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An unlistenable masterpiece - 80%

doomknocker, June 15th, 2009

What a weird, wild journey ULVER has undertaken...from black metal outcasts to digital/techno, well, outcasts, Trickster Fiery G.arm Maelstrom and company seem to have quite the knack of making the listener guess as to what's coming up next. Under usual circumstances that leads to satisfying listens...but ULVER don't necessarily have that ability (you either like electronic music or you don't). But those of the metalhead spectrum descend towards the first trilogy, some of them forsaking all that transpired post-"The Marriage of Heaven and Hell', and with good reason. The ULVER crew were able to create works of strikingly good folky black metal while keeping their distance from the church-burning hordes. But none would strike so fervently than "Nattens Madrigal".

Strike being a relatively good description...

This album contains quite possibly some of the best and most well-thought out black metal material ever composed. The band dives head-long into the musical equivalent of touring a forest at night, escaping the baying of blood-thirsty wolves that lap at the poor victim's feet closer and closer with every cringe-inducing tremelo pick. Who knew that a batch of outsiders would turn the entire grim black metal genre completely on its head like this? Speedy tempos back-boned by consistant blast-beats, slicing harmonic guitar tandems and unholy wolfen growls create a grim, dire atmosphere the likes of which few of the black metal elite were able to concoct back in the early 90s. But the main issue here is that just about 100% of the entire album's production is rendered painful to listen too...the guitars WAY too loud and WAY to thin, akin to a dentist's drill filing away the inside of the ear cavity, the drums more like the tapping of sticks on cardboard, the bass barely audible...the entire album is very much like a painting wherein the artist took a lot of time, effort, and obvious talent to create, but is so offensive you can't look at it for more than a few seconds at a time before turning away. Which is sad, as the music is breathtakingly chaotic and beautiful at the same time. Tracks like the opener "Of Wolf and Fear" (especially with its folky acoustic interlude which gives brief respite from the cacophony), "Of Wolf and Man", and "Of Wolf and Passion" choke the very light out of any and all goodness held sway recorded music could ever possibly possess. And it is in that desperation that the music and overall performance comes off simulteneaously bitter and sweet.

So in the end this album contains incredibly well-made music strewn through a jagged-metal filter. Definately an album to own, but subjection and consequent ownership will take more than a few listens to appreciate. Art in and of itself nonetheless.