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Well, here we have one of my favorite black metal albums ever. It took a good few months and a lot of perseverance to get to that status, but once it finally reached that plateau, I can't ever see it being toppled from my own personal top ten. I think the thing that stopped it from being an immediate classic for me upon the first few listens was the super raw production - if you think Darkthrone's 'Under a Funeral Moon' had a harsh production, you obviously haven't heard this album. This is black metal 4-track hell, so if you're expecting some kind of dubious multi-faceted symphony filled Dimmu-like affair, please move on now before your eardrums are severely assaulted with treble, treble and some more treble to top it off. Of course, the terrible production adds to the whole vibe greatly for me now, and it's nowhere near as extreme as a lot of efforts released since I first heard this (Striborg's album productions for example, make this sound like it was produced by Bob Rock in comparison).
However, at the time, this was undoubtedly a contender for the 'most acerbic production of 1996' award, with the riffs flaying, filleting and slicing the ear drums with hissing blistering riff after riff, all belted out at top speed. Behind these, Garm's ultra throaty snarl coats the album with unmatched vitriol and animalistic rage, with the relentless drum blastage merely acting as a backdrop for the carnage being brought forth by the destructive vocal and guitar combination. The best way I can describe the album as a whole, is that it acts in a similar way as a pissed off Cobra would if you were poking it with a stick, viciously attacking and biting at your face, spraying its venom to leave you dazed before going for the throat. The thing that shines through on this album is the riffs, although vicious and unrelenting, there is a lot of melody to them which brings similarities to a faster, angrier early Satryicon. Surprisingly, there is a 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' part which utilizes Acoustic guitar, though it's merely used as a short break between songs, which coupled with a few tiny ambient sections between songs, hardly affects the overall hateful scorching tone of the album as a whole.
So yeah, for the un-initiated, Ulver actually used to be a great band before they turned into… well…something completely different. This is a prime example of primitive black metal brilliance, full of spite, disdain, pedal to the metal aural violation and of course, a ton of fucking face biting acidity which fizzes and burns in the face of commercialism and polished productions everywhere. Essential.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com