Ulver
Messe I.X-VI.X


4.5
superb

Review

by JamieTwort CONTRIBUTOR (29 Reviews)
October 12th, 2013 | 232 replies


Release Date: 08/18/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Ulver deliver one of their most ambitious and rewarding albums to date.

One thing that epitomises Ulver’s illustrious career is their unpredictability. Since moving away from the black metal and neo-folk sounds of their earlier albums, Ulver have explored numerous directions and in doing so have released a string of highly acclaimed albums, which, although primarily based around electronic music, each have their own distinct style and sound. From the trip-hop inspired electronica of Perdition City to the much more accessible ambience of the beautiful Shadows of the Sun, Ulver have continued to surprise their ever expectant audience. One thing that has remained a constant factor however is the quality of their output. While some fans may consider 2011’s Wars of the Roses to be a step down from their previous releases, that album is never the less a more than solid release in its own right. The same could be said for last year’s Childhood’s End, which consisted of a collection of classic psychedelic pop cover songs, a move that further cemented their reputation as one of the most unpredictable acts in modern music.

With Messe I.X–VI.X, it seems Ulver have managed to surprise and delight their audience in equal measure, delivering an album that has more in common with the likes of Shadows of the Sun than it does with their two most recent releases. However, having said that, it’s hard to liken Messe to any of Ulver’s previous albums, as, like its predecessors, it has its own distinct sound. The similarities between this and Shadows of the Sun don’t extend far beyond the fact that both excel in creating a unique atmosphere.

The most notable difference between this album and previous Ulver releases is the inclusion of a full orchestra. Recorded with the Tromso Chamber Orchestra, Messe is a fascinating blend of classical and electronic music that makes for one of Ulver’s most ambitious album projects to date. Album opener, “As Syrians Pour In, Lebanon Grapples with Ghosts of a Bloody Past” is perhaps the most intriguing piece on the album, building an intense, dark atmosphere and combining eerie orchestral passages with haunting ambience and sound effects. The darkness briefly gives way to a slow, calming piano melody just over 8 minutes in which is then augmented by further orchestration, which manages to be incredibly powerful whilst remaining fairly restrained.

Following track, Shri Schneidr is in contrast a much more accessible number. With its hypnotic electronic groove that dominates its middle section, it manages to effectively build on the atmosphere created by “As Syrians Pour In…”, whilst serving as a precursor to the superb “Glamour Box (ostinato)”, a song which stands out as one of the album’s highlights. The pulsating electronic sounds of “Glamour Box” are beautifully accompanied by the powerful, tension-building sounds of Tromso’s orchestra.

One of the most surprising things about Messe is how sparingly Garm’s haunting vocals are used. His voice is only featured in two of the album’s six songs, the excellent “Son of Man” and the beautiful, almost uplifting “Mother of Mercy”. While this might be somewhat disappointing to some it certainly doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the album, in fact it makes Garm’s vocal contributions all the more powerful when they do appear. “Son of Man” is particularly effective in this regard, with its vocal passage standing alongside “Glamour Box” as one of best moments on the album, with Garm’s superb yet somewhat understated vocal delivery complementing the dark atmosphere of the music perfectly. The vocal section reaches its climax with the line, “what kind of choir, of angels, will receive us”; a line which Garm delivers with such emotional intensity that it sends shivers down the spine. The ethereal “Mother of Mercy” is a much less intense affair, bringing proceedings to a somewhat calming end, with Garm’s vocals at their most melodic.

If there was one weak moment on Messe it would have to be the penultimate track, “Noche Oscura Del Alma”. This dark ambient piece stands out as the least memorable of the album’s six tracks, although it does have some redeeming qualities. While it doesn’t offer an awful lot to the album musically, the song’s incredibly dark and claustrophobic atmosphere adds to the album’s ever changing mood, providing a complete contrast to the feelings of comfort and contentment that the first half of “Mother of Mercy” evokes.

Overall Messe is a phenomenal album, combining intense atmosphere with the sort of cinematic sense of drama akin to some of the most powerful film scores. While it may not possess the more immediate impact of Shadows of the Sun, when given repeated listens Messe reveals itself as one of the most rewarding albums in the band’s discography. The band’s decision to work side by side with an orchestra is one that has certainly paid off as they have managed to create one of their most intriguing works and one that is right up there with the best albums of their career.



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Chart.
3.8
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Music for the Stage, heard after the fact...


Comments:Add a Comment 
oltnabrick
October 12th 2013


31100 Comments


aye cool review


Digging: Ariel Pink - Pom Pom

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


21029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks bro.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


21029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Wrote this up fairly quickly (for my standards) so if anyone notices any mistakes feel free to point them out.

Thought it was about time this had a review.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
October 12th 2013


6205 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Album stream - http://ulver.bandcamp.com/album/messe-i-x-vi-x

Will read asap.

Digging: Seduced (AT) - The Proclamation

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


21029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Judging by your sound off you'll probably disagree with the review to an extent.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
October 12th 2013


6205 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I like the album a lot, but (to me at least) it feels like a less accomplished fusion of the Ulver albums I mention in my soundoff.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


21029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I personally think it's up there with their best albums, although as I've mentioned in the review it takes more listens to fully appreciate than a lot of the band's other albums. Having said that I do need to re-listen to Svidd Neger at some point.

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


14752 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review, was thinking of reviewing this myself, now I don't have to. Pos'd.

It's a pretty cool album but it feels more like a soundtrack to a movie than an amazing piece of work in it's own right.

Digging: Off Minor - The Heat Death of the Universe

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


21029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Jac. Yeah it definitely does feel like a soundtrack at some points but I've started to appreciate in its own right and as an album I enjoy it almost as much as Shadows of the Sun.

Buzzkillr
October 12th 2013


1541 Comments


great job ripping off amenra for that album name

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


19926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Unexpected review from u but excellent job man! Have a pos.

I guess I need to listen to this band more I've only heard bergtatt :/

Digging: Transit - Joyride

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


21029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks man. I was talking to oltna about how this needed a review so I though why not do it myself.

If you've only heard Bergtatt this will be like listening to a completely different band. Shadows of the Sun is probably the best place to start when it comes to their more recent material.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


19926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sweet will do. Prolly gonna just check their whole discography eventually

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


21029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cool, that's probably a good idea. As I said in the review, their fairly consistent in terms of quality. Although there are still some of their more obscure releases (some EPs and soundtracks) that I haven't heard myself yet.

CaptainDooRight
October 12th 2013


29942 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

swee rev, pos

Album rules faith

Digging: Fleurety - Min Tid Skal Komme

Keyblade
October 12th 2013


15029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review JT, album deserves it.

"great job ripping off amenra for that album name"

Are you serious?

Digging: Submotion Orchestra - Alium

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


21029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Cap and Key.

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2013


16057 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

really like this, nice rev

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

DrHouseSchuldiner
October 12th 2013


5643 Comments


Very well written rev,Jamie pos'd...album is rly cool.

Chortles
October 12th 2013


17997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

jt review pos hard

Digging: Jacaszek - Treny



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