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Painfully Pleasing - 90%

IcemanJ256, October 29th, 2004

This album begins with a harsh, raw, sudden explosion of extremely heavy instruments and screaming. It continues for one minute and then stops for a long, beautiful acoustic interlude. Oh, it must be like Bergtatt and have lots of acoustic sections, right?

Nope.

Even though that acoustic part is calm and pleasing, it is the only one on the entire album. The other songs do not let up from the deliberately nasty, extremely punishing production, crunchy guitars, and raw screaming. Ulver doesn't just have a huge mess of unorganized songs though - there are really great melodies underneath all the chaos. My personal favorite parts are the beginning and end of "Of Wolf and Passion" and the end of "Of Wolf and Destiny". The riffs are just brilliant and sound perfect with this sort of production. The drumming is constantly ultra-aggressive.

Each song ends or begins with a few seconds of ambience and mysterious sound effects, leading you to believe the next song will be a slow, ambient song to give you ears a rest, but there is no such thing. Most songs begin and end very abruptly like someone just pressed the stop button for you. Some say Garm recorded this in the forest but I have no idea if that's true or not. It would be quite grim of him to do so, and it sounds like it anyways.

Fans that have got into Ulver through their electronic/ambient music should be aware that the first 3 Ulver albums were a black metal trilogy. The first, "Bergtatt" has just as many acoustic and quieter sections than heavy sections. The second, "Kveldssanger" was entirely calm, atmospheric folk songs. "Nattens Madrigal" is the third and is 98% extreme harsh black metal. Most people that discovered Ulver through their newer works probably won't like this, and that is no surprise. Personally, I love every Ulver album, as radically different as they all are. I did discover them first through "Themes" and collected the albums in randomly. It really depends on how much of an open mind you have. On the other end of the spectrum, fans of Norwegian black metal will either love or hate this album, maybe hate it because of the lack of variety in the songs, but it really depends on the person, obviously. No matter what the case, give this album time to grow on you. Don't make the mistake of laughing at it on one listen and never taking it out again.

I haven't heard about this in a while, but apparently Ulver was arranging a string remake of this album. I'm not entirely sure if it's actually going to come out. I think they have recorded part of it already, but Garm became uninterested and started working on the next full-length. Hopefully what was recorded will at least be released, or they eventually will record the rest of it. A string remake of one of the harshest black metal albums in existence would be one of the most original, interesting, and outrageous things ever done. I could just imagine soft strings playing all these great melodies and it would be just as good.

Check out other projects with Garm: Arcturus and Borknagar if you haven't already. This is a little similar to the first Borknagar album, if you've already heard it. It's definitely one of my favorite black metal releases ever.