Jan 302018
 

 

We’re coming down to the wire, and I’m in a frantic state of mind. I’ve now firmly decided to end this list on January 31, but I realized this morning that January 31 IS TOMORROW!!!

I spent hours yesterday afternoon and last night listening to many of the remaining candidates for the list, and reached the conclusion that I have to double-down on these posts. In other words, there will be two installments of this list today and two more tomorrow, and each one is going to include a lot of songs.

This one, as forecast by the title of the post, is devoted to Exceptions to Our Rule (the one in the site’s title). I’ve done this before in previous years, and have already named a few songs to the list this year that include clean vocals. There are some beautiful voices in this post, and a lot of highly addictive music as well (of course). Continue reading »

Nov 172017
 

 

(This is Andy Synn’s review of the performance by Norway’s Ulver at the Islington Assembly Hall in London on November 15, 2017.)

Despite the fact that Ulver are definitely not a Metal band by any measure (in fact they’ve not been a Metal band for so long that even stating that they’re “not a Metal band” seems utterly redundant at this point), I’m always happy to cover them here at NCS, whether on record, or in the live setting.

When people ask me “why” I keep covering them, particularly in the light of their most recent, shamelessly electro-pop turn, I always answer them in two ways:

Firstly, it’s entirely possible to make “Pop” friendly music which has both depth and substance. Yes, the majority of today’s big sellers may, in general, be the most vapid, soulless examples of “popular” music, but there’s still a rich legacy of acts and artists who have made a very successful career out of twisting and subverting the expectations of their audience in a variety of surprisingly clever ways.

Secondly… well, it’s Ulver, isn’t it? And if any band has earned my trust over the years, it’s them.

Which is why I recently found myself in Islington Assembly Hall watching the band perform material from their latest album, The Assassination of Julius Caesar. Continue reading »

Nov 112017
 

 

You can go long or you can go short. You can pound your musical erogenous zones or you can shrivel up and go dry from something far outside the rim of your bullseye. You can fragment your mind or feel it coalescing in configurations that become receivers of new visions. Every day there are new opportunities.

I’m speaking of metal, of course. I got doses of all those experiences this week, but bit off almost more than I could chew with this week’s flood of premieres, and got squeezed by my fucking day job on top of that, so I failed to compile a round-up until now, and hence it’s a big one.

Catching up is an impossibility, of course, and this time it happens that my choices (all the way up to the last one) are mainly indulgences in a particular mood rather than my usual effort to throw darts all over the metal dartboard. The one thing I haven’t done is incorporate black metal, because I have tomorrow’s SHADES OF BLACK column for that.

AETHERIAN

We’ve been writing about this Greek band for years, beginning with their first single in 2013 and including their second one in 2015, their debut EP released the same year (and reviewed by DGR here), their amazing single and video from last year, “The Rain”, the first single (“Seeds of Deception”0 from their debut album, The Untamed Wilderness, which will be released by Lifeforce Records on November 24th, and the second one (“Shade of the Sun”). And now there’s a third, accompanied by a video. Continue reading »

Jun 272017
 

 

On the final night of the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg this year, Norway’s Ulver used the main stage as the setting for an album release show, performing all the songs from their latest album The Assassination of Julius Caesar, though not necessarily in the order of the album presentation. Segmented by instrumental interludes and enhanced by a spectacular light show, it was a performance that by all accounts was a great success, even if it might have caught some onlookers by surprise if they hadn’t yet heard anything from this new record (which we reviewed here). On the other hand, for those familiar with Ulver’s musical odyssey, the experience of being surprised is no longer a surprise — it is to be expected.

Many other bands performed on Day Four of Roadburn, but the formidable concert photographer Levan TK — whose photo essays from the first three days we’ve posted previously (collected here) — concentrated on Ulver, talking with Kristoffer Rygg before the show and shooting a multitude of photos during the performance. For this final installment in his pictorial memorial to Roadburn 2017, we present Levan’s selection from those photos. If only we could have been there, too…. Continue reading »

Apr 102017
 

 

(Andy Synn prepared this review of the new album by Ulver, which is released today.)

Have you ever wondered if Ulver’s career thus far might in fact be some elaborate joke that none of the rest of us understands? That the band have been engaged in one grand, meta-musical experiment for the last 15-20 years, seeing just how far they can take things, and how far they can push their audience outside of their usual comfort zone?

After all, frontman Kristoffer Rygg has been known to go by the pseudonym “Trickster G”, and the band even had their own label called “Jester Records” at one point, so it’s not like they haven’t given us more than a few hints along the way.

So what if it really is all just a game, a long-con, and we’re just not able to see it?

Would it really matter? Continue reading »

Jan 252016
 

Ulver-ATGCLVLSSCAP

 

(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Norway’s Ulver.)

Every Ulver album is unique. But the manner in which the band set about creating their latest opus is certainly more unique than usual.

The music and sounds found on ATGCLVLSSCAP are, in essence, the results of a series of lengthy live improvisations and extemporisations that saw the band taking hold of whatever idea or inspiration would come to them, whether new or old (some of these tracks building from seeds sown in earlier material), and spinning it off into strange and uncharted territory, creating and conjuring new songs and new sounds almost on the fly.

And yet, that isn’t the whole story, as the fruits of these recordings were then taken back to be analysed, deconstructed, re-tracked and (in some cases) further reimagined in the confines of the band’s home-studio, with the final results managing to capture and maintain the sense of spontaneity and invention from those early live sessions whilst bolstering them with 1.21 gigawatts of pure sonic super-science! Continue reading »

Jan 292014
 

(In this post Andy Synn reviews the new collaborative album by SUNN O))) and ULVER.)

Three tracks may not seem like much, on the surface of things, yet, as with all things involving their creators, appearances can be deceiving.

You see, these aren’t just any three songs, they’re three songs that are the product of a secretive, clandestine collaboration between prophetic drone disciples Sunn O))) and esoteric audio alchemists Ulver.

The existence of this enviable (to some, still unbelievable) musical pairing only became apparent a few months ago, though its roots extend all the way back to a fabled and near mythical meeting in Oslo, August, 2008.

It was here that Sunn O))) locked themselves away at Ulver’s Crystal Canyon Studio, beginning one evening and ending the following dawn, to record three “live in improvisation” pieces… for what purpose as yet unknown.

Over the intervening years the Norwegian new-age nihilists (with periodic input from the irrepressible Stephen O’Malley, who would occasionally return to the scene of the initial crime to offer his inimitable assistance) have cut and pasted, chipped and painted, mixed and moulded these three compositions– adding, subtracting, metamorphosing and mutating – into the final forms we see here today. Continue reading »

Nov 182013
 

It’s been an action-packed day here at NCS, with some ass to mouth plus three album reviews and two song premieres — and I had two more reviews ready to go, but I’ve deferred those until tomorrow so that we don’t overdose you with awesomenessness. But at the risk of giving you a manic sugar high, I thought I’d round up some of the best things I saw and heard today. We’ll begin with a couple of announcements and end with a new song and a new video

SUNN O))) and ULVER

One week ago I reported about a cryptic announcement by Southern Lord that seemed to suggest a long-rumored collaboration between Sunn O))) and Ulver was about to become a consumable reality. Today we got a more informative announcement, i.e., that these two storied bands have indeed collaborated to create a three-track recording entitled Terrestrials — “a trio of movements which flow like magma beneath the Earth’s crust, sonically uninhibited, unpredictably cosmic, haunting and stirring, yet simultaneously ceremonious and beautiful.”

Southern Lord will be releasing Terrestrials in February 2014, the cover can be seen above, and we are promised that over the course of the next month details shall be dribbled out concerning “the story of how this alliance and recording came to be.” Continue reading »

Nov 112013
 

Hope you had a good weekend. And if you didn’t, hope you have a good week. And if you don’t, I apologize for the feebleness of my hopes. At least your life will be enriched by seeing and hearing these things I saw and heard over the weekend (and yes, I had a good weekend, thank you).

HEXIS

When last we wrote about this Danish band it was during 2012 in a review of their three-way split with As We Draw and Euglena. They’ve now recorded a new album entitled Abalam which is projected for release on January 11, 2014. Over the weekend I saw a music video released earlier this month for one of the new songs — “Tenebris” — which was made by London filmmaker Craig Murray. Murray’s video is an homage to a certain unforgettable scene in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, with a bit of a twist in its finale.

As for the music, it’s a storm of razors, thunder, and vocal lightning, a ravaging assault of fused black metal and hardcore. Continue reading »

Sep 122013
 

(Andy Synn reviews the new DIY album by Norway’s Ulver, with an album stream at the end of the review.)

Sometimes you have to wonder… why do Ulver albums still get reviewed on metal blogs? After all, the band themselves haven’t had a shred of “metal” in them for a long time.

Still, there’s a connection – and it’s more than just nostalgia or a sense of obligation due to the band’s “seminal” early years.

I know quite a lot of metal fans who love the strange, otherworldy music that Ulver make, but don’t really have anything else even vaguely similar in their music collections.

I think, ultimately, what draws people in, and what makes them stay with the band through all their digressions and deviations, is the boundless (stubborn, even) sense of artistic integrity they display. From poppy exuberance to dark psychedelia, they are a band who embrace, and revel in, contradiction. Each of their albums is simultaneously daring and difficult, challenging yet compelling, filled with a warmth of emotion yet governed by a calculating intellect.

And Messe I.X-VI.X is no different, in that regard. Continue reading »