Ulver – “Flowers of Evil”


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We are wolves

Under the moon

This is our song

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Some albums are simply listenable.  There’s something about them that brings me back again and again, and the music is as fresh and lovable as the first time.  I feel that way about most of Ulver’s albums, but especially the new one “Flowers of Evil”.  The release of this album was a bit mysterious, but it is set to release officially on August 28th.

I was late to the Ulver game.  I had heard of them for years, but finally took the plunge with 2017’s “The Assassination of Julius Caesar”.  Since then, I have grown to love their eclectic style.  The current lineup for this Norwegian band is also a bit of a mystery—the band isn’t much for exposure or showing themselves.  Best I can tell, the core members are Kristoffer Rygg on vocals and programming, Tore Ylwizaker on programming and keys, and Jørn H. Sværen on miscellaneous (an interesting description).  There are various support members that help out, but I am unsure who appears on this record. I’ll update this whenever I find the official list of performers.

Ulver plays a smooth, luscious brand of electronic prog rock, if it can indeed be called rock.  They started out as a folk black metal band, but have slowly transitioned out of metal over the years.  Their music is currently driven mostly by keys and electronica; with fantastic beats, trip hop portions, and climaxes playing alongside experimental rock. 

I should mention, too, that Kristoffer’s vocals are phenomenal and are a big part of what makes their music so arresting.  Overall, I would also say that the band has an 80s New Wave or synthwave sound, which is yet another reason I love them so well, but they are also wreathed by doom and downtempo styles, so this makes for a stunning contrast.

“Flowers of Evil” is more than musical style.  The band’s albums are always thoughtful and even unsettling lyrically.  This particular album explores the fear and ruin of mankind’s fall from redemption.  While religious imagery is used liberally throughout the lyrics, I don’t think the band means for the overall message to be religious.  In fact, much of this “fall from redemption” seems to be the fall of the Church itself, and the monsters we have staved off for so long are dancing on its ruins. 

In some ways, I think the band is calling out our allowance of primal behavior, and the ways that we allow such instincts to destroy what is right, good, and beautiful.  And, yet, I think the band is also acknowledging our primal natures, so there is this delicate balance between our ravenous desires and our beautiful artistry.  The lyrics are interesting no matter which way you look at them.

“Flowers of Evil” has eight tracks, all of them being amazing.  The band released three singles, “Russian Doll”, “Little Boy”, and “Nostalgia”.  All three are fantastic.  “Russian Doll” has been a much-requested song from my son, Atlas, and you should see him dance along with the video.  There is something about the poetic stanzas and the unyielding beat that is hypnotic.  “Little Boy” is darker and more melancholy.  It feels upbeat, yet also haunted and foreboding, and this is reinforced with pipes near the mournful ending.  “Nostalgia” feels very much like its name.  It reminds me ever so slightly of the male-female duets of 70s soft rock, only with more soul.  This is a great and truly beautiful track.

My favorites are impossible to choose, though. “One Last Dance” is a mighty opener with an eye on movement and evocation, “Hour of the Wolf” is an atmospheric tale of change and revelation, and “Apocalypse 1993” has an eccentric and bold beat that doesn’t fail to grab me every time, not to mention the catchy chorus.  I think the songs that really stick out for me are “Machine Guns and Peacock Feathers” and “A Thousand Cuts”.  The former is possibly the most colorful but also hauntingly blackened song on the album.  It has a steely edge that I didn’t expect, and the chorus is flaming and flourishing in style.  I love it.  The latter is the album closer, and I feel like it is more reserved.  It has a slow burning vibe to it, one that never really climaxes, but that hovers around your mind with resilience and ambiance.  I really love it as the ending track on the album.

“Flowers of Evil” is a vivid album, one with character, lush atmosphere, and personality.  It never breaks its stride, and never loses a bit of hope, even in the darkest lyrical moments.  Of course, those darker moments are celebrated, too, so it comes across as a truly human album, one that confesses are human nature.  This is offered brilliantly and unapologetically right alongside rhythms and beats that make you want to dance, or at least bop your head a bit (I know we prog fans can’t dance).  I call that exceptional.

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We have loved

And we have lost

We are ready to go

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Find Ulver online:

Facebook

Bandcamp

Jester Records

House of Mythology

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