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Ulver’s new style is symphonious

Ulver Messe

They began as a black metal band. Then they tired of that and became something else. And now, they’ve become orchestral soundtrack, electronic, experimental, psychedelic… something. I am talking, of course, about the Norwegian quartet known as Ulver. They’ve gone through many changes of musical direction in their career, and have most recently arrived at a very soundtrack-esque sound on their newest release Messe I.X-VI.X. This newest album is currently available for streaming at Ulver’s official Bandcamp page, in advance of its physical release. So, listen now. Is good, I promise.

First and foremost, this is really quite ambient. The vocals are quite sparse, not making any appearances until track 4. It was apparently recorded mostly live with the Arctic Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra, but the band spent “spent long hours in the studio translating what happened that night.” Sounds like quite the ambitious project. Its sonic textures are nothing short of breath-taking; it feels dreary, but very dramatic and tense. Some parts veer towards melancholic, while others take a more desolate tone, and other sections take on a completely different feel. The track “Glamour Box (ostinati)” reminds me of the Inception soundtrack, whilst “Noche oscura del alma” has a really sinister tension to it that creeps through your soul.

The experience of listening to this album is best enjoyed by doing so from beginning to end with no breaks. It is a wandering path through strange and surreal night landscapes, with odd lights flashing in the sky above you and a distant thunderstorm threatening.

Soundtrack and commissioned albums from bands such as these can turn out to be really interesting beasts. Year of No Light did something similar, but Ulver’s effort is far beyond anything I have heard recently. You can buy it now at their Bandcamp, and it is quite definitely worth your money. 

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