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ulver messeIX-VIX
Artist: Ulver
Title: Messe I.X - VI.X
Genre: Dark Ambient
Release Date: 27th September 2013
Label: kScope

Album Review

A strange lot, ULVER, and the fringe musical landscape has benefitted enormously because of it. The Norwegians started life in the murky depths of Black Metal but quickly evolved into an altogether more versatile and leftfield beast. Incorporating, at times, classical, folk, jazz and improvisation into soundscapes both otherworldly and abrasive, they are impossible to categorise, and thrillingly experimental.

‘Messe I.X – VI.X’ is the next instalment in the band’s strange sonic journey, and it contains six songs, though actually they more resemble suites. See past the somewhat grand, possibly pretentious song titles (try asking if they’ve got ‘As Syrians Pour In, Lebanon Grapples With Ghosts Of A Bloody Past’ down at your local disco) and there is a patient majesty and beauty underpinning this body of work, aided in no small part by the Tromso Chamber Orchestra. The afore-mentioned tongue twister is a gorgeously mournful piece, swelling slowly in its sorrowfulness. It has a chilling, creepy feel to it, found-sounds, animal noises and distant thunder all competing in some nameless distance before a violin begins to play, tragic and monumentally sad. It finishes on a powerfully positive note, this unexpected toying with the emotions a skilful attribute. ‘Shri Scheider’ continues the theme, modern instruments and classical elements clashing successfully as a whole.

Highlight ‘Glamour Box Ostinati’ is a stunning example of using repetition to build something truly great. It would make for a superb film score. Tense, edgy, and centred around the simplest of constructs, it groans and creaks and breaks down in the mid-section before leaping back into life and finishing the job admirably. A heady rush of urgency, by the end it achieves more in its six and a bit minutes than many composers struggle to find in a whole career. ‘Son Of Man’ sounds like it’s aiming for a bit of MOZART to begin with and then goes all gothic with bells and chants. There is a problem here though. The vocals kill it. Immersed in the instrumentation up to this point, the singing just jars. There’s not much of it thankfully, because at its heart, this is another powerful piece, and by the close its frankly awesome.

‘Noche Oscura Del Alma’ feels a step of experimentation too far, and it’s the only thing on ‘Messe’ that feels like filler. It’s pretty horrible to be honest. But the album’s closer ‘Mother Of Mercy’, despite the reappearance of the vocals, works well enough. It doesn’t scale the earlier heights unfortunately and leaves a slight sense that this album could have been great, rather than merely good. But all credit to a bold and creative experiment. Wildly inconsistent towards the end, but with enough genuine, emotional highs, and superbly crafted lows to save it, ULVER have delivered a work of beauty and finesse. Who knows what they’ll try next. And that’s what keeps them vital.


1. As Syrians Pour In, Lebanon Grapples With Ghosts Of A Bloody Past
2. Shri Schneider
3. Glamour Box Ostinati
4. Son Of Man
5. Noche Oscura Del Alma
6. Mother Of Mercy


Kristoffer Garm Rygg
Jørn H. Sværen
Tore Ylwizaker
Daniel O'Sullivan

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Cover Picture

ulver messeIX-VIX


Music: 7
Sound: 7
Total: 7 / 10

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