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Review: Ulver - Bergtatt

Label: Head Not Found
Year released: 1995
Duration: 34:19
Tracks: 5
Genre: Black Metal


Review online: December 15, 2002
Reviewed by: Dakuroth
Readers' Rating
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Rated 4.5/5 (90%) (40 Votes)

It's no surprise to find that even on their first album, Ulver refused to follow the crowd. Norway's most inventive, shape-shifting band have tried many styles since this album, but they have rarely bettered it. Taking a different slant on black metal, Ulver to follow either of the trends in black metal at the time - basically either ripping off Darkthrone or ripping off classical composers. Instead they took their inspiration from Norwegian folk music, blending it with black metal, and with a nod to Bathory's "Viking" albums. The end result is an album which has moments of absolute brilliance, but which can frustrate sometimes, when it falls just short of being spectacular.

There are essentially three styles of music here - black metal of the raw, trebly variety; acoustic folk music; and a mid-paced melodic riffing style, the nearest comparison I can make being to the aforementioned Bathory albums. Over this Garm delivers most of his vocals in a clean, almost chant-like voice, which is very original and sounds fantastic. Occasionally he breaks out into a black metal scream, but sadly his voice here lacks the venom heard on the later "Natten's Madrigal" and sounds rather poor. It is not helped by the fact that the black metal sections lack the killer riffs which were also in evidence on "Natten's...", and so they fall rather flat. The exception is the final track "Bergtatt - Ind i Fjeldkamrene", where all the elements come together perfectly. By contrast, the acoustic parts are very well executed, and the whole album has a suitably mystical atmosphere which not even the below-par black metal can detract from. The production is quite good too; all the instruments can be heard, even the bass, which is good because Skoll is a fine bassist. Perhaps the production doesn't quite suit the black metal elements though, which may explain their lack of power. Also, the third track sees the first instance of something Ulver regularly irritate me with: a big wasted space, this time containing only the sound of someone running through a forest. Still, even those parts cease to matter so much you get caught in the atmosphere of the record. This really is a fine album, which I would recommend to anyone, except maybe those can't tolerate melody and think Darkthrone are too melodic. But hey, can't please everyone!

More about Ulver...
Review: Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne til Ulven i Manden (reviewed by Lars Christiansen)
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