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.