Ulver
Nattens Madrigal


5.0
classic

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (104 Reviews)
May 18th, 2015 | 56 replies


Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Beneath the savagery and carnage lies immense beauty and passion... just keep peeling the layers back.

Rarely has album artwork evoked as much appropriate imagery as the wolf-adorned picture accompanying Ulver's Nattens Madrigal does. Alone and presumably howling to the moon that lies in the background, the wolf provides ample insight to the dark and bleak nature of what its album contains in songwriting and lyricism... and indeed this experience is bleak. Vocalist Garm has stated that Nattens Madrigal was intended as a backlash to all of the record labels that tried to bring black metal to a wider audience and polish it, which Ulver perceived as effectively ending the genre in terms of aesthetics and purpose. So, seeing as Ulver were a black metal (and folk) band up to this point, everybody was expecting another album like the intense-yet-accessible Bergtatt. And what did we all get instead" One of the most distorted and raw black metal albums ever recorded and released.

Seriously, let that sink in for a moment. In a genre like black metal, which prides itself on being "kvlt" and having horrible production values in the name of underground metal, THIS is one of the most underproduced and raw albums in the entire genre. Right off the bat, you can imagine that it isn't for the faint of heart and certainly not built for any mainstream appeal... but that's the whole point and the charm of this experience. The guitars rip through the ears like buzz saws, the vocals are uncompromisingly piercing shrieks, the drumming is thin and nimble, and the bass is virtually nonexistent; then we get the songwriting, which is simultaneously repetitive and hypnotic. There's only one real moment that gives listeners room for breathing, which is a gorgeous acoustic folk portion in "Hymn I." Aside from that, save for a few ambient outros, the whole album is a giant onslaught of shrieks and buzzing guitars. So what makes this record so appealing despite these elements" Well, for one, the guitar playing is still very beautiful despite the distortion. You get these very soothing melodies, half of which sound like they could have come from a folk record, and the harmonies Håvard and Torbjørn pull off are both melancholic and mesmerizing. Also, Nattens Madrigal features Garm's harsh vocals at their absolute best. There may not be any clean singing present anywhere, but his shrieks are instrumental in giving this record its chillingly cold atmosphere. It actually reminds me a lot of what Dani Filth's vocals bring to Cradle of Filth's Dusk... and Her Embrace; you can almost touch the depressive and haunting scenery the howling and screeching conjures up.

While it may not seem incredibly apparent at first, there's actually a lot of variety in Nattens Madrigal as well. Despite the overall looming darkness of the album, some songs actually feature the occasional moment of hope and peace. "Hymn VI" begins with a very beautiful guitar melody that highly contrasts many of the other songs by being in a major key for once, while much of "Hymn VII" carries a lighter tone to it. There are also some songs that have a more brutal sound to them despite the thin production, such as thicker and lower tremolo-picked riffing of fan favorite "Hymn III" and the extremely jarring and noisy introduction of "Hymn I," which could prove to be a huge shock to fans of more mainstream metal upon first listen. Also, there's one more thing that adds to this album's atmosphere and sound: the lyrics. It was a pretty wise decision to make the entire album in old Dano-Norwegian language, which only adds to the record's mystique and intrigue. When translated (to the best of people's abilities, at least), the lyrics fit the music perfectly with imagery of wolves, the darker aspects of man, and the overall night-related imagery you'd imagine with an album that sounds like this. From what I can gather, the concept of the record is that of a man who becomes a wolf by succumbing to the evil in and around him. The lyrics really make for some good reading on their own, and are immeasurably effective on Nattens Madrigal.

The whole experience is just sublime. The mixture of brutality, beauty, songwriting quality, lyrical mastery, and everything else is almost enough to make one cry at how perfect it is. But in the end, that's only for the ones who can really handle the rawness of this album and be dedicated enough to delve deeper into what lies beneath the intensity. It's obviously not for everyone and many will be turned off by the vocals and production (even certain black metal fans), but for those who stick with it, Nattens Madrigal provides amazing songwriting and an unmistakable vibe that make it one of the most rewarding metal albums of all time. It's cold, bleak, draining, emotional, hypnotic, and dripping with atmosphere with every song. This is the essence of black metal.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Ocean of Noise
May 18th 2015


10117 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Nice review, have a pos.



This album's pretty sweet but IMO the production is a bit of an unnecessary gimmick. To each their own, though.

Digging: Katatonia - Viva Emptiness

johnnydeking29
May 18th 2015


11497 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, dude - you got a pos from me :]

Only bit I'd question is the use of 'anomaly' in the last paragraph; it feels like there's a better word that you could have used.

I need to check this album out soon...

argonaut
May 18th 2015


818 Comments


Agree that "anomaly" seems out of place. Pos, though, very good review. I need to listen to this album again, I've heard it once or twice, but not enough to truly appreciate it.

Totengott
May 18th 2015


4175 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review, this is one of my favorite black metal albums, you just have to ''keep peeling layers back'' indeed. I couldn't agree more on that. Pos.

Digging: Castevet - Obsian

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
May 18th 2015


17336 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review, one of my favorite bm ever

Digging: A Perfect Circle - Eat the Elephant

Crysis
Emeritus
May 18th 2015


17331 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah this is absolutely brilliant there's so many god damn riffs on this record

Mongi123
May 18th 2015


19214 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Seriously awesome review dude! Have a well deserved pos

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
May 18th 2015


2492 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh god, I really, really need to listen to this album. I mean I've listened to Bergtatt before and thoroughly enjoyed it. Also excellent review, it's only intrigued me to listen to this album for once.

Digging: Monotheist - Scourge

Rev
May 18th 2015


9816 Comments


I've been meaning to start going through their discog again, only got around to spinning Bergtatt the other day

beefshoes
May 18th 2015


6920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review man.

This is the perfect example of a black metal album.

Sevengill
May 18th 2015


8352 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The essence of black metal. Pos'd hard, great review.

ShadowRemains
May 18th 2015


24970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

best ulver

beefshoes
May 18th 2015


6920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

If you look up generic comment in the dictionary, your comment is the one that comes up.

emester
May 18th 2015


8235 Comments


Theres more raw stuff out there, but there is no denying how viseral and raw this happens to be anyways

Digging: Sleep - The Sciences

Mongi123
May 18th 2015


19214 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Stop acting so disdainful. First of all, he said "one of the most underproduced" and not "THE most underproduced" in general. And giving a neg to a review because you have a different opinion is so ignorant.

Ocean of Noise
May 19th 2015


10117 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

While I do agree that this album isn't nearly as inaccessible as people make it out to be, it's also totally unnecessary to be a dick about it.



For people looking to get into underproduced, aggressive black metal, this is a great starting point, and the review expresses that well.

Sevengill
May 19th 2015


8352 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's very clear, raw production, which is a different kind of underproduced than, say, Kerker. That's like the endgame for inaccessible.

evilford
May 19th 2015


41749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it can be hard on the ears if you're not careful but that doesn't detract from it for me

Digging: Ingurgitating Oblivion - Vision Wallows In Symphonies Of Light

emester
May 19th 2015


8235 Comments


Productions not really a problem for me on this. It may be loud but goddamn this is an enjoyable record. Like one sweet riff after the next.

Sevengill
May 19th 2015


8352 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Like one sweet riff after the next."

This so much.



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