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The year is 1997. You just purchased Ulver's newest album, Nattens Madrigal. Judging by the first two albums, you have some idea of what you will hear on this new album. Right away you're thinking clean singing, acoustic guitar passages, and Norwegian folk elements. Then you pop in the CD.
However, what you forgot to consider with a band like Ulver; expect the unexpected!
First of all, the production is god awful! But being black metal, it really doesn't matter. All black metal has terrible production, so big deal right? Well, if you listen to a shitload of black metal and never heard this album, you will be surprised at the general sound of Nattens Madrigal. It is unlike any black metal album in terms of production. It is hard to explain it. You really have to hear it for yourself. It's fucked up!
There is also another unique aspect to this album. The album is mixed very strangely! In order to explain it effectively, I will ask you to use your imagination. Close your eyes and picture Ulver playing this album together in a forest. In order to create the sound they have created here on Nattens Madrigal, the guitarists would be at the front of your mental picture. Then about 50 feet back, Garm would be screaming away and about 10 feet further back of Garm would be the drummer. The guitars are just that dominant. This is clearly a guitar-centric album and thankfully the band pulls it off. The guitars have a harsh, crunchy tone that is unique to this album alone. They are loud, raw, and to the average person, they are cacophonous. However, if you are a fan of something a little different, then you can learn to love them.
Vocals are provided by the infamous Garm (Arcturus, Borknager). I will have to say that this is not his best vocal performance. Usually known for his top notch clean singing, Garm uses nothing but his grim voice here. He does not sing a note. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't love his black metal voice; it's just that on Nattens Madrigal he sounds weaker than usual. He is very hollow, or faded out here. He is very much in the background which is rare for him. However, it matters not because if he was stealing the show, the album wouldn't sound right.
As mentioned before, the drums on this album are ridiculously quiet. The drummer basically just blastbeats from the beginning of the album to the end. He rarely changes backbeats or slows down. It is a very raw sounding smashing on the drums.
All songs on this release are stupendous. If I had to choose favorites, I would choose “Wolf and Fear” as the best, and “Wolf and Man” as second best. I absolutely adore “Wolf and Fear” because it contains huge riffs and the only acoustic passage in the whole album! The acoustic passage is very beautiful and it is buried in the mist of the ugly sounding guitars for an effective beauty and the beast style song. “Wolf and Man” kicks ass because it has an amazing guitar riff that stands out.
Nattens Madrigal is the perfect end piece for Ulver’s black metal trilogy. However, it is not for everyone. This is a very controversial record. You will either love it or hate it. So beware! On the other hand, if you listen to it and hate it, listen to it again and again because you can gain an appreciation for an album like this. You are not going to understand it right away! I did not care for it the first time I heard it, and now I can’t get enough of it. So if you like music that makes you think, then I highly recommend you purchase Nattens Madrigal by Ulver.