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Good content but album lacks expressiveness - 70%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, December 19th, 2012

"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.