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Ulver - Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden CD (album) cover

NATTENS MADRIGAL - AATTE HYMNE TIL ULVEN I MANDEN

Ulver

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.11 | 96 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Nattens Madrigal' - Ulver (82/100)

Has there ever been a band as wilfully eclectic as Ulver? The flux from black metal to folk to electronica to ambient to experimental rock to neoclassical and drone has been a crash course in a wild and provocative art, and they've almost always excelled in whatever they set their hearts to. What's less talked about is how varied they managed to be within those individual genres themselves. Take black metal, for instance. The debut Bergtatt introduced Ulver on a note of nature-based aesthetic black metal, replete with folk interludes and earthiness bands like Agalloch would take to heart in the following decade. The following year's Kveldssanger was a purely folk album-- a strange move for a metal band that had only just established themselves in one genre.

So what of Nattens Madrigal? It is Ulver's second black metal album following Bergtatt, yet bears very little resemblance in sound or atmosphere. If anything, the fact that two such different albums may be described with the same label isn't just a testament to Ulver's variety, but the variety and range of black metal itself. It's indeed as if they fashioned their second and third album to pick apart the two halves of Bergtatt, like a toddler who wants different foods of his meal on separate plates. Kveldssanger's pure folk melancholy is replaced by pure aggression and darkness, with only scant traces of conventional beauty to be found. Even the production sounds drab and grimy by comparison.

It's the weirdest thing to hear a band wilfully devolving themselves in a sense, and first impressions would have it seem like Nattens Madrigal is at a less developed, less adult stage than its mature predecessor. I think I might still think that to some extent, but continued listens have proven that Nattens Madrigal deserves every bit of praise it gets. Comparing it with Bergtatt is ultimately futile past a certain point. It is coming from a very different place, and means to take the listener to a very different destination.

I've been listening to Bergtatt a lot lately, and I am consistently amazed by how far they were able to push their unique sound on a debut. They were still basically kids, and managed to outdo a lot of the best work of their other Second Wave contemporaries. Such as it was, Bergtatt barely fit the current mould; clean vocals were a bigger part than growls or rasps. I get the feeling Nattens Madrigal was produced with the intent of proving to the world they could beat the rest of the Second Wave at their own game. That includes using the tropes we're all deathly familiar with: blastbeats, tremolo picking, evil snarls and liberal references to night and wolves and other spooky shit. Nattens Madrigal may be a more conventional listen, but I think it's actually more of a grower than Bergtatt. Whereas Bergtatt had great ideas an made the most of them, the riffs and jolted album flow makes Nattens Madrigal more of a slow burn than a lot of other conventionally kvlt black metal fare.

The atmosphere is ripe and frequently scary. I think that's because of the way Ulver incorporated latent experimental elements into the music. While no one should ever approach the album with an appetite for the avant-garde, the abrupt way Ulver starts and stops their ideas here is pretty chilling. The most underrated part of Nattens Madrigal is undoubtedly the ambient interludes, which are interspersed commonly throughout the record and do more to evoke a feeling than most Second Wavers' attempts at ambiance. It conjures a feeling of outer space (a la Darkspace) just as much as being alone in the woods, chased by wolves. Considering how well they were able to surprise and reinvent themselves with this album, I'm a bit disappointed Ulver didn't actually do more black metal. What new innovations could they have made in the genre, had they just stuck with it? Luckily, their decision to go electronic resulted in other masterworks like Perdition City and Shadows of the Sun, so I'm not complaining too much.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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