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(review of the Kyrck Prod. & Armour 2009 re-release, brown leatherbook format)
Firstly a few words about this particular release of the album - brown leathebook format with CD inside. It's handmade with great attention to detail and looks simply amazing - the brown leather with black graphic and Ulver logo suits the overall atmosphere of early Ulver's music very well. Inside you can find lineup, tracklisting and some extra info on the original release as well as this particular one. Additionally if you ordered it from Kyrck's official website, you'll get a white poster with black graphic, similar to that one on the cover of the leatherbook (but notice that they are different to the standard CD edition cover).
Now let us move to the album review - after the aforementioned Greek label re-recorded the material, it is very hard to believe that Vargnatt is actually a demo. Its sound is comparable to early '90s black metal albums, not demos. Nevertheless, it's hard to put it in the same category as Under a Funeral Moon, Aske, or Live in Leipzig.
Vargnatt is filled with creative originality of the best kind and is unbelievably avant-garde for its time. It's not difficult to imagine it being the inspiration for later folk metal albums (subsequent Ulver albums, Isengard, Skogen) and avant-garde attempts by the likes of Ved Buens Ende. The main composer, vocalist, and mastermind behind Ulver was 17 while recording this material, and you would never have guessed that by listening to the music. Ulver shows such a maturity in the material that you tend to forget the young age of the members when they recorded Vargnatt, a case often observed when talking about the best bands of the era (Burzum and Enslaved being the best examples, in my opinion).
From the opening "Her Begynner Mine Arr..." to the ending "Vargnatt", the demo is dark and atmospheric with a strong folk influence and unusual drumming arrangements. It features mostly throaty, wild vocals from Garm with just a bit of clean singing on four of the tracks, strongly showcased on "Nattens Madrigal" in what I believe would be the first early example of Garm's clean vocal brilliance. The guitars are something definitely worth mentioning as well. With the exception of "Trollskogen" they are extremely raw and dry, reminding me a bit of the Dark Medieval Times album by Satyricon (which was released a year later, therefore being another example of Satyr's inability to come up with anything original by himself, musically). And last but not least, all 6 songs were recorded in a Norwegian forest, something that truly shows throughout the album.
Ulver has been, and will always be a very unpredictable band. No one knows what to expect each time they release a new album. “How will they change from the last album?” “What will Garm sound like this time around?” Well, all the way back in 1993 they had the same attitude of shocking the people. The legacy started with this unorthodox demo called, “Vargnatt.”
The music is still black metal, but it has some peculiar twists throughout. The standard black metal elements are in the distorted guitars, and blastbeating drums.
Haavard has always been one of my favorite guitarists, and he plays the distorted guitar on this demo very well. Sometimes, the distortion is so bad, that it goes right through you. Other times it sounds really good. An unorthodox element exists within the guitar as well. That is the use of acoustic guitars. “Trollskogen” is a perfect example of this. It is a beautiful instrumental with all acoustic guitars. Very rare to find acoustic guitars used in black metal back in 1993. It is also really professional sounding, especially for a sixteen year-old kid.
Drums are pretty standard of the genre. No unorthodox elements here. It’s just blastbeats and slowing down to keep the beat. On this release, the drummer does not stand out, like he does on “Bergtatt,” and “Nattens Madrigal.”
Garm’s vocals on this release are very weird. They are mostly blackened screams, but done in a very weird way. It’s hard to describe. It is a kind of melodic nasal scream, kind of like Shagrath, but not as stupid. There are also really weird sung vocals in most of the songs. These are limited to a line per song or so. Then there is the weirdest, yet best part of this demo. That is Garm’s singing in the song, “Nattens Madrigal.” The song starts out the same as all the other songs on the demo, but with two minutes remaining it takes an awkward turn. I remember listening to it for the first time, and when he started to sing like this, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. He sings in a higher operatic baritone voice that almost sounds like a woman. It is very angelic, and enchanting beyond words.
So if you like Ulver’s black metal period, this is an excellent edition for your collection. It features all new songs (nothing from here was rerecorded for Bergtatt) and if you are a fan of Garm’s singing, then you should definitely pick this up.
Ulver's second released demo shows the band at their deepest, darkest groundings, in what would inevitably cause them to evolve into the multi-disciplinary Avant-Garde group known today.
A slow, melancholic atmosphere is created through the high pitched, distorted guitar riffs and complementing drum beats, which launches listeners into the first track titled "Her Begynner Mine Arr..."
The cold, oppressive aura carries through the second track "Tragediens Throne" complementing the heavy, yet effective usage of high treble which aid Garm's growls.
Almost as swiftly as the listener had embarked into the atmospheric abyss of "Her Begynner Mine Arr", they are thrust back into reality with the instrumental track "Trollskogen". Through the implementation of soft, slow guitar-work, a relaxing undertone takes precedence to the frenzied instrument work in the former two tracks.
The uniquely created atmosphere of 'pleasant' guitar work continues through and acts as the musical prefix to the forth track "Ulverytternes Kamp". However as rapidly as listeners have grown accustomed to this delicate instrument work, they are propelled back into the dark, hateful world in which Ulver have so beautifully created. The high treble complements the dry, hateful vocals which play the counterpart to similar guitar riffs as both "Her Begynner Mine Arr..." and "Tragediens Throne" had so fruitfully displayed.
The subsequent track "Nattens Madrigal" which would ironically be chosen as the title for not only the most renowned Ulver BM release, but one of the cornerstone BM releases of the 1990s does not provide anything not previously heard on the previous tracks. The feminite and clean vocal work both aid the eeriely amiable atmosphere musically injected into the veins of the album.
Lastly, we finish on the title track Vargnatt. Listeners are greeted with dry, whispered vocals, which complement the distorted guitars and steady drum beat appropriately.This allows a cold, satanic undertone to be achieved with an immense amount of success.
The vocals used throughout both penetrate and grasp the soul, allowing the listener to become spiritually consumed not only by the viciously soothing growls, but by the distorted instrument work which plays a key undertone throughout the duration of the album.
An immensely raw album, Vargnatt is not for the 'black metal newbie', nor a fan who has grown accustomed to Ulver's latest works, those of which displaying flawless sound quality.
As monotonous as the album sounds at various times, and the high trebled instrument work, it provides a rewarding listen; and thus allows listeners a direct window of vision into the vast cold forests in which Ulver's music was born.
I wouldn't call this beautiful -- the nasty production kills any beauty. I don't care about raw production. This goes beyond raw into the territory of being grating to the ears. Now, of course, it's expected -- it's a demo. But I wouldn't call it beautiful.
The songs here do not have the same "zing" that Nattens had, nor the same ethereal, grand, beauty that Bergtatt did. The only impression I get from this demo is a bunch of half baked, unmemorable, meandering black metal songs with some acoustic guitars thrown in for the sake of throwing in acoustic guitars. The drumming is original, I'll give them that.
There is really nothing profound here, just some mediocre black metal. If you love Ulver's old stuff, you'll dig this, just as a view of what led up to Bergtatt. If you're not, you'll find this dull and forgettable. I certainly do. It's good for an occasional listen, for I'll hear what Ulver came from, but I can't stand more than 30 seconds of these songs at a time. When the guitars and drums go into high gear, the mix turns to slush and you can't discern anything.
Conclusion: If you pay money for this, you're a sucker. This would be a good freebie to attach to Bergtatt, but it can't stand on its own merits.
Ulver's Vargnatt is truly a beautiful recording. The clean tracks are just great and the distortion tracks rock hard. The production on this album is good though you have to keep in mind that this is black metal. All the instruments are audible the guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Garm's singing on this album is great, I have not heard any other Ulver albums so I don't know what his singing style was like on them, but on Vargnatt his singing style is sort of low pitch excpet for when he does his Operatic moaning vox. I have heard Garm sing in Borknagar however, and his singing style on this different. The guitars on this album are very good, there are fast paced melodic black metal riffs and there are also some clean riffs that are not so melodic. The bass doesn't play too big of a part on this album but it is audible, it just sort of compliments the guitar. There is lots of double bass on this album that can be found during the fast distorted guitar riffs, though there is some double bass during the clean parts of the songs.
Favorite songs : Tragediens Trone, Trollskogen (All Clean guitars, no vocals, bass or drums), and Nattens Madrigal. Don't get me wrong, the other songs we're great, I just liked these ones the best.
In Conclusion, if you like Black Metal then you will like this record. I saw a promotional copy of it on eBay that was a cd, but there is also a copy of it on record. So if you can find it, I HIGHLY recommend that you get it.