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Aural heroin - 90%

kluseba, December 18th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2012, CD, Kscope Music (Digibook)

Ulver is known to be one of the most experimental rock and metal bands around the globe and the surprising release of Childhood's End only underlines the group's status. This record consists of sixteen obscure psychedelic rock covers from the sixties that were recorded in two different sessions with two different drummers that were three years apart. Despite the odd recording history, Childhood's End has an comfortably eerie vibe from start to finish, alternating shorter and longer tracks and spicing things up with occasional female guest vocals, electronic effects, tambourine sounds and percussive elements like congas and shakers. It's a mystery how the album title which references a science-fiction novel from the fifties and the cover artwork referencing the tragic story of the Napalm girl from the early seventies blend in but Ulver has taught us to not ask too many questions.

Since the psychedelic rock genre has almost completely disappeared from contemporary music, it's equally nostalgic and refreshing to discover this release. The fact that the band covered numerous unknown artists and bands only makes the record more intriguing. The Electric Prunes' cover ''I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)'' with its airy guitar tones, hypnotizing vocals and smooth percussive elements is equally atmospheric and catchy and could have also been covered by an occult rock band like Ghost. The Troggs' strangely entitled ''66-5-4-3-2-1'' with its atmospheric guitar effects and slow shaker rhythms could come straight from the score of an experimental horror movie of the late sixties or early seventies. The airy rendition of Curt Boettcher's ''Lament of the Astral Cowboy'' seems to be equally inspired by flower power and space race which makes for a particularly nostalgic mixture. The United States of America's ''Where is Yesterday'' features church choirs that give an uneasy atmosphere instead of an appeasing one and ends the record on a particularly drug-infused experimentally psychedelic note.

Ulver's Childhood's End doesn't have anything to do with the band's metal records but is one of the best psychedelic rock records I have ever come across instead. Even though sixteen different artists and groups have been covered in two different recording sessions, the final result sounds particularly coherent and is a most authentic trip back to the experimental musical vibe of the late sixties. This is equally rewarding for nostalgic people, hippies and free-spirited listeners or a combination of all these categories. Ulver's Childhood's End offers aural heroin that grows with every spin and naturally rekindles the interest for psychedelic rock music.