Ulver
Wars of the Roses


4.0
excellent

Review

by Angel STAFF
April 24th, 2011 | 220 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The soundtrack to a civilization on the decline.

Ulver’s sound and musical identity has always been quite transient, but the level of consistency of the material they produce is admirable, to say the least. Always exploring and never complacent with a certain niche, the group simultaneously redefines and sets the bar for what experimental music can and should be, and their tenth album is yet another step in a different direction. Wars of the Roses is a prodigious menagerie of influences that culminates in a distinct yet virgin sound. Ulver combine their signature minimalism with a certain bombast that makes for a powerful and cinematic body of music. Each track is marginally different than the one that precedes it, but together, they comprise an album that is coherent and unified. Conceptually and lyrically, Wars of the Roses deals with issues of human condition and a world approaching demise in a way that manages to be both scathing and introspective. This thematic cynicism in wordplay proves to be appropriately paralleled in the oft dark and brooding music that supports it.

“February MMX” kicks off the album on an uncharacteristically energetic note, piano bouncing along with analog rhythms and electronic tinkerings. The track captures the essence of new-wave and even pop influences while receiving the type of twenty-first-century facelift that only a group like Ulver can provide. Excellent as it may be, it’s a beginning that proves somewhat misleading in both its immediate accessibility and upbeat nature. “Norwegian Gothic” forays back into more familiar territory for the group with its down-tempo melancholy and spacious ambience as it segues the opener to the heart of the album. At the album’s epicenter, one can witness more of the carefully conceived electronic arrangements many have come to expect but also, a grander focus on baroque instrumentation that establishes atmospheres resonating with both majesty and surrealism. Nuance abounds, aggrandizing each piece from simply good to something special, whether it be in the form of electronic gull caws or Attila Csihar giving his best demonic frog impression. Throughout, Garm maintains his powerful vocal presence when delivering driving melody or haunting monotone. Standout track “Providence” sees his deep register paired with the strikingly powerful vocals of Siri Stranger for an ultramodern power ballad of epic proportions. The album closes with its longest track, “Stone Angels”, an ethereal narrative comprised merely of Ulver newcomer Daniel O’Sullivan reciting a most poignant and applicable excerpt from the poetry of Keith Waldrop to an underlying ambient soundscape. It drones on, beautiful word and dreamlike noise elevating one another to meditative splendor. The track unfolds like a meander through a long forgotten city enveloped in vine and ruin, a memorial to the neglect of its inhabitants and a sanctuary of reflection for those that might happen upon it.

For most artists, what would be a liability in stylistic leap is to Ulver but a calculated progression. The group’s experimentation lacks little polish or “zazz”, to be assured. While this may prove to be one of their most challenging releases, in time, it may also prove to be one of the most rewarding. Garm and company have prepared a bleak and entrancing journey meant to be taken time and again. Regardless of favor, it accomplishes that which true art is purposed - making one think. Wars of the Roses’ thoughtful conception and execution serves only for a thoughtful listen. After all this time, it still remains a privilege to bear witness to these wolves evolve once again.



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user ratings (248)
Chart.
3.3
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2011


16137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Alternate summary: Well, it's no Scurrilous...

Xenophanes
Emeritus
April 25th 2011


10662 Comments


I really need to get into this band.

Also, great review dude.

Digging: Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III - Saturnian Poetry

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2011


31611 Comments


Nice one Angel

Digging: Theo Parrish - American Intelligence

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2011


16137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Aye, ya should. This band just pisses brilliance.

My favorite album of the year thus far.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2011


31611 Comments


You can lose the semi colon in the first sentence though

pedroia55
April 25th 2011


1461 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I JUST finished listening to this! Pos'd

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2011


16137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Dev. What semicolon?

Hawks
April 25th 2011


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review man. Album rules.

Keyblade
April 25th 2011


15392 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review. Sums up this album perfectly. Not as good as Shadows, but still great.

Digging: Fen - Carrion Skies

Ovrot
April 25th 2011


10554 Comments


Still can't believe Ulver went back to black metal

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2011


16137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Not as good as Shadows, but still great.


Yeah, Shadows of the Sun is my favorite Ulver album, bar none. An absolute masterpiece.

Yazz_Flute
April 25th 2011


18874 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is believe it or not the first non-black metal Ulver LP I've listened to in full.

Stone Angels is way too long, though I suppose it could grow on me.

Digging: DIR EN GREY - Arche

Athom
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2011


17230 Comments


i dont care for any ulver albums except for their early shit, but good review none the less.

Ire
April 25th 2011


41829 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

bm ulver is good but gay ulver is more enjoyable.

Grimlin
April 25th 2011


882 Comments


couple of super hot chicks on the lp sleeve, whoo! all ulver is okay

Rev
April 25th 2011


9441 Comments


i need this

great review man

sifFlammable
April 25th 2011


2741 Comments


Great review for a sweet album man

The conceptual interpretation in the review could be a little better I think. The album lays brooding existential claims with reference to the past bloodshed (i.e. that civil war), but that doesn't justify the simple attention-grabbing interpretations you used like 'a civilisation on the decline' and 'world approaching demise'

balcaen
April 25th 2011


3183 Comments


god, this was so lackluster for me. fucking loved shadows of the sun and perdition city... felt this just lacked inspiration imo. minus the last track. too good.

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2011


16137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My interpretation of the lyrics comes from my own reading as well as statements and interviews from the band. Each song deals with unique subject matter (e.g. "Norwegian Gothic" being about Norwegian nationalism), but overall it's been made pretty clear the album (lyrically and musically) is dealing with the crumbling of modern society.

Keyblade
April 25th 2011


15392 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Believe it or not, I've never listened to BM Ulver. I remember hearing one song a while back on youtube, and it was beyond lo-fi. Sort of put me off for good. Now I'm thinking of giving Bergatt a chance though.



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