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Blood Inside

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(24 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • Despite the fact that Ulver displayed a notable penchant for flagrant genre hopping right from the get go, with the wildly oscillating _Bergtatt_, the stripped back acoustic folk of _Kvelldsanger_ and, most jarringly, the ear melting opening of hells gates on _Nattens Madrigal_, this is most likely where the rule book went out of the window and their apotheosis as experimental music titans was complete. Distilling the sound used to such effect on _Perdition City_, _Blood Inside_ sees Ulver completely, spectacularly break free of metal roots and create something almost without peer in modern music.
    The nine songs presented here are dense, lush and intricately composed, neatly shunning predictability but retaining accessibility thanks to the gorgeously, blessedly clean vocals and their lilting, modern delivery. The music has an electronic base but integrates elements of jazz (slightly), rock (blistering rhythms and one guitar solo), atmosphere and ambience, and prog (insane out of place cod-classical keyboard solo, numerous other touches). the attention to detail is stunning and the lack of conventional structure actually adds to the strength of the songs: despite the uniform sound and dense production, the tracks are actually quite disparate, and the lack of predictability makes hearing each one like unwrapping another present.
    Specifically, ‘Dressed in Black’ is a low key, deceptively melodic opener, showing off the full production and warped beats, especially about 3/4 of the way through when it opens up into a chaotic percussive section. ‘For the Love of God’ is a gem, and unclassifiable slice of eerire keyboard, surprisingly upbeat tones and vocals, and an unexpected guitar solo. Something about it evokes movement (perhaps on a train?). ‘Christmas’ is basically astounding, mixing classical samples with driving beats, an aggressive, upbeat style and heart wilitng crescendos later on (those wordless vocal harmonies!). The song is practically danceable, for crying out loud! ‘Blinded by Blood’ is my favourite, an epic textural journey, ornate in delivery, featuring choral parts and weird backwashing effects, creepy melodies and an atmosphere that reminds me of quiet church or crypt. The melody and delivery of the male vocals reminds me of Mike Patton, but overall I’ve never heard anything so beautiful. You get the picture then, although I should briefly single out ‘Operator’ which is an utterly insane journey through a speedy, almost rocking proggish dance-athon (???).
    Ok, as I’ve subtly hinted at above then, I really like this album. I do believe it has a lot going for it. The songwriting is uniformly strong, the production a crystalline, technical wonder. The vocals are good and really add a lot to the music. The best feature though is that, despite the admittedly ambitious reach and scope of the record, every arow finds its target. That is, each miniature experiment works out well, even with the occasional bizzare out of place interludes, which work well in the overall scheme thanks to their jarring quality. One shouldn’t really expect a band to be able to branch out in so many different directions at once so succsessfully, so Ulvers achievement here should not be taken lightly. The vague overall concept, which seems to be about hospital fear or Christianity (or both…I mean, sanity is out of the window by this stage) helps as well, keeping everything together without really intruding on matters. I’ll wrap up now then, but this album is an experimental, accessible, delicate and delicious marvel, and I hope this review outlines why, to some extent. One thing is for sure: I used a lot of parentheses, for some reason.

    Posted on November 23, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • There is a small group of artists without whom I cannot imagine my own existence.

    It wasn’t actually until Perdition City that I discovered Ulver, and it was, indeed, a life altering experience. I quickly amassed the entire backcatalogue and found a band constantly in redefinition, always expanding and experimenting. Since then, every release has had some profound impact on the way I listen to music.

    And here we are at Blood Inside.

    Blood Inside offers a diverse musical climate. One can hear some of the orchestral sounds found on the Quick Fix EP and Svidd Neger soundtrack, as well as the electronic atmospheres of Perdition City, the Silence EP’s, etc… And yet, this album, as always, is completely different from the rest of Ulver’s work.

    For Blood Inside, Ulver enlisted the help of Ronan Chris Murphy… fitting, as much of the album has a vaguely Crimson-esque feel to it. In fact, Ulver are as important to the progression of music today as King Crimson were in 1969.

    But I digress.

    From the onset of the album, the genius of this work is apparent. It may take you a few listens to realise it, but there are truly some incredible things going on here. “Dressed in Black” builds from an uber-minimalistic synth line, adding layer upon layer, until Garm comes in like the voice of impending doom. The song continues to build until the end with chromatic decending piano lines heralding the end of the world. The sedated, angstful verses of “For the Love of God,” offset by huge, 70’s prog-like choruses. The angry, noisy, and yet hugely melodic “Christmas.” “Blinded By Blood,” perhaps the most beautiful and haunting Ulver song to date, with its sweeping, ringing synth lines offset by discordant vibraphone, and Arvo Part-like choral moments rising in and out as Garm’s gorgeous voice washes over you. Personally, this song leaves me powerless to do anything but gape, slack-jawed, into space. The chaotic dichotomy of electronic noises and string lines opening “It Is Not Sound,” then suddenly slamming into the, as I said before, vaguely Crimson-esque groove. The noisy and beautiful “The Truth.” “In the Red” recalls Perdition City with its creepy minimalistic structures. The beautifully chaotic “Your Call,” with several different offsetting string parts occurring seemingly at random, punctuated by short piano arpeggiations. And at the end, the single violin rising above the dulling noise and finally giving way to a seemingly eternally unanswered telephone. And then the slamming answer of “Operator,” an amazing example of how to make a crushingly heavy song with practically no guitar, with a particularly exquisite moment where the music and noise abruptly stop for a brief instant moment as Garm’s yell of ‘hospital!’ cuts through the mania.

    Over all, as any good concept album, from start to finish this is an engaging, almost entrancing listen. The unbridled theatrical power of Ulver’s music will have this stuck in your CD player, IPod, or what have you, for weeks.

    For those of you who are not already seasoned Ulver-holics, this is as good a place as any to start. I highly suggest this to openminded music lovers, particularly fans of King Crimson, Coil, Bjork, and the like. For Ulver fans, buy this. Buy it now. Buy it yesterday.

    May their genius and insanity long continue.

    Posted on November 23, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Ulver…what can you say about a band that seems to reinvent itslef on nearly every release? Most bands that do this are said to be “finding their own sound” or “experimenting” but one does not get that impression about Ulver. Each of their releases sound extermely calculated, like the sound they achieved is exactly what they were going for. Blood Inside is no exception to this. It sounds really nothing like any of their previous work (as noted by another reviewer, closest to the A Quick Fix of Melancholy EP, my personal favorite). Despite this, Ulver sounds so comfortable in this new sound.

    The most pleasing thing about this album in my opinion is that it’s not instrumental. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed their instrumental EP’s and soundtracks but I really like the vocals that Garm (or Trickster G, Krystoffer or whatever he’s going by this month) provides. I’ve always thought he has an excellent voice even since their “black metal” beginings but his “clean” vocals are just outstanding. While his vocals are definitely stunnig here, I still stand by my opnion that his best vocal work was on Arcturus’ The Sham Mirrors.

    Whenever I’ve mentioned Ulver to the uninitiated, the question of what they sound like inevitably comes up. Trying to explain what Ulver sounds like to one that has never had the pleasure of hearing them is like trying to explain what a Picasso or a Van Gogh “looks like”. People will probably think I’m nuts but if I had to make a comparison, I’d probably say something like “imagine if Bjork was three Norweigan guys that used to play black metal, instead of a gal from Iceland”. They both have consistently put out unique “electronic” albums over the years, backed by strong, distinct vocals. Even if the comparison is valid, it still doesn’t do Ulver justice as they’ve always been uniquely “Ulver”.

    If you’re already an Ulver fan, chances are you’ve already bought this or are planning to because you know and love their unique style. If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing Ulver, I highly recommend picking this up. In fact, whatever CD you were planning on buying, forget it, get this instead.

    Favorite songs: In The Red, Dressed In Black, It Is Not Sound.

    Check out the video on the CD for It Is Not Sound (…), it’s one of the better videos I’ve seen in a long while.

    Posted on November 22, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Finally! This album is overdue; I’ve been Ulver-thirsty for some time now. I guess I got spoiled with so many EP’s in 2002-2003. Although Ulver’s next musical accomplishment is always unpredictable, this album feels like more of a natural evolution than their previous transitions. “Quick Fix of Melancholy” and “Svidd Neger” started adding more violins, pianos, and things like that to the mix. I didn’t think the band’s production and polished sound could get any better, but it seems like it did on this album. Everything just sounds so acoustically fine-tuned like the architecture of an orchestra hall.

    “Dressed in Black” starts out with a heavy, frequency-shifting tone, slowly adding piano, Garm’s voice comes into the mix, eventually transforming into a lavish instrumental section that keeps building up, and then breaking down into a wacky piano loop, slowly fading out with some ambient sounds.

    “For the Love of God” this song is just hard to explain. It reminds me quite a bit of the Perdition City style. Somehow it just feels like a big, futuristic, busy city at night, going through a subway tunnel and on the street and Sometimes only the imagination can explain what Ulver sounds like. Maybe the lyrics help this imagery out: “Going down faster than the light / Going down deeper than the dark”

    “Christmas” has got to be the best song. It starts out with some faded, almost drab sounding bells, with a very faint, yet warm sounding violin melody. It gives the beginning a very cold feel, like Christmas is too cold to enjoy this year. Then the familiar (but so unfamiliar) wild Ulver beat begins, including Garm’s sailing vocals, continuing with the bells, adding plenty of horns and wild percussion. It is very upbeat and if you liked the more upbeat songs in Perdition City and Theme’s from William Blake’s the Marriage of Heaven and Hell you’re sure to like this. The song ends with some faded vocals and the dull bells reappearing.

    “Blinded by Blood” is a very ambient, relaxing track. Reminds me a little of Silencing the Singing. There’s some minimal, yet drawn-out vocals which seem like they’re basically being used as an instrument here. The end of it sounds like a creepy little music box from a haunted attic.

    “It is not Sound” is actually kind of noisy. Not much to say about the first portion of the song but then a very interesting little haunted-circus type electronic melody starts forming, ending with a calm violin melody. Guess Garm had to throw that in there after not doing Arcturus for a while. It’s quite entertaining.

    “The Truth” is interesting, some parts of this will really stick in your head. Some parts are quite noisy and almost have an industrial type feel, There’s also a real quiet part with Garm’s sort of wailing vocals with a memorable little melody on top. This one is pretty difficult to explain, it goes all over the place. Then it inconspicuously transforms into “In the Red,” what an excellent transition from the previous song. I just love the dark, creepy feeling in this song with heavily echoed vocals and electronic pulses, almost seems like random words are being called out at certain points. All of a sudden the song is “ruined” by bombastic, out-of-control, unexpected horns and I think I even hear a xylophone in there, and it sounds like an old 1950’s magic show or something. This part is extremely wild and innovative, and a blast to listen to, too bad it wasn’t a bit longer.

    Next is “Your Call” which is the song everyone will check their cell phone to make sure it isn’t ringing. It starts out very ambient until Garm’s vocals kick in, and the song kicks off with great momentum. It goes through a few different changes, and ends up with just a lone phone ringing for a little while, and then you get the answering machine only for the next song, “Operator” to unexpectedly explode into your ears; this song is probably the most wild on the album.

    So, in conclusion, if you like Ulver’s other electronic works, this is definitely going to add to that, and if you want to get into them this is a pretty good place to start. Ulver continues to do what they do best, each new album being as unexpected and innovative, yet polished and well-rounded as the last.

    Posted on November 22, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I’m going to start this review with a warning to all newcomers to the Ulver sound…


    There, Now that thats over with onto the review of Ulver’s “Blood Inside”. This was my introduction to Ulver, as much as I hate to admit it. I wish I had jumped on the Ulver band-wagon earlier, but for my defense, it took me this long just to find out about the band. Ulver’s sound is truly unique, It denies all categories, genres, or labels. Its has elements of Classical, electronic, ambient, metal, soundscape, Jazz, blah blah blah You get the picture. Its incredibly hard to compare Ulver to any other Band or sound out there…Ulver is Ulver and thats all there is to it.

    “Blood Inside” starts with the electronic intro “Dressed In Black”. A great opener in my book, although I hated it when I first heard it, after a few listens to it the complexity of it struck me and I started to really enjoy it.

    It ends with a pulsating sound with wavy, chillingly hypnotic vocals That kick off the next track “For the Love of God”. This is one of my favorites of the album, Its another song with more electronics then anything else. Although there is some interesting guitar work, drumming, and solo’s, This track is ruled my the synthesizer, and it rules with an iron fist.

    The Bells at the end means it time for another of the best tracks from the album; “Christmas”. This song is influenced by classical music much more then the previous two. Having String passages, percussion Bells, and brass instruments alternatively blaring at all times. Its also a High point for Garm’s Haunting vocals, don’t ask me why its just a track where they really shine. This is defiantly one of the stand-out tracks of the entire album, You won’t find yourself skipping this one.

    Then “Its Blinded By blood” which is an absolutely beautiful track, It’s a very relaxing and Serene Song. I can’t really say much about it other then its another of my favorites of “Blood Inside”. You have to listen to it to really understand why I love it so much.

    With the strange lullaby-like chirpings at the end of “Blinded By Blood”, You know its time for “It is not Sound”. Which is the only “Single” from “Blood Inside”. A very un-traditional Single to say the least, with a strange drone and vocals holding the spotlight for the first minute and a half. This is another of my favorites, Its another track which shows off the more electronic sound of ulver. It also sports an insanely long,(around 1:18 long) but not boring keyboard solo near the end of the song.

    Then “The Truth” Kicks off which, not to sound like a broken record, is another favorite of mine. This song is very hard to describe. It is a very progressive track with classical and electronic elements to it. Its confusing and relaxing at the same time…if thats even possible. It starts to end with Garm’s singing backed by some insane teddy bear vocals (thats no type-o)
    then ends with tambourines, a great bass riff and Garm shushing the listener.

    Then comes “In The Red” which is a cool song with a very swing/jazzy style to it. The highlight of this song really is the
    way they go about it. Proving that Ulver can do whatever the hell they want to do. You wouldn’t think a band could start from Black Metal(which is a notoriously elitist Genre) to using elements of Jazz and swing! But its a great track and doesn’t ever get boring. Your toes will be tapping to the great rhythm that last throughout the entire track.

    Now for “Your Call” which is my least favorite song from “Blood Inside”. It just doesn’t Have mcuh going for it except the great ending which leads into the chaotic “Operator”.

    Boom! after the less then great “Your call” ends “Operator” immediately blasts through your speakers. An Insane track, which truly Denies all categories. This is another Track that you have to listen to to understand. It has everything, even a great solo thrown in for your listening pleasure. A very intricate song, which will require many, many listens to truly understand… in fact, I just listened to this track while I wrote this section of my review and found 2 little parts underneath everything else. And those underlying parts are what keep people always coming back for more.

    If you’ve only listened to this record a couple of times and didn’t enjoy it as much as some of their other (recent) work, give it a few more listens. I’m not trying to convince you that this is the end all be all of Ulver, that this is Ulver’s best work and if you like “Perdition City” (for example) better your nuts, or even that this is the Pinnacle of Ulver, there may still be more to come. Just on a side note, in case you haven’t noticed, Ulver may not be for you.-If not read my giant Disclaimer at the beginning of this review- For example if you want some music to go to the gym and pump some iron to, Ulver Probably won’t float your boat. “Blood Inside” is a record to sit down in a room by yourself and listen to, doing little else, other then appreciating it for the masterpiece that it is.

    So to conclude this review I’ll say that if you are looking for some good music, (be you a fan of metal, classical, electronic, or the like) Look no further, the answer has been right under your nose the whole time, it was for me!

    If you managed to read this entire review, and didn’t feel like kicking me in the teeth after doing so, or found it remotely interesting, appealing, or helpful please take a second out of your busy day to press the “yes” button next to “Was this review helpful to you?”
    Thank you,
    -Igar the Terrible

    Posted on November 22, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now