Review Summary: Boasting excellent synth beats and dynamic instrumentation, Perdition City exists as not only one of Ulver's best works, but one of the most drastic yet accomplished style changes in underground music as a whole.
Ulver exists as one of the most diverse underground bands nowadays. Their guts to completely stray away from their black metal roots over time proves to be nothing short of refreshing and their discography contains something for every underground music lover out there. Everything that includes black metal, folk, trip hop, electronic and dark ambient could be found in Ulver’s somewhat lengthy array of LPs. Perdition City
lays in the electronic/trip hop side of the spectrum and the ending result proves to be truly astounding. At first, the listener may in fact have trouble grasping what it is about it they’re enjoying or what it is about it that’s so accomplished. However, after more and more listens the listener will find that it sucks everything around it into its melancholy atmosphere filled with engaging beats, dynamic instrumentation, masterful lyrics, and Kristoffer Rygg’s(Garm) exceptional vocals that are used quite sparingly. Those expecting a black metal record with a little hint of folk may truthfully be disappointed, but Perdition City
exists as a whole different beast altogether.
The band couldn't have picked a better opening track than “Lost in Moments” because right off the bat it engages the listener and warrants the cliched phrase, “expect the unexpected.” The synths start off the song, but quickly tapers off into a chilled out, bleak atmosphere filled with piano melodies and the perfect use of the saxophone. Of the course of listening to this track, it gives off the vibe of walking through a dark, empty city in the dead of night and judging by this impression, Perdition City
is the perfect night time record. However, despite the soothing atmosphere, the song ends on a chilling note with an explosion of ambiance and vocalizing in the final seconds. This track is a fair taste of what the rest of the record as in store for the listener and quickly urges full attention to be placed on it.
“Porn Piece or the Scars of Cold Kisses” also features the nighttime/dark city vibe with it being driven by beautiful piano, engrossing synths and gentle guitar riffs creating an element of ambiance reminiscent of Boards of Canada’s sound. While the first half of this track is driven by these components, Garm’s calm vocals come in around the second half of the track and he doesn't disappoint even in the slightest with his soothing sound and thought provoking lyrics. Garm happens to be used quite sparingly on this record and whenever he is used here, he only enhances the atmosphere. For example, in “We Are the Dead” he utilizes a spoken word style that proves to be both quite humorous and creepy at the same time. The cryptic nature of his lyrics truly engross the listener and it makes anyone focus on them over the sea of white noise and ambiance. This song proves how the record sometimes doesn't take itself too seriously, but at the same time injects substance in the more humorous perfects such as this.
Over the course of the record, nearly each song is driven by engaging trip hop beats that prove to not only be a key component to the atmosphere, but also makes the listener head bang until their neck gets mildly sore. Their drummer never really performs any intense black metal style of drumming, but he grooves away and keeps a steady beat throughout. They’re highlighted greatly in “Hallways of Always” with a repetitious piano melody being the centerpiece of the track along with awesome synth beats. Also along the way, the listener will encounter “The Future Sound of Music” in which the synths will be nothing short of mind blowing. The song builds and builds from a subtle atmosphere of beeps, samples and piano to an explosion of fuzz and fantastic synth drumming. The song possesses some epic post rock esque qualities which proves how dynamic the record actually is.
However, the one thing that may turn people off of Perdition City
would be the lengths of some of the songs. Most of the songs on here range from over six minutes to nearly eight minutes and the length can be tedious for some. It definitely shows on “Dead City Centres” with it displaying some Godspeed You! Black Emperor type qualities in the beginning, but the track never really goes anywhere for quite some time. In the second half it picks up a little bit with a hint of Talk Talk sound to the drums, a jazzy vibe, and spoken words vocals that are delivered in a way that’s actually quite funny. For a while, the song could have been considered a blemish and the second half saves it for the most part, but it should be said that the first half truly drags quite a bit.
The journey this is Perdition City
really pays off immensely once the listener makes it to the amazing track known as “Nowhere/Catastrophe.” For once, it’s centered almost completely on Garm’s exemplary vocals that are not only near perfection, but are aided by stunning lyrics. The lyrics are absolutely thought provoking in the verses and they give way to a sea of fuzz and Garm delivering a lower register whisper in the chorus. Once it’s all said and done, the listener will only want to start the record over again. Perdition City
is a testament of how far experimenting could take an artist. It adds an element of diversity to Ulver’s discography and showcases some of their best works. Not only that, but the record as a whole happens to be one of the most drastic yet accomplished style changes in underground music as a whole.