I remember staying at my grandfather's place in the Swedish woods of northern Värmland. He was a bit old fashion and had bought an old wooden cabin to spend time in at summertime, he was very close to nature. The place was situated on a mountaintop that was surrounded by higher mountains and endless forests and as I looked to the sky, sitting on the porch, there was a mountain that was overshadowed by the setting sun and was given a kind of dark, purplish color. Some years later I picked this album up and I'll be damned if the artwork didn't look exactly like that one mountaintop. I got interested and gave it a listen.
Being Swedish and into extreme metal, there is a certain kind of bond between the Scandinavian released and myself as a Swedish listener. It becomes personal somehow. I grew up in mountains and forests, typical Swedish landscapes and heard plenty of Norse urban legends and such, but as a teenager, trolls, elves and huldras aren't cool. But I never let the love for Scandinavian folklore go, I would always find interest in paintings by Kittelsen and Bauer and as a dedicated metalhead I instantly fell in love with this album.
It just felt right, it felt like there actually were some people that shared my love for this stuff and it got people's attention with the exciting exotic Scandinavian atmosphere.
Ulver is that kind of band, a band that catches people's attention because of the exotic Scandinavian atmosphere they so naturally create. Bergtatt is truly a masterwork, but the thing is that it was probably the easiest thing for Garm and the other people involved to write because they had lived in that atmosphere they wanted to create for their whole lives, they weren't faking it.
No signs of musical aggression in the first chapter, introduced my a simple drum fill and guitars that consists of chords with a Nordic feel to it, followed by Garm's opera like clean singing. It is a concept album and Garm naturally takes on the duty as the storyteller and thus sings like he was telling the listener a story, inviting us to take part of the tale. Followed by chapter two which is introduced by an acoustic guitar and a flute playing scales often used in Scandinavian folk music and then exploding into a violent 2 beat and distorted guitars that delivers brutality as well as beauty. This is the first signs of Black metal on the record, the vocals perfectly balances guttural roars with clean singing. The same progression is made on chapter three, which is probably my favorite track off the album because of the sense of panic and fear that is tied in with the part of the story where the woman is feeling watched by the creatures of the forest. It breaks into an acoustic part followed by the sounds of the woman running from the trolls, which is a very dramatic moment. Chapter four is probably the most folky track on the album, consisting of an acoustic guitar and vocals only and though creating excellent atmosphere, it is a bit uninteresting. The female vocals are really haunting. The final chapter portrays how the woman is finally taken by the mountain and mixes all of the elements of the past chapters, closing the album.
This is how music is supposed to be - original, exciting and artistic. It's a true classic and portrays Scandinavian folklore perfectly. In the end it is really just another metal album, but it seems that Ulver was focusing on the conceptual, progressing storytelling with metal music portraying it. It is an honest act.