Ulver – War Of The Roses

by Mat
Published on: April 28, 2011
Categories: Reviews
Comments: No Comments

It’s one thing to be pleasantly surprised; it’s quite another to be utterly captivated. With Wars of the Roses, Norwegian dark troupe Ulver have delivered a haunting and spellbinding album that will have you reaching for the superlatives dictionary long before the final strains of this uncompromising work have ended.

Longer term adherents of the Scandanavians will recognise an artistic development that has seen the band loosen the shackles of their black metal origins and produce another cornucopia of musical ideas from dark trip hop, through ambient, post-rock and, weirdly, jazz-rock. It shouldn’t work but it does. And how.

From the accessible poppiness that pervades “February MMXX” through the dynamics of “Norwegian Gothic” to the Mogwai-like strains of “Providence”, there are so many ideas at play here it could have been overwhelming or, worse, absurd, but there’s such a controlled focus, such a clarity of vision at work that it all hangs together superbly.

The musical history lessons of “England” and “Island” build upon the languid intrigue that the band have laid across the record but they are mere amuse-bouches for the sumptuous main course they leave for the end of the record.

Final track “Stone Angels” is epic poetry recital- yes, you read that correctly- underpinned by church music and incidental percussion. It is a strange and bewitching piece, full of mystery and intrigue. On one level, coming at this cold you could easily- and incorrectly- see this as utterly pretentious twaddle. Coming as it does at the end of a huge musical and lyrical journey it works as a fitting and enigmatic epitaph to what has gone before.

Wars of the Roses is a record for the times and, ironically, one that is wholly out of time.  It doesn’t demand attention like some vacuous egotist. Rather, it commands attention with a quiet, almost unassuming gravitas. You’re held captivated by the album’s rhythms and textures, its light and ominous shade. Wars of the Roses is not an album to be dipped into intermittently, like some frothy pop confection.  On the contrary, it’s a record for the long dark night of the soul. It’s a record to drink in, to be swept along and soothed through its musical passageways: in to, and out of, its brooding, beguiling and, at times, unnerving melancholy. Like I said: captivating.

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