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The Predator Within... - 85%

CrimsonFloyd, April 14th, 2004

Few bands have the gift that Ulver possess. Throughout their career Ulverhave shown a unique ability to play whatever type of music it takes to convey any emotions are moving their spirits at the time, whether it calls for a metal opus, a moody ambient collection, some somber acoustic pieces, or a haunting symphonic score. On Ulver’s third full-length, “Natten’s Madrigal: The Madrigal of the Night”, the group was touched by the predatory nature of man. The concept goes something like this; it is only natural for humans to immerse themselves in their violent and predatory instincts. For many centuries we did just that, as hunters and gatherers. However the many barricades that the secular world has built within our mind separate us from these strengths that we once lived within. Survival of the fittest has been tragically altered for the human race. It once went that those who had the ability to hunt were those who survived, now those who can earn the most money are the "fittest". With the rare exception of those who still capture their own food or those who have found some other way to express their violent nature; we humans have been separated from our predatory instincts. It is a denial of a way that is essential to our bond with nature. Here, Ulver manages to capture the dark hunting spirit within their souls, and put it to music.

“Natten’s Madrigal” uses the metaphor of a man who immerses himself in his predatory, or what our culture would call “evil” spirits, and transforms into a ware wolf. Keep in mind that the wolf is a strong, smart, fast and sly predator: all elements of a good hunter, all elements that live somewhere in human beings. According to legend, Ulver went into some nearby woods with their instruments and amps and recorded these eight hymns to the dark powers within humans. Whether they actually went into the woods or not, I do not know, but it sure sounds like it. Musically “Natten’s Madrigal” is just as raw, harsh and violent as its concept. The sound is painfully thin as each riff tears through the listener, literally painful to listen to at times. The sound is so raw it makes Darkthrone albums seem overproduced. The vocals are cold, grim shrieks, which further hark to the animal nature within. The drumming is for the most part flat, pounding and straightforward. However, the music just as paradoxical as the album’s concept. The concept behind this album, although ugly on the surface, is ultimately a beautiful thing. When an individual gets back in touch with their animal nature they are empowered. The music is no different. Behind the razor sharp riffs and grim vocals are undeniably stunning melodies. Throughout the album the listener is engulfed in dark riffs that cross a good range of human emotions. “Hymn VI: Wolf and Passion” opens and closes with one of the most joyous metal riffs I have ever heard. It is the true joy of finding and then delving into ones violent instincts. “Hymn VII: Wolf and Destiny” is filled with melancholy and sorrow as a long and moody progression is repeated over and over for the final two and a half minutes. The most dynamic track would have to be “Hymn I: Wolf and Fear” which starts out with an extremely aggressive riff before slowing down for the albums lone acoustic passage. Then the band kicks back in with a glorious riff of victory, and finally closing with a dark depressing progression. Most of the other songs have an overriding feeling of darkness, power and strength. But don’t make the mistake of thinking all these hymns sound the same, as there are a good variety of riffs and melodies. To add extra atmosphere Ulver placed dark and haunting ambient pieces between each hymn, evoking images of a foggy wilderness late at night.

In the end Ulver created something very special with this album. It is by no means an easy album to get into, and at times the extreme rawness can become a bit too much. However in the end the Ulver achieves their ultimate goal. They create a grim and cold realm where all that is violent within man lives, and then explore as many different layers of it as they can. Even if not the most aesthetically pleasing work of art, Ulver must be credited for having a lofty goal and achieving it.