Ulver - Blood Inside - The End Records 2005
Running Time: 45:49
Perhaps no one in the annals of metal history has
made such a drastic change stylistically as Ulver. From the harsh, frigid snowscapes of The Madrigal Of Night to the band's more recent dub and minimalist excursions, the only predictable thing about Ulver has been their unpredictability.
Blood Inside is the first full-length from Garm & company since 2000's Perdition City, and I'll say this. It's dangerous to leave Ulver to their own devices for this long, because the time "away" (in this case, spent working on soundtracks and being nominated for the Norwegian Grammys) gives them ample time to decide how best to convolute their music, and thereby, our perceptions of it. 'Dressed In Black', with its scattered piano and plaintive vocals sounds for all the world like Roky Erikson sitting in on a Portishead session. It's when a Steve Morse guitar solo is injected into the vitriolic 'For The Love Of God' (2:13-2:58) that you first begin to see the twisted minds at work in Ulver for what they are. In the face of scorn for "going soft" or "selling out", Ulver has embraced that for which they were spurned and gone past the point of caring for public opinion. The falsetto vocal work in 'Christmas' joins Hawkwind-style keyboards and the ragged click and pop rhythms of glitch, and the subdued choral intro of 'Blinded by Blood' shifts liquidly into a found sample of a black gospel vocalist for a few lines before Garm's more somber tones take the lead all the way to the mangled music-box ending. There just is no plotting where albums will go with Ulver, and Blood Inside is no exception. The first hint of any overt metallic delivery in the entire album uses keys and rhythm to take the place of guitars, and comes off sounding almost more cold and vengeful for the fact. Pounding church organs do battle with careening drumwork in 'It Is Not Sound', making way for 'The Truth', in which a fractured cantata vocal arrangement is forcibly wed to destructive electro-terrorism. 'In The Red' toys with the idea of an insane Broadway musical to great effect, and slows seamlessly into 'Operator', which ends Blood Inside by taking every possible facet of the album thus far and piling them all atop each other in a tangled mass of musical wreckage. Still, it works. It's Ulver. How can't it?
Ulver has - in the past eight or so years - gone beyond every form of music they've tried their hand at, and dominated most of them in the process, unbeknownst to the masses. The first lines of 'It Is Not Sound' say it all. "For the record, no one will understand what it is all about.". That's just as well. Albums like Blood Inside aren't necessarily meant to be so much "understood" as experienced.