Ulver “Themes From William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (1998)

William Blake was an illuminate mystic British poet and painter who died in 1827, and his literary works as well as his colorful illustrations are still regarded by many as a world of their own. Deeply religious, the man claimed and wrote in many of his eclectic writings, full of his mysterious self-confidence, that he had visions of and conversations with angels, ether-bodied creatures and celestial intelligences. For sure, he seemed to have quite a unique grasp of what reality is. This is the feeding ground that Ulver chose to emerge from between fall ’97 and rise ’98, and clearly a great step outside what they previously had been associated with, namely black metal. It’s hard to pinpoint in a few words exactly what Ulver are doing here, but all in all, they tend to explore more electronic territories, according themselves a kind of nostalgic trip hop attitude at times, whereas loud, industrial rockish metal also makes its way now and then.

The whole double-album is very genre-schizophrenic, as there are also more moody, almost ambient-like acoustic tracks, and all the musical focus is put on each of Blake’s inspirational shifts of emotions, so it basically changes all the time. Singer Kristoffer Rygg aka Garm has really pushed his voice here, still in a serious, classical and opera-sounding context like he did with La Masquerade Infernale, but new to his vocal palette, there’s sometimes that underlining mockery madness hitting on. He also uses more spoken-word passages, reciting chants, tender romantic whispers, and completely electrified and textured throat sounds, all of which are accompanied by consequent compositions. Sure, the man was finding himself here, and so were Ulver, but it’s still an incredible performance if you take in consideration the black metal context where these guys were coming from. The music, when it gets right-on heavy, is indeed very groovy and danceable, but still somewhat foggy-dark all the way through, and it was the first time Ulver almost only worked with beats, programming, sampling, big bass lines and so on. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell was clearly their breakthrough album, and for sure an avant-classical-beat creation full of new avenues for all upcoming records to gnaw on.

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings, wrote William Blake in 1790, and it appears to me that Ulver had finally found their own musical sky to soar into. If you are up for some truly heavy music with a mysterious edge, and if you are also ready to explore more delicate forms of emotional expressions, you’ve got what you were looking for within this almost two-hour-long album.
-Oliver Side


Release:  1998
Label:  Jester Records
Avantgenre:  Classical Beat Poetry
Duration:  01:41:09
Origin:  Norway
Official site:  http://www.jester-records.com/ulver
Review online since:  30.06.2007 / 22:33:08


Disc 1

1. The Argument Plate 2
2. Plate 3
3. Plate 3 Following
4. The Voice Of The Devil Plate 4
5. Plates 5-6
6. A Memorable Fancy Plates 6-7
7. Proverbs Of Hell Plates 7-10
8. Plate 11
9. Intro
10. A Memorable Fancy Plates 12-13
11. Plate 14
12. A Memorable Fancy Plate 15
13. Plates 16-17

Disc 2

1. A Memorable Fancy Plates 17-20
2. Intro
3. Plates 21-22
4. A Memorable Fancy Plates 22-24
5. Intro
6. A Song Of Liberty Plates 25-27

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