Ulver - Bergtatt
Head Not Found
Folky Black Metal
5 songs (34:17)
Release year: 2004
Reviewed by James

Ulver, for me, are the kings of Norwegian Black Metal. Not Mayhem, not Burzum, not Darkthrone. No, a band who managed to perfect black metal in just two albums (and believe me, Bergtatt and Nattens Madrigal would both make a list of my 10 favourite black metal albums) before abandoning the form, and metal as a whole entirely. Since then they've explored various aspects of electronic music, from the trip-hop of Perdition City to the hyper-layered, more rock-oriented Blood Inside, to last years' more low-key Shadows Of The Sun.

This album arrived in one of the most uncertain years in the history of black metal. The genre's two biggest media figures, Mayhem's Euronymous and Burzum's Varg Vikernes, were dead and in jail respectively. The church burnings had largely died down, and so the part of black metal that is so often skipped over in discussion, the actual music, had to prove it could stand up on its own away from the tabloid furore. And it certainly did, with this record, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, and Transilvanian Hunger all being released in this year. All three are indubitably classics, and many fans of black metal would point out 1994 as being the finest year for the genre.

Bergtatt is a revolutionary record, expanding on the folk influences used by such bands as Satyricon to produce a unique blend of extreme metal aggression with intricate acoustic passages and clean, monk-like chanting vocals (if there's an earlier black metal record that works in folk in this manner, let me know as I'm in no way an authority on the genre). It's fair to say that this record was a massive influence on bands like Opeth, so much so that they even included a brief homage in My Arms Your Hearse (listen for it!)

As the first track rolls in, it's apparent that this isn't your average black metal album. Blastbeats? Shrieking vokills? Satanic lyrics? Well, you'll certainly find nothing of this nature on I Troldskog Varen Fild. It's a mid-paced track comprising of a melodic tremelo riff and Garm's astounding singing. At just 18, the man turns in a startlingly mature performance, that of a man twice his age. Admittedly, the standard black metal rasps are fairly bland and generic, but really, who listens to this sort of music for the vocals?

Despite these departures from the black metal norm, there's still enough blasting fury here to keep most fans happy. Three out of the five tracks on this album still have many of the genres standard traits. It's this side of the band that would be pushed to it's extreme on the final part of the “Black Metal Trilogie” Nattens Madrigal (rather nicely, the second part, Kveldssanger, is a full album of folk music). Garm sounds particularly bilious on Graablick Blev Hun Vaer, which also happens to be the most diverse track here, containing a lengthy piano interlude.

I love this record. I love how despite it's extremity, it's so listenable. This is one of the easiest records for a newcomer to the genre, as all the riffs are very melodic, and there's none of the repetition that makes so much black metal so difficult to stomach for people who previously listened to far more complex fare. The production is definitely a bit muddy, but it's nowhere near as abrasive as most black metal. Those looking to get into Ulver would do well to start here, as their other classic release, Nattens Madrigal, is one of the most shockingly harsh albums ever made, despite featuring much of the same melodicism beneath the fuzz.

This album is a little harder to track down than Nattens Madrigal, but it's well worth it. A must-own for any fan of black metal, or even anyone with a casual interest in the genre.


Killing Songs :
All are equally brilliant.
James quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Ulver that we have reviewed:
Ulver - The Assassination of Julius Caesar reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Ulver - Messe I.X - VI.X reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Ulver - Wars Of The Roses reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Ulver - Perdition City reviewed by James and quoted 95 / 100
Ulver - Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell reviewed by James and quoted 81 / 100
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