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Voices from the Norwegian Trollforest - 99%

mirageasylum, May 6th, 2012

(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.