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With their third album Ulver tweak the black metal aesthetic to deliver a performance representative of the entire genre. Much in the same way as early Dark Funeral, Ulver create an aesthetic experience that is the culmination of all the great second wave bands. The difference however is that Ulver have taken this aesthetic, and used it to deliver a work of artistic genius rarely matched in modern music.
What one immediately notices about this album is the melancholy folk tinged melodies that form the basis of these songs. Clearly these are a continuation of ideas from Ulver’s previous albums but where they were previously used as pure folk music; they have now been incorporated into the metal aesthetic bringing together the beauty of the best of both genres of music.
The more melodic and accessible side of this music combined with the derivative aesthetic has led many to believe that it was a deliberately unoriginal work with the intention of fooling a generation of black metallers into believing that this was a classic album without actually making a valid artistic statement. It is easy to see why people would believe this album is contrived, but these ‘flaws’ are only such when they are detached from the album in its holistic sense.
Each song on this album is a perfect example of continuity in melody. The melancholy folk tinged riffs often seem fragmentary, not fully formed, as if they are waiting for the following riff which, while it effortlessly moves from and completes the previous one in an example of flowing melodic perfection, is left waiting for the next. This constant cycle is resolved when the melody eventually returns to its beginning. This brilliantly expresses through music the cyclic nature of reality, and how each of its parts functions as an integrally within the whole.
Unlike folk music which is a pure reflection on the beauty of nature, this album uses its metal influence to place the individual within that whole. The extremity of aesthetic and the harsh emotional melody reveals not only the extremities of nature, but the tragedy and existential suffering involved in the individual realising the inevitability of death.
The fact that this individual suffering is very much within the whole of this album, and not encompassing it shows the link between the two. One is a continuous whole, one is a transient fragment. This relationship is expressed on different levels throughout the album. Each song is formed of fragmentary riffs making up a flowing melodic whole, and the entire album consists of songs which are fragments in the context of the whole, which is a constant flow of melancholy, nocturnal and yet strangely gentle mood music bringing together the best of folk and metal. When seen as a whole this album is pure beauty, and the tragedy of death a necessary part, the entire album is a statement in relentless nocturnal atmosphere using the more extreme side of nature to reveal the extent of its beauty. The brilliant flowing melodic articulation combined with the unrelenting and thick atmosphere as well as the superb aesthetic make for an album of a standard rarely matched in black metal.