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The credentials of Ulver are obvious, being one of the earlier purveyors of a sort of folksy twist on black metal that was fairly early on and well received in many quarters. But like a number of bands out of Norway in the early to mid 90s, they decided to test their audience with a rather sizable stylistic departure. Though arguably not as massive and jarring a shift in direction as the ambient interludes of Burzum and Ildjarn, putting out an all acoustic folk album that is pretty well bereft of the aggression and spite that comes along with black metal is definitely a risk, especialy one that is almost as subdued and minimalist in character as the aforementioned keyboard drenched stylistic depatures. However, what "Kveldssanger" might lack in vile screams and distorted guitars, it makes up for with a different kind of darkness.
From start to finish, this album suits the folk label if one is only obsessed with the most somber and woeful of songwriting, and one that is played within a castle rather than at a campfire in the woods. The arrangement actually gets quite dense, employing a mixture of bow stringed sounds to complement the hypnotic acoustic guitar lines and woodwind melodic slots. One could easily get the impression of a very different take on the sort of chamber music that was common in Renaissance courts just before the Baroque period, as the voices and instruments reverberate in a manner quite similar to a concert hall. But the biggest hint at this character of music is the canonical interplay of the vocal lines, themselves layered quite heavily to the point of sounding like a group of between 8 and 16 individual singers.
While a person not immediately familiar with this approach might get the idea that a folk album would include the sort of joyous, dancing character or epic battle scene imagery that one tends to acquire when hearing the likes of Ensiferum or Nokturnal Mortem, this is far from it. There are no galloping chord lines or dancing melodies to speak of here, but rather the sort of melodic chanting and droning instrumental lines that would more likely be encountered in a monastery of sorts. Some songs move a bit more than others, but this is music that generally comes off as entrancing and, at times, ambient as it rolls out small melodic motives and layer them together in a very slow and gradual manner. It has a bit more of a classical feel to it than the ambient works of Burzum, but it has a similar mystique to it, accomplishing its ends as much by atmosphere as by the notes employed.
To say that an album like is an acquired taste would be an understatement, but it's a taste that many fans of the early 2nd wave probably developed between the various genre-bending moments that went on soon after the scene was established. It exists in its own little world, which is comprised mostly of regretful spirits lamenting the waste of their former lives, going by the character of the music at any case. It's much more of a grower and though it does have a very clear style that it continuously refers back to, it's pretty easy to see how something like this might shoot over most peoples' heads.
"Kveldssanger" translates from Norwegian into English as "Evening Songs" and the songs on this second Ulver album indeed have a "sunset" theme that can be interpreted broadly to mean just the end of the working day at one extreme to the end of existence and anticipating what lies beyond at the other extreme. As such, the decision to make this album reliant entirely on acoustic instruments and a quiet folk-influenced style is appropriate. Several songs have a lullaby feel about them and with the exception of the last track, none lasts longer than four minutes.
With the music reduced as much as possible to straight-out melody with very little in the way of frills, the songs have to prove themselves through their melodies, chord motifs, any rhythms they have and the lyrics, and vocalist Garm (Kristoffer Rygg) who also wrote the lyrics must hit every note correctly and have a good tone when he sings. The music passes muster most of the time though on some songs it can sound a little too warm and orchestral. Garm proves he is quite a good singer and if he had taken up some training he might have had another career in opera or musicals.
The album begins strongly with "Østenfor Sol og vestenfor Maane" but as the album continues, its major weakness becomes apparent: the music lacks feeling and for all its technical proficiency sounds very flat. This is probably what Garm referred to in an interview when he described the album as a failed attempt at creating a classical music album and singled out the style of delivery as the problem rather than the content. Some tracks like "Ord" and "Kveldssang" are too short and their potential remains undeveloped. There's hardly much variety in the mood of the songs as they segue one into the next and this in itself creates an impression across the album that all the songs are simply variations of the one meta-song. Pauses between tracks rarely last long enough for viewers to be able to register that a song has ended. On an album where the music and singing are very stripped down to their essentials, the atmosphere becomes very important in defining a song's identity; on "Kveldssanger" which is supposed to be an album exploring the possibilities of evening song as a concept with all they might imply, the element of atmosphere is woefully so undeveloped that listeners might feel the band ignored it completely.
It would be worth the band's time to revisit this album and re-record it in a live setting, perhaps in an isolated outdoor venue during a period when the sun is setting: enough time has passed that the musicians have the life experience to give the songs the emotion and mood they require. Short songs might be given a fuller treatment and the entire concept of evening song would at last be explored to the band members' satisfaction.
With such an impressive debut, the chance of Ulver creating something their second time around which could be as good if not better would seem somewhat unlikely, as Bergtatt wouldn’t be an easy album to duplicate (imitate) while still providing its own originality, let alone to be a simple follow-up of. A very good reason as to why this would seem to be true, is the fact that Ulver were still a very young group at the time, even though they managed to offer one of the greatest debuts in the history of the black metal genre to date. This youthfulness however, was certainly no ‘hindrance’ when it came to the early days of this now ever-changing band, as they not only provided a second effort that could be seen as equally captivating, but would also ‘strike’ a third time after that; with their second black metal masterpiece. That being the astonishingly harsh (rawness like no other) and unparalleled Nattens Madrigal. This would solely be based on the listener’s own opinion (s) of course. But either way you decide to look at it, Ulver had done it again. As Kveldssanger was but the second (full-length) of what would come to be many momentous offerings from this now legendary Norwegian musical outfit.
Kveldssanger is, as most know, a release devoid of any kind of metal whatsoever. Rather being an exclusively acoustic folk album with the sole purpose of providing songs of Nordic mysticism in an atmospheric and beautifully tranquil nature. It would be rather difficult to say exactly what this album is capable of when it comes to providing listeners with the overall emotions that they’ll be able to receive from it. One thing is certain though, most will get that Kveldssanger has the ability to calm, as it itself is very calm in its entirety (which really can’t be stressed enough). Kristoffer Rygg’s (aka Garm’s) vocals are yet another huge factor in what makes the music that is created on this release so marvelous, as is in most of the cases where Rygg is present whether it be with Arcturus, Borknagar, Head Control System, or any other project he’s been associated with in which he has offered vocal contributions. Garm’s vocals on Kveldssanger are predominately done in a chanting (Gregorian) manner as well as being overdubbed to sound more choir-like at times. Garm even manages to go "a cappella" for a couple of tracks, thus the obviously entitled track of “A Cappella (Sielens Sang)”.
Garm isn’t the only contributor that ‘shines’ on this one, as the other band members provide listeners with music that deserves much recognition, not only because the end result is of a well demonstrated effort, but because the way it professionally sounds (as if there needs to be a reminder that they are still a metal band at this point; not a traveling folk group, nor would they become one). The fact that they aren’t completely devoted to this style is none the less quite remarkable as they were still able to offer something such as what they did with their sophomore release. The flute courtesy of AiwarikiaR gives a very nice touch to the overall atmospheric sound, as well as the appearance of a cellist which makes this another “authentic” standout in the realm of Scandinavian folk inspired music by a then (at the time) vernal Norwegian black metal band.
There have been only a handful of black metal bands that have decided they would venture into this area of music who have actually been successful, as Ulver has been throughout their career. There’s a very good reason as to why, it usually takes a fairly good amount of “talent” to be able to create music that can truly stand the test of time, and Kveldssanger is a fine example of this.
This is an amazing album. It holds beauty beyond words. Throughout this review I will attempt to do my best to describe the album’s full beauty. But let’s kick things off with a quote from Garm, Ulver’s vocalist, and his feelings about “Kveldssanger.” He once said in an interview that “Kveldssanger” was a very immature album, but it was pretty good based on the youth of the band. I don’t know where to start with what’s wrong with that sentence! I will now explain why that statement by Garm is immature with my review on this album.
First of all, this album is not metal. It is an all acoustic album. No drums, no distorted guitars, and no harsh vocals. What we have here is classical guitars, flutes, cellos, and Gregorian chants from Garm.
The guitars are perfect on this album. Haavard is one hell of a classical guitarist, and he certainly shows that here. He was extremely good on “Bergtatt,” with distorted guitars, but here he gets a chance to show off his classical guitar skill. Haavard is this album. Every song is dominated by his stunning guitar work. I don’t think anyone older could have pulled it off any better, making Garm’s comment seem rather stupid.
AiwarikiaR, the usual drummer for the band, does not get a chance to drum here. However, he plays a mean flute. AiwarkiaR plays the flute very professionally, and is really an effective force on this album. It fits nicely. Again, Garm’s “immature” statement looks pretty dumb.
There is a guest cellist on this album as well. The cello really works here too. It helps to keep the dark atmosphere going. It also adds a low sound to contrast the guitar and flute.
Another way to prove Garm wrong is using his own vocals on “Kveldssanger” against him. When was the last time you heard anyone, young or old, sing in a tremendously powerful baritone voice to acoustic folk music? His voice here is amazing. It is very low, deep, and incredibly full for anybody, never mind a teenager. He sings this way with no metal instruments backing him up either. It really works. He can be heard on seven of the thirteen tracks, which just isn’t enough. I personally would have preferred every track to contain his wonderful voice.
All of these elements on this masterpiece can hardly be considered immature. I don’t know what Garm was thinking, because what he is doing with Ulver today is certainly not nearly as mature as this.
Highlights: All tracks featuring Garm, especially Ulvsblakk, and Østenfor Sol og vestenfor Måne. These two tracks are awesome!
Ulver's Kveldssanger has gotten praised to the skies, not just on this site, but basically by anyone who's heard it before. It's why I feel kind of bad about writing this review, because even though it doesn't seem all that great, I definitely get the feeling that I'm an idiot, and the genius of Ulver goes way over my head.
What we have here is some very minimalistic and stark folk songs, with some very sparse guitar, the occasional other instrument, and a heap of Garms singing all at once. It is definitely a nice, pleasant sound, but that's where it ends for me. Most of the songs stretch on, with little purpose and little to engage the listener. The production doesn't do too much to help this album, with some parts really suffering from shoddy mastering (some parts being distorted from compression, etc..), and the whole thing generally being a bit too hi-fi and compressed for the type of music. The guitars do sound terrific, but a little bit of reverb would've helped the record heaps.
While this record may simply not resonate with me, there are a few terrific tracks, there's no doubt. When Ulver nail the proper atmosphere, it sounds terrific. Honsjeldfbilde has some really great guitar lines and fingerpicking patterns, while the first song, Ostensor Sol.., is really beautiful, with some great minimalist violin playing other some sparse guitar, and some amazing layered singing by Garm. It's probably one of the best song that Ulver have ever done.
Yeah, there's some great stuff here, but so much leaves me all dry. Many of the songs are just too minimalist for their own good, and there's definitely some filler material here. The title track achieves nothing, and Nattens Farget is fairly forgettable, with some pretty awkward vocals from Garm. There's the other problem of the songs tending to blend together after a little while, but that's to be expected with this style of music, so that's fair enough. A bit less minor key stuff would've helped too. I'm not expecting a super happy collection of songs, but it's a long, depressing listen.
It's a shame about this record. Kveldssanger should sound great, but I just can't seem to really enjoy it, no matter how hard I try. Maybe I'm not Norwegian enough. While I didn't like this record too much, I still suggest you pick this up, because chances are I'm a philistine who doesn't know what he's talking about.
Well, it may be redundant to praise this album, but here goes.
Ulver pull off a rare jewel with this release, and the entire album is a continuous exploration of beauty and subtlety. Garm has the gift of gracing every project he's involved with (Arcturus, Borknagar, Ulver) with genius, without adhering to any specific genre or style. Kveldssanger perfectly illustrates this.
It took a few times before I 'learned' to appreciate Kveldssanger. Its subtlety requires a patient and somewhat gentle mood. It was night in my forest home when my inner senses bloomed to receive the album, as waves of beauty washed over me. This is *the* acoustic folk album of the century. Listening to the two other albums of Ulver's trilogie provides a background for what Kveldssanger is attempting: metal without extremity. Completely lacking are primal screams, distorted guitars, speedpicking or deafening crescendos. Nonetheless, the acoustic grace and subtlety present could only be created by a metal band; think of it as black metal "unplugged," or stripped of aesthetic theatrics.
Gregorian monk-like chants punctuate the simplistic acoustic melodies that drift on. Garm's vocals have never been so harmonic and enchanting. His a capella harmonies steal one's breath. I am unsure if he has been thoroughly trained in vocals, but his gift is incomparable.
The overall emotional tone is haunting, brooding. There are passages of extreme sorrow & lonliness. Also present is a gentle reverence of Nature, pagan, simple, primeval. A stroll through the woods makes this resonance apparent. The wooden flute transports you to untouched landscapes, far beyond the control of humans. Life-affirming joy also sneaks in at times; a sigh of relief, a spiritual sense of unity with Earth. Listen closely to the a capella of Track Seven if you are skeptical.
Kveldssanger is simply perfection. Each track is a complete microcosm in itself, without indulgent filler. By the end of the album, one intuits a coherent narrative, a story the listener co-participates in. This is primeval storytelling, filled with tales of daring, sorrow, danger, and bliss. At times gentle as birdsong; at other times, violent landslides. This will be an album I can listen to decades from now. True music encompasses the eternal by not being time-bound; and this creation of sheer beauty soars far beyond both space and time.
Listening to Bergtatt and then listening to Kveldssanger is one hell of a change. From pretty harsh (folk influenced) melodic black metal to completely acoustic and a-cappella Norse folk in just one album is a huge leap. But when you hear Bergtatt this album does make sense, just like Opeth doing progrock on their album “damnation” makes sense. The question is of course: “A black metal band doing folk, does it work? “ I mean to me metal bands doing ballads can be good, but they tend to sound cheesy and overdone sometimes. But here are no traces of metal, not 1. So this is just not a metal release and apparently Ulver isn’t even a metal band on here. Still the question remains “Does it work”. The answer is pretty hard, it is beautiful but it just isn’t as good as their metal and later releases.
The music on the Kveldssanger is mostly instrumental guitar picking with 2 guitarists playing on acoustic guitars and at times there is a flute present. One third of the album features vocals which are quite something else. Garm chants in a deep voice and it is overdubbed a couple of times to actually make the chanting more haunting. The vocals do add a lot to the album, it would be really one-dimensional it was a completely instrumental album and here it is where the albums only true weakness lays for me. To many of it is instrumental and some of the instrumentals just aren’t that memorable. I have nothing against guitar picking and a lot of it is actually quite beautiful but just not everything here is that good.
Still, the Kveldssanger never bores me, and although some songs simply drift by without me noticing them the album sets a great mood and when stuff get interesting it can really get to me.
So, a lovely album which could be Ulver’s least album showing how consistently good they actually are. Some of it is very good and beautiful and some of it is nice but a little less interesting.
Written for www.musicmademe.com
After a highly-appreciated folk black metal album in ‘Bergtatt’, Ulver show their ‘softer’ side and follow up their previous release with an album that is devoid of both harsh vocals and guitar distortion. A band making the transition from folk black metal to folk from one single release would have been unexpected when ‘Kveldssanger’ first came out. Nowadays, Ulver fans know that radical genre-switching and experimentation has become a very common occurrence in their music.
The mesmerising tranquil atmosphere is created through some smooth acoustic guitar work, assisted with Garm’s emotive Norwegian chants. Garm’s vocal performance is stunning and the greatness of his vocals is highlighted in the ‘a cappella’ pieces (namely ‘A Capella (Sielens Sang)’ and ‘Ord’). AiwarikiaR is used sparingly in this album, playing the flute few times on the album and supplying the drum work for short intervals of only one song, Ulvsblakk.
All 13 of the songs on this album are very short, with 10 songs falling short of the 3 minute mark and only one longer than 4 minutes. The length of the songs and the album itself emphasises the fact that this album must be listened to as a whole musical piece and not randomly through mp3.
‘Kveldssanger’ is by no means a mandatory album to purchase, but anyone who appreciates acoustic interludes in songs (such as Dark Tranquillity, Opeth, Woods of Ypres and earlier Satyricon material), or folk bands such as October Falls, should enjoy the album. Folk-era Empyrium fans will also love this full length release as it displays the true greatness of dark, yet uplifting, atmospheric folk music. Open-mindedness is required!
It is often hard to write reviews for “Different” metal albums such as Kveldssanger. Most metal fans prefer the more standard heavy distortion, blasting drums, powerful riffs and such. I believe metal is mostly about the beauty of the music. And what beauty this is...
One cannot really be objective reviewing something so soothing and yet invigorating, light and yet dark, relaxed and yet intense as Ulver's second LP Kveldssanger.
Ulver take a totally acoustic approach at folk metal, if it still can be called so. This record is filled with exceptional clean vocal, acoustic guitar and subtle orchestral harmonies, melodies, and atmosphere. There is nothing on this album that will make you bang your head, mosh or fall off your chair.
Where Ulver really shine is composition. The songs are short in time but long in replay value. The album is just around 40 minutes long, but I repeatedly catch myself listening to it over a few times in a row. The individual songs themselves are beautiful pieces of music, but only when listening to the whole album can one truly appreciate the genius of Ulver. Each piece fall perfectly with the previous and the next, creating a continuity rare albums have achieved. The diverse build-up to Utreise (which I consider to be the peak of the album) is so well done, you can hardly hold your current mood and stop yourself to succumbing to the flow of the music. The final two songs conclude the album, but also prepare you for a re-listen.
The atmosphere on this record is absolutely mesmerising. You easily drift into the world Ulver make with instruments and vocals. Garm’s vocals are heartfelt and powerful, ethereal and very close to the listener. The melodies fall together amazingly well, and don’t leave you wondering if that note should really be there. The songs drift from the cold, bitter northern snowy barrens, to the safety of a mountain cabin, to a dark forest of a misty morning. It is truly not describable in words, the pristine feeling one gets listening to this album. The flow is so natural, the listener doesn’t even hear the brakes between songs or the change in melody. The deep soundscape consumes you completely and you hardly notice the otherwise excellent musicianship on this release (that not being a bad thing considering all the over-technical bands out there).
I could go on and on about this magical album, the second in Ulver’s fantastic pre-electronica trilogy, but you should give it a listen or a hundred and experience this epitome of “non-metal metal”.
An undisputable masterpiece, and probably the nearest thing to musical perfection.
This was pretty much the first folk style album I got, other than Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left. After enjoying the little acoustic parts in metal songs such as very early In Flames, early Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates, Opeth, even Satyricon, this was recommended to me as an album full of little folk songs like that, and it certainly was the perfect suggestion. Most of the songs are very short, as in 2-4 minutes, some are even 1 minute, with the exception of the last track which is nearly 7 minutes. The album is only 35 minutes altogether. It's the same thing with the 2 black metal albums though, just because a CD is short doesn't mean it's bad. Unfortunately I didn't get this right away because I didn't like the vocals, and waited until I discovered some electronic works of Ulver (which are also excellent) to start collecting the old stuff. Now my folk collection has grown far beyond this, and it remains one of the most unique albums in my folk collection, probably due to the vocal style. It didn't really inspire most of my folk collection though, that honor goes to Sol Invictus.
The prominent vocal style I speak of is mostly chanting in Norwegian. Maybe some people are repelled by this because these vocals seem to strong and take away from the calm acoustic playing, but I got used to them and started to enjoy them because of the uniqueness. Tracks 2 and 7 are total a-cappella, track 7 being particularly interesting for no instruments (track 2 is only 17 seconds long).
Most of this album is instrumental, containing acoustic guitars of course, and violins, cellos and flutes. As you should know, this is Ulver's only folk album, in the middle of their black-metal trilogie, but it has no hint of black metal in the music. If you're close-minded and can't listen to anything without harsh vocals and heavily distorted guitars, this isn't for you.
There's really not much to say about each individual track, the acoustic playing is brilliant and beautiful, constantly going through different ideas instead of just strumming the same thing through the whole song. My favorite acoustic playing is probably in the song "Halling," it is just so warm and welcoming. "Nattleite" contains mostly cellos and calm chanting, and the remix, later found on "Quick Fix of Melancholy" is interesting. The first song, "Østenfor Sol Og Vestenfor Maane" has some of the most prominent chanting vocals and mix of instruments. "Hiertets Vee" breaks down near the end into some ambient background noise and some fluffy flute playing.
Fans of "metallers-gone-folk" like later Empyrium, Of Wand & The Moon; fans of Viking/Folk metal such as Vintersorg; and the little acoustic parts in metal that I mentioned above should love this. I'm sure this was quite unexpected when it first came out, and that was just the beginning of the unexpected twists and turns that Garm the Genius would cook up.
Kveldssanger is, simply, one of the most beautiful albums ever released. I cannot begin to describe how beautiful the soundscapes of this album are.
The album opens up with, "Ostenfor Sol Og Vestenfor Manne". This is by far one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. It is about 3:30 in length, and is the best song on the album (though, I suggest listening to the whole album straight-through to get the best affect). The song opens up with a nice acoustic guitar line and semi-operatic singing provided by one of the greatest voices in metal, Garm. The vocals fade off, and a more intricate guitar (acoustic, of course, like all of the album) appears. A grandiose build-up then occurs amongst different vocal lines with the feeling of a choir singing. This is a great song, and foreshadows more greatness to come.
The album is full with Norse Folk-style music, Gregorian chants, and calm atmosphere. The guitars are beautiful and Garm's vocals are powerful but serene. This album is a most-have for all fans of acoustic music, folk music, and metalheads who love to switch it up.