too bad that Ulver never made anything of this quality since, transitioning to dull folk/classical, then stereotypical "necro" black metal, and then awful electronic music. What could have been if this had become the black metal template rather than A Blaze in the Northern Sky? One can only imagine, but it wouldn't have been the black metal that became the genre of choice for people who lack the talent or skill to play anything else.
Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler is one of those albums which is over hyped to sickening proportions. Yes, it has its moments, but is it absolutely mind-blowing? No... What we have here is decent Norwegian black/folk metal which is really no better than any other folk project around.
This album at best, has semi-good songs to down right bad songs, examples are Chapter I: Lost in a Forest of Trolls and Chapter IV: A Voice is Calling respectively. The vocals consist of sung, black metal and whispers. Once, a reviewer said: "Garm has some of the most beautiful clean vocals ever." He doesn't, he’s definitely not a bad singer, hell, he IS good but saying he's the best in the business is really going overboard. The black metal vocals are decent.
Let’s look at the positive and negative aforementioned songs shall we?
Chapter I: Lost in a Forest of Trolls: Pretty good clean vocals and interesting riffs. There is a lot of variety in the riffling to keep you interested and has a pretty good ending. However, it's nothing mind blowing. Only clean vocals on this track.
Chapter IV : A Voice is Calling: pretty fucking abysmal, almost as bad, if not as bad as drawing down the moon (that album doesn't deserve capitalisation), lame, boring guitar riffs and whispered vocals which sucks. The song isn't metallic but hey, what would you expect from such a dull song? This song is the reason why this album lost 10 points. I was waiting for the song to swing into some fast and intense riffing but alas, it never happened. It's kinda like that episode of Itchy and Scratchy on the Simpsons where Poochey comes in, you're waiting for them to get to the fireworks factory, but they just drive past it and then it’s the end. The end? Yes that was my reaction; it left me with that hollow empty feeling of disappointment, which means you've been ripped off.
Thankfully there are no other songs like track 4 on the album. There is also a mix between soft parts and heavy parts of most songs on the album. There is usually a mix between clean vocals and black metal vocals as I alluded to above.
Another compliant I have about this album is that it's far too short. It's less than 35 minutes long, had the songs been longer or a few bonus tracks been added I would have enjoyed the experience more. Why? Well, the album is good and most people would want this enjoyable experience to go on longer, right? Also, I don't know about you, but I don't like buying albums which are under 40 minutes. So it’s rather tempting for me to just go and download the album, unless the album is really good and when I mean really good, I mean Moon in the Scorpio or SOTLB good.
However, acting as a counter-balance to its short length and adding incentive to actually buy the release, is the albums great art. Very nice, especially if you like forests at night, and I do.
Don't get me wrong, Bergtatt isn't a terrible release, I just expected more, a lot more and came away a bit disappointed with an album which I thought would be much better. So the question you've all been asking, should I go out and buy it? In my opinion, no, I would suggest you download it first, and then make a decision based on that.
Conclusion: The above is recommended for download or purchase.
Bergtatt is where the black metal/folk trilogy began for Ulver and stands up against the rest of their works as one of the best. Besides, Natterns Madrigal, Bergtatt is by far my favourite Ulver full-length. The bliss it draws from tranquility is immense. Although this full-length was released some time ago, it has evidently stood the test of time with fans over the globe. It's gone from strength to strength in the public eye. Not something many bands can say about their material. Although the perception of this band has perhaps deteriorated over time, the way in which they began their career will definitely be held in high regard for a long time.
This was perhaps my first experience with folk inspired black metal. It remains one of the only folk works that I can still listen too. Ulver manage to blend folk instruments, such as flutes and acoustic sections with black metal elements with inspired ease. No matter what element of Bergtatt you try to find a fault in, you simply can't. It's immeasurably good. Tremolo picking has never sounded so good against the backdrop of operatic vocals. I've always respected Garm, which I will always continue to call him, for his vocals. Whether they're for Arcturus, Ulver or whomever, he always manages to pull out a top draw performance. Beautiful ranging vocals go hand in hand with the slow distorted riffs and incredibly ambience created by the folk inspired aspects of Ulver's game. A powerful tool that many black metal bands don't have is bass. Ulver harness the bass instrument and it's effects very well. It's noticeable throughout, creating melody and sweeping mellifluousness. The acoustics help in developing the beautiful melodies behind the awe inspiring vocals.
It's now all slow and attractive, there are a number of sections which black metal fans will spray their shorts over. Tremolo riffs and awesome rasping vocals that pierce straight through the mind and trigger the emotions. Ulver have the power to switch from one genre to another with ease. Solid songwriting is obviously a key element to Ulver's glittering success. From the first song to the last, Ulver create powerfully driven songs that will inspire musicians all over the globe. Similarly sounding to Agalloch in ways, Ulver are masters of experimentation and that is another very key element of Ulver's music. Experimentation is nothing without Ulver and Ulver are nothing with experimenting. They go hand in hand like death and funerals. Ulver paint a picture worth a thousand words with Bergtatt. It's divine power to be able to conjure up a vast array of imagery is profoundly brilliant. From autumn landscapes to the desolation of winter snow storms. Ulver's direct approach is precise and perfect.
What can one say that has not already been said about one of black metal's most revered releases? Not only is this one of the best black metal releases of the "second wave", it's simply one of the best... period! From start-to-finish this album is nothing short of remarkable. Ulver managed to pull-off something that only a few other black metal bands could or ever will (in my opinion).
The moment "Capitel I : I Troldskog Faren Vild" begins, you feel the tranquility this album possesses. While retaining it's calm and peaceful nature, the first track still manages to remind the listener that they are indeed listening to a metal band. The atmosphere present on this track (and frankly the entire album) is that of being in the cold, lonely, mysterious dark woods. From "Capitel I to Capitel V", you hear what has to be one of the greatest voices in the entire black metal world, again in my opinion, and that is of course courtesy of Trickster G. (aka Kristoffer Rygg), or in this case, simply, Garm. Not only does Garm possess a beautiful and unforgettable voice on this album (and through out his musical career, might I add), he also manages to conjure up one of the most unique (to some degree) shrieking vocals black metal is notorious for. Simply put it this way, Garm (especially for being the young lad that he is on this album), shows what would become of his ever changing musical journey, and that is... pure genius.
The production on this release is absolutely perfect, every instrument that was meant to be heard is heard through out the listening of it. The drums are rather solid and precise. The smoothness and flow with the bass and guitar's are from time-to-time interrupted by violent sounding burst's, which are an absolute necessity for the mood's in which the song's are presented. The bass is heard allot more here than most black metal bands, but than again, Ulver aren't your typical black metal band. As this is a folk black metal release, there are, along with electric guitar's (who might I also add, Aismal and Haavard do a mighty fine job with their parts), acoustics present on "Bergtatt".
One thing I've noticed that comes off as somewhat of a "downer" for some listeners is the releases run time, which stands at about 35 minutes. I personally feel that this time is absolutely respectable, simply because Ulver managed to pull off exactly what they aimed for, or at least it comes off that way. Another thing that can be said about this album is that it surely does get better and better with every listen. And is but only one of three from these evolving Ulver.
With it's blend of folk instruments, un-repetitive fast paced black metal, and beautifully haunting atmosphere, "Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler", is sure to please any who will give this well deserving masterpiece a fair shot. I strongly urge you (those who are second guessing the purchase of this album) to buy it and begin your journey with the wolves!
I'm a rather big fan of Ulver's first two albums, despite the fact that the second is not metal whatsoever. I have yet to hear Nattens Madrigal, and want to, but have yet to hear it.
This is a good balance of the atmospheric elements of black metal combined with pure folk. Garm's voice shines when he's singing cleanly, but when he goes into black metal shrieking, it's rather unspectacular. The guitars a much less harsh than say, Mayhem or even Burzum, but have the massive chords used by both bands. Adding a further Burzum element is the use of nearly droning stummed chords, albeit Ulver usually stays a lot faster. They also use a real drummer who is rather active behind the kit, which certainly helps to keep the energy of this piece high. Another element that I find rather enjoyable is the bass, which is slightly distorted and played simply, giving the songs a very strong backbone.
Fuck, the melodies on here work great as well. If there was ever a band that really evoked great expanses of wilderness, it would have to be Ulver...after Bathory, of course! If, however, you compare this to Twilight of the Gods, you'll find that Ulver is much more black metal in terms of composition, rather than the rather rock feel of that aforementioned Bathory album.
The songs are really well constructed as well, never getting repetitive or too short. There are a few bands that can construct long songs with multiple movements that blend together. Opeth, for example, is rather incapable of doing this, in my eyes, whereas Ulver succeeds with this formula to a great degree.
The only downsides I can really point out are that the running time is too short, and the album can tend to blend together with itself. Also, I do think that the coarse vocals don't work too well on here, nor do the blast beats. It would have been better if Ulver had made the album entirely folky with electric instruments. But that's just my opinion.
In my opinion, Bergtatt is without question a diamond in the rough not just for black metal, but for metal in general. I say metal in general because several musical templates are explored here: from the storming, passionate melodies through tracks 2 and 3, to the morose, gentle wanderings of the opening track, and everything in between. We will never see another album quite like Bergtatt, though its influence is still strong today. In a sense, it represents the more atmospheric and unseen side of the early Norwegian scene, making it very much an overlooked classic.
For such a young band, Ulver were just as genius at making memorable, emotive compositions as they are now. Some moments are ripe with soft acoustic guitars, flutes, and angelic chanting while others utilize passages of fierce metal. The type of metal on display here, however, is quite different; despite the blast beats, shrill guitars, and shrieked vocals, Ulver still maintain a genuine passion and atmosphere that is just as poignant as the softer sections. Most of the guitar lines stay melodic without sounding weak, and this gives the album its surreal, nocturnal, autmnal vibe. The drumwork is tasteful and entertaining, but never overdoes itself; the blast beat sections are executed much cleaner than I expected, but plenty of room is left for dynamics and cruising mid-tempo beats. Garm's ever-famous chant shift ranges, from deep and Gregorian-like to a near falsetto that is nothing short of ethereal. His ability to layer and harmonize his clean vocals isn't something done often or successfully, but Garm pulls it off in spades. Though his screams may seem very typical black metal at first, they actually have a bit more bite to them upon subsequent listens; it is clear and throaty rather than garbled and nasally, which only gives the heavier sections more attack power. As a unit, the band pass the ultimate test of constructing songs; the riffs are atmospheric metal genius; clean, proficient shifts are made in mood and music, and none of the structures really seem rushed or forced. Though some may say the abrupt changes from folk to metal are jarring, it only helps the thematic concept of the album.
As always important for any album even closely related to black metal, atmosphere and aesthetic are big issues. No worries here. Bergtatt deserves to be listened to as a whole, and takes the listener through various climaxes and emotional highs and lows. Considering the song craft at work here, everything connects without being strictly bound together. The melodic elements in the music bring to life the archaic, mysterious feel of everything, and the meandering, narrative song structures truly present a cinematic backdrop; whether it be the winded acoustic folk sections, layered clean vocals, undeniably Norwegian guitar leads, or occasional sound effect. The third track is the best example of this, where the middle section consists solely of arpeggios on piano with noises of a woman running through the forest in distress, before collapsing back into a section of pounding drums and speed-picked guitars.
The production of the album may seem a bit hampered and weak at first; the guitars stay somewhat in the background, the drums have a very earthy and old sound, and the bass just follows suit of everything else. With the correct situation and listening circumstances, though, one will find that everything is mixed correctly to the music's needs. Garm's vocals have a fair amount of echo for a mountainous, desolate feel; the drums come out in fury when they need to, just as the guitars do; and the acoustics are crystal-clear.
If Kveldssanger was too soft and Nattens Madrigal too harsh, Bergtatt should give you the fix. Those looking for atmospheric metal, look no further.
Often, a band's debut album is their best. The band has had a lifetime to write the songs, there's no expectations, and the band will often be committed and passionate about their music. Of course some side effects can include sloppy production and songwriting, but Ulver avoid these traps quite easily, creating what is arguably their best work yet. The music in this album will probably sound quite familiar to most metal fans. Atmospheric/Folky Metal has been done quite well by quite a few bands.. Agalloch, Drudkh, even Opeth if you're so inclined. But this is where it was done first, and only Drudkh has got close to the majesty in this album. Everything in this album is epic, majestic, and just straight out awesome- Atmospheric Black Metal at it's finest.
As soon as the drum roll kicks in for the first song you know you're in for a good time. The guitar riffs are melodic and really heavy, the bass is clearly audible and has some really great lines, and while the vocals aren't as godlike as they are in say, Kveldssanger or Blood Inside, they're pretty damn solid. Every song's got a real forest vibe to it.. The vocals sounding all distant and chanted, the guitars reverbed but still crystal clear, the drums solid, but wonderfully wooden-sounding and organic.
A good thing about this album is the freshness, the twists and turns that are in this album. The second song starts off with some ethereal folk, goes all blasting black metal, and then comes out the other side sounding even more ethereal, with a heavy yet beautiful guitar riff that Drudkh would love to make their own. The album's content to stay in a fairly mid paced pace for the most part, and the folky and faster bits are put in at quite appropriate spots. The band really is astonishingly versatile.. The clean parts are really beautiful, and while the faster bits don't exactly match Nattrens Madrical for speed and ferocity, they're pretty powerful nonetheless. The Capitel III is also a great example, again starting off all folky before going crazy. There's also the next tune, which is straight up folk, with some totally spine chilling female vocals, floating disembodied in the mix and sounding really beautiful.
In a way it's quite discouraging that people who where younger then me can make such great music. This album's 5 songs do vary in pace and structure, but they're all amazing, with some excellent vocals, diverse guitar work, some moments of anger, and some of serenity. While I do like Ulver's later work, it's a shame that they won't do something like this again. A must have for any fans of Atmospheric metal.
Bergtatt from Ulver is one of those albums that will get better with each listen. At first I somehow thought of it as a good but strange album where things were just thrown together in mix. Where as I listen now I hear an almost perfect album influenced by folk and black metal. Of course there are many forms and styles of black metal and a lot of those come along here. The album stars with a slow riff encountered with clean vocals which reminds me of early Opeth. But as this album was released in 1994 and Opeth debut “Orchid” in 1995 I can’t help but think how much this album influenced them.
Bergtatt really brakes loose in the second song when after the folksy intro the music suddenly burst out into blast beats and grim vocals. The song is quite heavy compared to the first but compared to other black metal; well it’s quite relaxed actually. The riffs are full of melodies and there are so many switches with acoustics and elements of folk put together that instead of a hard and heavy black metal experience you will experience an almost soothing and calm album.
If I listen to this album and when I later listen to later Ulver I’m actually happy they abandoned their early style. Not that it isn’t good but they already perfected it on this short album and I love the fact that this band is so incredibly diverse in any way. Ulver playing folksy black metal is amazing but Ulver doing harsh black metal is perhaps even better and Ulver doing Jazzy electronic stuff even more. Hell, I bet if this band made a gansta-rap album it would be the best in its genre.
But anyway, this album is great an a true must have for fans of early Opeth and metal in general.
written for www.musicmademe.com
Ulver. The epitome of progression from a record like "Bergtatt" to "Blood Inside".
For those who know, or have heard, Ulver's latest opus is largely different from their first 3 records. For those who are interested, I will not give the secret away, so you'll have to go buy it and see for your self. But what i will do is try to explain what "Bergtatt" is achieving. I feel that it is impossible to describe this album without going into a lot of detail. So if you are really interested, read on!
First track is named "Capitel I - I Troldskog Faren Vild". Yes, the songs arent sung in English, but in a form of archaic Danish. Starts off with a roll, and then ensues a rather happy sounding folk/black metal riff. Vocal rasps exceptionally evil sounding + a somewhat necro production. Then suddenly, it stops, and soon calm acoustic waves of guitar engulf you. Production here seems a bit better, as all wavelengths are fully employed, and a chilly atmosphere surrounds the listener. Then as suddenly as it began, the acoustics die out, to be replaced with another different riff. This leads off as an outro. For the album opener, this song clearly gives off an aura of individuality that "warns" listeners that it is not some ordinary black metal band.
"Capitel II - Sœlen Gåer Bag Åse Need" is the second track which starts out with a serene folk tune accompanied by what sounds like flute and calm yet cold acoustics. Once again, the black metal part appears out of nowhere and a frantic riff is delievered. Garm also adds to this riff by doing Nordic choir vocals in the background to accompany the rasps. Singing here is pretty good too. This song also follows the previous song's structural formula. This may seem a tad repetive, but trust me, Ulver keep you entertained throughout the trip.
The Third track "Capitel III - Gråblick Blev Hun Vær" starts once again with acoustics and garms choir vocals. It then leads to frantic and cold black metal once again. As you may have guessed, Ulver surprises us again by slowing everything down, and begin the acoustics once more, accompanied by a grand piano softly playing a classical tune. Add to this is a sample of what seems to be like someone running through a forest in the deep Norwegian mountains. Its very chilling, and it continues for almost 2 minutes and when it stops the listener has adjusted to sounds to the background, and you get lost. You are brought back to reality with a sudden outpouring of insanely frantic black metal. Although frantic, the riffs are very melodic and leads to countless hours of headbanging.
The fourth track, "Capitel IV - Een Stemme Locker" slows the album down almost to a halt. This may seem as an interlude to the next song. Garm chants in a very deep and low voice over 2 acoustics. Slow, mournful acoustic solos are delivered and once again the listener will begin to feel cold. As it is an interlude, it lasts a mere 4 minutes as compared to the others songs which average at around 8 minutes.
The closer of the album, "Capitel V - Bergtatt - Ind i Fjeldkamrene" starts of with straightforward cold black metal, and leads to a beautiful acoustic section. After a bit of that, black metal ensues with the same insane energy. What really attracts me to this song is the end, when the black metal riff stops (as usual) and there is about 15 seconds of silence. Then probably the best acoustic movement on the entire album surrounds me. You just need to listen to the serenity yet sadness of the music to fully understand what I'm saying. This continues out as an outro to the album.
So there you have it, Ulver's first part in its trilogy of albums. This album has undoubtably reached out to me, and for this reason I can say that it is an amazing piece of music talent. It seems that the pattern behind this record reflects the thoughts of bipolar person. The furious black metal contrasts the serene acoustic parts, just like the inner turmoil that is caused by schizophrenia. These guys know exactly what their vision is, and portray it perfectly. As the listener, you begin to understand what that vision is. If you are looking for something that may be "on another level" of metal, then you should definitely purchase this album. In fact, I demand that you buy it! :)
Kristoffer Rygg, or Garm, was but a lad when he formed Ulver in Norway during the early 90's, a time when Black Metal was beginning to flourish relentlessly and distastefully. By the time -Bergtatt- was ready to be recorded, Kris had the entire concept of the album ready; visioned to be a temporary, yet complex, trilogy. By this time Kris was able to bring together four Norwegian Aiwarikiar, Haarvard, Skoll, Aismal to help him achieve turning his ideas into reality.
-Bergtatt- is the debut effort by Ulver that tells of a maiden who ventures into the nearby mountainside, filled with purity and hope. As the listener progresses through the album, she begins to lose everything she once was. The tainted mountainside takes hold of her, more and more with each passing track until the last wane of Garm's chilling voice.
Kris's voice takes the part of two beings. The majority is comprised by Kris's clean vocals, which never miss any note whatsoever and can hold itself for quite a good amount of seconds. This voice is akin to Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt, but on a higher scale. This side represents the damsel, I guess, full of light and innocence. As she is lured into the mountainside, we encounter Kris's, well...Garm's voice. As one would know, Black Metal truly has vocals that aren't pleasing to the ear, and Garm's really lives up to this. His voice is that of demon, bread for manipulation and torture. His shrieks meet up with that of Per Ohlin's and Ihsahn's. To put it to rest, if you enjoy Black Metal, then you will love them.
Given lesser recognition, the guitars and drums are mixed well in the recording albeit a bit light. The bass, of course, is hardly heard, as such a recording was barely supported to its full capability. However, that doesn’t mean that the entire thing is washed out, but just to clear. Nothing is truly heavy here, which leaves many fans yearning for some intensity, only to find the closest thing to Metal coming out of this being the instances of Black Metal during selective tracks like “Chapitel II” et “Chapitel V.”
While not solidly Black Metal, I would compare early Ulver to Agalloch easily. The music is primarily focused on slow, doomy tunes while Garm layers it with mixed vocals; the same as John Haughm with Agalloch. Five tracks are more than enough (34 minutes really isn’t enough), as this is a three-part trilogy that can only be completed by reuniting this with the other two. Early Ulver is an unmatched pleasure to listen to, so I don't have to ask you to pick at least this up.
From the vast forests of Norway, Ulver arise with ‘Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler’ (roughly translated into English: ‘Spellbound – A Folktale In Five Parts’), which marks the beginning to one of the most unique and interesting careers in the world of black metal. Being a somewhat overlooked force in the Norwegian black metal scene in the mid-to-early 1990s, next to names like Mayhem, Emperor and Darkthrone, Ulver expose their talent in mixing Scandinavian folk music with melodic and tasteful black metal music in order to make a masterpiece.
All the lyrics are in Norwegian, unlike most of the other bands in the black metal scene at the time who opted to write their lyrics in English. The astounding vocals are performed by Garm, in harsh, clean and chanted manners. In my opinion, Garm possesses the greatest and most interesting clean vocals in metal. In terms of guitar work, there are many melodic and catchy riffs and a beautiful (not overly-technical) solo every once in a while. The best part about the guitar work is the abundance of majestic acoustic interludes as they add a whole new dimension to Ulver’s music. AiwarikiaR’s striking performance on drums is seemingly overlooked. Unlike most black metal bands, he does a great job in making sure that his drumming does not overpower the other important aspects of the music and instead compliments the melodies in the music. AiwarikiaR also plays the flute in this album (a rather unusual choice as a second instrument for a drummer, if you ask me) and with great dexterity – it’s a shame that the flute is only used in one part of the album (the intro of ‘Capitel II: Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Ned’). The production is rather ‘dim’ and it perfectly fits the style of play that Ulver have selected and it helps each instrument to be easily distinguished from one another; which is a rarity in a black metal album.
If you’re looking for a monumental, atmospheric, appealing and unique Norwegian folk black metal album played to near perfection, you should certainly get your hands on this album. Also, fans of music that contains a genuine quality of beauty (Agalloch comes to mind) should give this album a listen. This is the album that makes me wish that Ulver had never changed to the electronic / avant-garde they are known for producing nowadays.