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Ulver is a Norwegian musical group. The musical style of his early works was black metal influenced by folk music, but after the publication of Nattens Madrigal (1997) his style became increasingly fluid and eclectic, going through genres such as the avant-garde metal / rock, the trip hop, symphonic and chamber music, noise and experimental music, with a strong use of electronic instruments in their recording techniques.
At present the band is formed by Garm (the only constant member since its formation), Tore Ylwizaker (since 1998), Jørn H. Sværen (since 2000) and the British Daniel O’Sullivan (since 2009).
In 1993 the vocalist Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg formed Ulver. During its first days the band was also formed by drummer Carl-Michael Eide, who had previously left Satyricon and guitarists A. Reza and Grellmund. In November of that year they began recording their first demo, Vargnatt, for which they hired session bassist Robin “Mean” Malmberg and Satyricon guitarist Håvard Jørgensen. After the publication of the demo and a split with Mysticum; Eide, Reza and Grellmund left the band. In their place came drummer Erik “AiwarikiaR” Lancelot, guitarist Torbjørn “Aismal” Pedersen and bassist Hugh “Skoll” Mingay who together with Garm and Jørgensen started recording their first studio album, Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler . The album features the collaboration of flutist and vocalist Lill Kathrine Stensrud and Arcturus pianist Steinar Sverd Johnsen.
Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler is a black metal album with folk themes with occasional fast rhythms, electric guitar, guttural vocals, interspersed with melodious acoustic passages with singing, and fantasy stories. The title “Bergtatt” means “adopted by the mountains” in Norwegian folklore and refers to people who, when wandering in the mountains, are attracted to trolls or other mystical creatures. The lyrics of the album are about the story of a girl who is kidnapped by the mountains. The translation of the subtitle means “A story of 5 chapters”. Bergtatt has a melancholy completely acoustic song called «Een stemme locker».
The following year, after the departure of Aismal, the band began recording their second full-length album. The disc, of title Kveldssanger, was published that year and unlike its predecessor is a completely acoustic album, recorded only by Garm, AiwarikiaR and Jørgensen.
In 1997 they signed for Century Media, a label that offers them a very important sum of money to record their next record. The result is Nattens Madrigal (The madrigal of the night), a return to black metal more ferocious and raw than the one heard in Bergtatt, in which only appears a brief acoustic interlude in the first song, and whose production is intentionally deficient in the style of Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger album, with buzzing guitars and barely audible drum sound. There are a number of rumors surrounding the recording of this disc, supposedly made with an eight-track recorder, and in a Norwegian forest, and the fate of the budget that the band had, who are said to have spent it on alcohol, cocaine, twelve Christmas trees, Armani costumes, strawberry-flavored lollipops, haircuts or a car.
The album Blake
After Nattens Madrigal, Ulver does not return to black metal. In 1998 they released Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, a mixture of electronic music, industrial metal, folk, ambient, trip hop and neoclassical music that takes the group to a different territory not only to what had been playing until the moment, but also to what no musician had done so far. The innovation and the vanguard are elements that will characterize Ulver from this launch. Lyrically, the album adapts the entire text of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Despite the confusion created in many fans of the first three albums, the album received widespread acclaim in both the Rock / Metal and alternative press industries. It was chosen as album of the month in several high profile magazines such as Terrorizer, Metal Hammer, and Hard Rock
In 1999, the group declared:
Ulver obviously is not a Black Metal band and we do not want to be estimated as one. We recognize the relationship of part I and III of the trilogy (Bergtatt & Nattens Madrigal) with this culture, but the stress of these efforts were written as stepping stones rather than conclusions, we are proud of our ancient instincts, but wish to compare our association with that genre to that of the serpent with Eve. An incentive just to have more fun. If this discourages you at all, please have the courtesy to refrain from expressing superficial observations regarding our music and / or people, we are as unknown to you as we have always been.
Ulver’s next two releases are the EP Metamorphosis and the long-running Perdition City, which were even more experimental and thoughtful than the album Blake. The band moved away completely from rock and metal, in a more ethereal style. The use of programmed music and atmospheric arrangements here is dominant, not like previous albums. Neo-classical film composer Craig Armstrong may have been an influence on Ulver’s use of electronics and trip hop on strings and pianos.
“Teachings in Silence” and soundtracks
The band followed these two releases, with two minimalist works / ambient / glitch Silence Teaches You How to Sing and Silencing the Singing. These works stand out of minimalist melodies and often have subtle, strange and unnatural noises within the structures of the songs. Due to their individual rarity, they later merged as Teachings in Silence. This record was nominated for the Spellemann prize in the category of best electronic music album.
In 2002 the series of soundtracks begins: Lycantropen Themes (2002) and Svidd Neger (2003). The first soundtrack corresponds to the Swedish film Lyckantropen (2002) directed and produced by Steve Ericsson; the second disc belongs to the soundtrack of the film of the same name by the Norwegian director Erik Smith-Meyer. Musically they are more organic than the previous works, incorporating string and wind instruments into the electronic rhythms of Perdition City.
This cycle consists of A Quick Fix of Melancholy (2003) and the album Blood Inside (2005) and is a return to Garm’s vocal experiments and instruments like the guitar, resulting in a mix of trip hop and progressive rock, always so original, and more direct than before.
In July 2007, Ulver announced on its website the release of a new album, called Shadows of the Sun, on October 1, 2007. This album has been described by Garm as the “most personal to date” .
In 2011 they released a new studio album, Wars of the Roses, and their first DVD, The Norwegian National Opera, which reached the third position in the Norwegian list and the second in the Finnish.
More Facts about Ulver
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