without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
As some of you might know, I have already written several reviews thematizing the tendency of post-Black Metal-Ulver to rush into things, bury their music under too many experiments for their own good, trying to incorporate too many styles at once, tainting the music with overlaying shadows of directionlessness while the music at the core would actually be quite a stimulating experience, were it not for these self-architected flaws. "Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" basically marks both a beginning and a prime example of this most painful - and most obvious - flaw in Ulver's post-Metal career, while limited in the range of the pointless, pseudo-"experimental" off-genre deviations it suffers even more from it than for example "Perdition City" or "Lyckantropen Themes" do, because the actual music at the core is even more classy and even more unfortunate to be spoiled with what - as always - shouldn't have been.
Ulver's "Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" employs a mixture of several elements, the first of these is soothing gloom of old Goth Rock - the best comparison I can think of is that it somewhat reminds me of Fields Of The Nephilim's "Elizium". This is combined with the seclusive, chamber-like synthetic warmth of older Dark Ambient acts such as Endura and perhaps a bit of Vond (both "Selvmord" and "Green Eyed Demon"-era Vond), and these two elements account for the major part of the atmosphere of this album. The concept and arrangements however are more befitting of a "Progressive" or "Avantgarde"-tag, as they progress more narratively than your usual verse-chorus-verse-chorus type of music, creating a generally quite captivating feel of listening to a tale as a whole rather than a collection of individual songs that just happen to have the same lyrical theme, like it is on most other concept albums. Of course, as indicated in the opening paragraph, there is a downside. There is a German saying that roughly translates to "not everything that is shiny is gold" - and this couldn't be more true about Ulver's "Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell". Like many times in the later part of their career, this album has to undergo many of these gruesome moments when Ulver just completely lose themselves in pointlessness, randomly throwing in anticlimatic fragments of Breakbeat, Drum & Bass and Industrial Rock that all just seem to be there for the sake of being there, not to contribute anything to the music - and quite on the contrary, all they are is a detriment to the music. Especially the middle part (the later parts of the first CD and the earlier parts of the second) suffers from an unfortunate abundance of these atmosphere-killing mishaps, piling up enough excess material that if removed, the album could easily have been kept on a single CD - which, subtracting the roughly twenty minutes from the end of the last song, it is only minutes away from anyway.
Fortunately for this album, the shameful divergences into pointless waste material are kept relatively limited (compared to for example "Perdition City", at least), reducing the rating I can give this otherwise beautiful work of dark audial narrative by not excessively high amount, so I can salvage it to up to 70%. One would hope that Ulver would learn from the mistakes made on this album and move on into a more coherent direction, but as we all know quite the opposite has happened, until with their movie soundtracks they finally started making a least bit of sense again. It really is a shame for such generally beautiful compositions to be drowned in directionless garbage for no apparent reason (maybe they were seeking acceptance by the pseudo-intellectual modern art beatnik community, or maybe they just had nothing better to do than to defile their own work), but I guess that is the pricetags that comes along with the interest in the good parts of Ulver's post-Metal works. It's up to you to decide whether you are willing to pay the price for the sake of hearing some inspiringly classy compositions, or if you deem it just not worth it. After almost eight years now, I'm still caught somewhere in the middle.