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Soothing black metal? - 95%

t_, July 30th, 2006

From the vast forests of Norway, Ulver arise with ‘Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler’ (roughly translated into English: ‘Spellbound – A Folktale In Five Parts’), which marks the beginning to one of the most unique and interesting careers in the world of black metal. Being a somewhat overlooked force in the Norwegian black metal scene in the mid-to-early 1990s, next to names like Mayhem, Emperor and Darkthrone, Ulver expose their talent in mixing Scandinavian folk music with melodic and tasteful black metal music in order to make a masterpiece.

All the lyrics are in Norwegian, unlike most of the other bands in the black metal scene at the time who opted to write their lyrics in English. The astounding vocals are performed by Garm, in harsh, clean and chanted manners. In my opinion, Garm possesses the greatest and most interesting clean vocals in metal. In terms of guitar work, there are many melodic and catchy riffs and a beautiful (not overly-technical) solo every once in a while. The best part about the guitar work is the abundance of majestic acoustic interludes as they add a whole new dimension to Ulver’s music. AiwarikiaR’s striking performance on drums is seemingly overlooked. Unlike most black metal bands, he does a great job in making sure that his drumming does not overpower the other important aspects of the music and instead compliments the melodies in the music. AiwarikiaR also plays the flute in this album (a rather unusual choice as a second instrument for a drummer, if you ask me) and with great dexterity – it’s a shame that the flute is only used in one part of the album (the intro of ‘Capitel II: Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Ned’). The production is rather ‘dim’ and it perfectly fits the style of play that Ulver have selected and it helps each instrument to be easily distinguished from one another; which is a rarity in a black metal album.

If you’re looking for a monumental, atmospheric, appealing and unique Norwegian folk black metal album played to near perfection, you should certainly get your hands on this album. Also, fans of music that contains a genuine quality of beauty (Agalloch comes to mind) should give this album a listen. This is the album that makes me wish that Ulver had never changed to the electronic / avant-garde they are known for producing nowadays.