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I wish I was in Ulver, too. - 55%

caspian, October 30th, 2008

“Kveldssanger, but worse”.

Unfortunately three words wouldn’t get accepted as a review around here (might be worth posting on amazon, though) but that’s pretty much what this is. If you like Kveldssanger and have a bit of spare money, or you just want to get as much folk as you can get your hands on, then go on and buy this, as this is essentially Kveldssanger’s well meaning but mentally deficient second cousin.

There‘s probably three or four people who haven‘t heard Kveldssanger and need some detail though, so this review is for you and you and you. Imagine a bunch of manly- well, as manly as a bunch of Europeans can be anyway- dudes getting all serious and intense on an acoustic and a few folky instruments. It’s a simple enough formula that works well enough in most cases and here Empyrium pull it off with a reasonable level of aplomb. The title track is a good enough indication of what’s happening here; dual acoustic action and some heavily accented (and manly) intoning about a forest, where I suppose a wood grouse plays. Gripping, eh? Well, it is actually kinda cool, and the drum rolls and Garm-plagarizing manly choir-freakout near the end was a nice surprise. I guess at the end of the song I’m wondering exactly what the point of the song is though- so a forest comes to life, and then.. All the forest animals start harmonising? Doesn‘t make much sense, but then again Germans have never been a particularly logical bunch of people.

It’s all pleasantly and woodlands-esque, but this record doesn’t really award a lot of close examination. As far as I can tell it aims at being foresty and atmospheric, and it delivers a foresty atmosphere, so that’s mission achieved, but it‘s not hugely satisfying. Some parts are worthwhile- “The Shepherd and the Maiden Ghost” is a well delivered (although as far as I can tell the story is kind of pointless) ballad, “Wehmut” is all flutey Ostendoor Sol worship, complete with some more Garm-plagiarising- don’t get me wrong, while it’s unoriginal to the extreme I am partial to the well executed manly “ahh” choir. Flutes and garm-worship returns with the rather cool “Many Moons Ago”, a frosty little tale about a dude in the middle of winter, or something. He goes for a piss, but his penis gets numb and he forgets to put it back in his pants. Essentially, he ends up getting frostbite on it and has to get it amputated. A cautionary tale for us all I am sure.

Honestly this isn’t so bad- “A Pastoral Theme“ is a terrific acoustic instrumental that very evocative and super layered , and it shows that these guys can write excellent tunes when they want to. I guess I just find it hard to take seriously. It really, really wants to be Kveldssanger, and it tries really, really hard but it just can’t do it (the fairly horrible “When Shadows grow Longer” being a good example of an earnest effort that ends in massive fail). Overall it’s an average to half-decent album that puts in a huge amount of work and good intentions but just can’t stand up on it’s own two feet. A good album to play around hippie girls, though.