ULVER - Trolsk Sortmetall (CENTURY MEDIA - LP Boxset 2014)
Oh man, this was such a sought after release! I love early Ulver albums, for sure they’re some of the best Norwegian black metal ever released, but I only had one vinyl so far and really wanted the other stuff on LP also. Sure, there’s that old boxset with picture discs, but not only it’s too pricy but I also don’t like PDs so much. “Trolsk Sortmetall” is much, much better. The content is just perfect. The presentation is all what I would want to see in such special boxsets, with killer book containing a lot of great stuff, then there are four vinyls with all Ulver stuff that I like, plus there’s even one cassette! Oh man, it’s enough to give it 100/100. Perfect release, if you ask me.
The musical journey through these Norwegian classics begins with “Vargnatt” (“Wolfnight”) demo, recorded in November 1993 with the line up: Garm (vocals), Carl Michael Czral (drums), A. Reza (guitars), Grellmund (guitars), Havard Jørgensen (acoustic guitars) and Mysticum's Mean Malmberg on session bass. For most of them this was the first and also last recording they did with the band. Anyways, it is significant that Ulver right with “Vargnatt” came up with music, which was simply different to the stuff offered by other Norwegian black metal bands. Just think of the raw, but somehow clean production (but with heavily distorted guitar tone), so unlike to the primitive sounding, noisy black metal demos of that old era. More so, Ulver brought also more atmospheric music and mixed clean, acoustic songs with distorted black metal. And they used not only the harsh screams, but also some clean vocals – which on “Vargnatt” didn’t sound so well to be honest and I actually think that this demo would be better without those annoying and badly sang clean vocal parts. Anyway, there are some moments of pure genius on “Vargnatt” and Ulver really showed their incredible ability to compose atmospheric, but dark, harsh and eerie music. “Ulverytternes kamp” is obviously the best song here; I just love the opening theme for it and yes, I can see how this works as the soundtrack when you take a walk in the frozen, wintery forests. “Tragediens trone” has also some absolutely fantastic bits and again a fantastic, acoustic beginning. And “Trollskogen” is entirely played on the acoustic guitar and yes, this song is just beautiful. So, “Vargnatt” was very different when compared to the whole Norwegian black metal and stuff from bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Emperor or Immortal, but the atmospheric black metal would soon bring more awesome bands with recordings from Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon, Arcturus, Gehenna, Isengard and so on… Ulver is definitely the best of them all…
...and that’s thanks to “Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler” (“A Fairy Tale in 5 Chapters”) album. "Bergtatt" was recorded in Endless Lydstudio, in November / December 1994, with much different line up, as only Garm and Havard were remaining from the “Vargnatt” session and with Skoll (bass), AiwarikiaR (drums) and Aismal (guitars) joined. Additionally Sverd from Arcturus recorded piano parts for the album. And what can I say? For me this is the best thing Ulver ever recorded and easily one of my favourite black metal albums of all time. It’s a wonderful record, the music is perfectly balanced between the atmospheric, folky, epic, monumental stuff and harsh, raw and furious, aggressive black metal. The arrangements here are just stunning, there are so many wonderful pieces, so memorable and sorrowful, melancholic, but angry… I love the riffs, arrangements, the use of acoustic guitars, flutes, etc., all blended into melodic but raw black metal… And finally the vocals are excellent. There’s a lot of clean sung vocal parts, songs like “Capitel I: I Troldskog faren vild” are only based on them and you know, they – along with the melodic riffage – create that sorrowful atmosphere here. Of course Ulver do not focus just on that and with “Capitel II: Soelen gaaer bag Aase need” it bursts out with more aggressive and darker playing, but that only proves how diverse and well arranged this album is. Later on there’s a bit of everything, for example such “Capitel IV: Een Stemme locker” is entirely an acoustic song with clean vocals… And it is so good that I think it’s just impossible to pick up the favourite song, as basically each is just fantastic, worthy and interesting. It’s a complete, perfect record, if you ask me. And the acoustic fragment on the end of the album is only announcing what was yet to come with “Kveldssanger”, Ulver’s bravest record for sure. It cannot be also forgotten that each song tells a different chapter of one tale, based on the Norwegian folklore and that is another significant detail on Ulver. “Bergtatt” is the first part of the trilogy.
…and it continues with “Kveldssanger” ("Evening songs"). Yes, I already said it’s Ulver’s bravest record… and also one, which I like the least. Why? Well, it’s not black metal album, but 100% acoustic, folky music. Which is nothing bad, don’t get me wrong, as I like such music and Ulver previously did some amazing acoustic pieces on “Bergtatt”. But maybe I just miss that combination of black metal harshness and aggression with acoustic, folklore music? All in all “Kveldssanger” has some absolutely stunning and beautiful pieces, there are some songs like “Østenfor Sol og vestenfor Maane” or “Ulvsblakk”, which are simply amazing. But I think that the entire album is very easy to listen to, very mesmerizing, with a lot of melody, clean vocals (Garm did awesome job here) and fantastic playing of acoustic guitar (Havard), sometimes combined with cello (from Alf Gaaskjønli ) and flute (AiwarikiaR). It’s worth mentioning that this LP includes also a bonus song “Synen” originally released on "Souvenirs from Hell" compilation. Great addition!
And finally the last album, the final chapter called “Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne til Ulven i Manden” (“The Madrigal of (the) Night - Eight Hymnes to the Wolf in Man”)! Well, for years I considered it to be my favourite Ulver album, nowadays I prefer “Bergtatt” more, but “Nattens…” is still damn awesome. Two things surprised me, when this album was released in 1997. Firstly, it was the fact that it came through Century Media, which I don’t think is a proper label for black metal bands. And secondly, it was the music, which on this album turned into something totally obscure, harsh, primitive and morbid black metal. You know, “Bergtatt” had that black metal meets folky music style, but “Nattens…” is basically lacking any acoustic / folklore elements, focusing 99% on the black metal. And I think it was surprising to hear Ulver music going this way… but let’s be honest, Ulver was changing with every album (their next album “Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” was a real shock!). “Nattens…” is close to early Dodheimsgard, Darkthrone, with its lo-fi, noisy recording and relentless, aggressive, abrasive music. There are some slight traces of melody, but they really get lost in the whole messy and harsh style of this album. But damn, I really like it a lot. There are some really amazing songs like “I”, “VI”, “II” and to be honest, I put this album in the same category of brilliant and totally crushing black metal records as “Under the Funeral Moon”, “Antichrist”, “Pure Holocaust” and “Kronet til Konge”. More so, I just like the fact that Ulver decided to record something so nasty, aggressive and damn obscure in the times, when black metal got more melodic, everyone started using keyboards and simply started to sound more accessible for the masses. Big labels started to sign black metal bands. Dimmu Borgir, Old Man’s Child and all those symphonic bands were getting popular as fuck… and here we go, Ulver also got signed by big label, but released their most relentless and furious, most violent album. Killer stuff! Additionally we can listen to four songs from “Nattes…” in the rehearsal versions, which are included on the cassette. Sadly there are no vocals, but hey, you can always do some karaoke haha!
All in all, “Trolsk Sortmetall” is just an amazing release and splendid boxset. The whole packaging, including great book with lots of old photos, lyrics, translations, liner notes isa complete perfection. The quality is simply superb… so, what else can I add? It was just worth buying! Sadly it was sold out fast and now you can only buy it from the vultures, who ask or double or triple prices, as they bought these boxsets not for themselves, to enjoy the music, but just to sell it later, but this is what “fans” do now. Fuck them though, I am sure they will die in agony and demons will feast on their greedy souls. “Trolsk Sortmetall” is excellent representation of what Ulver once was and well, for me this is the only period of this band’s existence, which I like and listen to. Anything after “Nattens…” doesn’t interest me, so for me this is perfect.
Final rate: 100/100