Ulver's journey into the unknown
Having moved far beyond their black metal roots, Norway’s Ulver are taking yet another leap into the unknown
An uncertain band for uncertain times, Ulver have spent most of the last two decades defying expectation and avoiding musical convention. In fact, ever since they followed up the trollish black metal of their 1995 debut album with a collection of acoustic folk songs, they’ve been keeping their audience guessing, and that’s a situation that looks unlikely to change. Sure enough, having impressed fans and critics alike with the brooding orchestral intensity of 2013’s Messe I.X-VI.X, the (mostly) Norwegian institution now present a very different side of their musical personality. Titled – somewhat improbably – ATGCLVLSSCAP, the new record is a varied and playful effort that blends the spontaneous with the premeditated, its foundation built from recordings of the largely improvisational shows performed by the band in early 2014, with editing, arrangement and additions later taking place in a studio setting.
As founding member Kristoffer Rygg explains, the initial impetus for this unusual way of working – and for the tour as a whole – was actually surprisingly prosaic, namely the fact that the band were lacking material to play live. Wanting to tour but not wishing to repeat either the songs documented on 2011 live DVD The Norwegian National Opera nor those on War Of The Roses – which had been played extensively live following that album’s release – the band took their chances and opted for a series of what Kristoffer describes as “trippy jams”. It’s not only an interesting way of making new material but one that would have been unforeseeable just a few years ago, since both the band and its founder were famous for not playing concerts. Presumably he’s rather more comfortable with this setting now?