The third and the final chapter of Folk/Black Metal trilogy – as it is often referred to – signed by ULVER had seen the light of day in the second half of the nineties. After the extraordinary acoustic second full-length album called “Kveldssanger” the Norwegian musicians had once again surprised the music audience by recording a work of a profoundly different sort and temperament. The only thing that remained unaffected was their interest in folklore and old tales, which at that time was expressed by setting focus on the character of (were)wolf both in the absorbing text plane as well as the stunning front cover artwork.
Whereas the opening track includes a passage that refers to the band’s previous opuses (some acoustic guitar chords mainly akin to the ones you could hear on “Bergtatt”), the rest of the CD comprises of furious raw assault of intensity and force that does not often occur in Black Metal.
The guitars are buzzing at their finest bringing about an eerie atmosphere of restlessness and alienation. Despite being raw and unpolished as much as possible ULVER guitars still generate one of the most memorable riffs ever composed in extreme music with the hymns number I, IV and VI best illustrating this statement. As if this was not enough, certain solo efforts are being painted along with the instrumental madness of blasts, tremolo pickings, hectic tempos and Garm’s characteristic vocals. Obviously also these sequences are as sharp and thin as razors.
Since I have mentioned Garm it should not be omitted to emphasize his great work he had done as regards delivering the album lyrics into the band’s music. All the way during his artistic career he has shown that he feels comfortable in numerous different vocal forms ranging from ballad-like clean singing through epic chants to brutal shrieks. The performance he is responsible for on ULVER’s third full-length is definitely one of his most extreme ones – apart from the harsh vocals the listener will not experience any other singing variation.
Somewhere in the background of the above-described sound fury you can hear the bass performance completing decently the whole effort and being an equally worthy companion to the other departments. What is remarkable in this case is the fact that you do not need to exert yourself so much in order to hear it, which is not that frequent if such kind of releases are taken into account. The production of “Nattens Madrigal” in general, though characterized by utterly grim sound, does not leave the listener with a sound wall of a completely unselective and hardly comprehensible nature. Quite on the contrary, after a while you can sense some sort of order in these seemingly chaotic riff structures and drum beats. One can say that under the cover of untamed lycanthropic character of this record lies a real musical talent which enables ULVER to fully control the course of events here.
After having released this record the band have continued their musical journey, though aiming at the territories that were and are most unlikely to be visited by typical Metal fans. Actually, the somewhat experimental interludes on “Nattens Madrigal” seem to herald in a way ULVER’s future music course, though without spoiling the album’s atmosphere.
The successor to “Bergtatt” and “Kveldssanger” – just like the group’s other efforts – is a clear evidence for Norwegian musicians’ creativity and music imagination, an evidence and a work which should definitely be checked primarily by people interested in Black Metal. Those of you who are solely into ULVER’s latest releases will think of “Nattens Madrigal” rather only within the framework of a musical curiosity.
(Online September 23, 2008)