Head Not Found, 1995
Genre: Black Metal
1. I Troldskog faren vild
2. Soelen gaaer ba Aase need
3. Graablick blev hun vaer
4. Een Stemme locker
5. Bergtatt - ind i Fjeldkamrene
I've been trying to go back and review some of the classic and influential bands to the Black Metal scene and since my earliest engagement was mainly through the Norwegian scene I've been trying to prioritize various bands from time to time that are considered absolute must hear classics by most fans of the genre. When people reference Ulver, for me, I think of "Bergtatt" and I was surprised going back to "Vargnatt" that I did not like the demo that much. It's rather surprising how much of a difference "Bergtatt" is compared to "Vargnatt". Just the sheer amount of musical growth between the two releases is extremely impressive. I think I picked this album up around 1996 or 1997 or so and this was one of my earliest experiences with Ulver, which is really what captured my interest in the band.
"Bergtatt" boasts some major line-up changes in the world of Ulver. Only Garm and Haavard have continued on with the project, so the beautiful acoustic pieces on "Vargnatt" are still quite present here. However, the massive line-up shift and style growth means nothing from "Vargnatt" would be re-recorded. I'm almost thankful for this, because nothing on "Vargnatt" would fit with the majestic and wondrous "Bergtatt" release. "Bergtatt" is a truly wonderful album and I feel like Ulver draw a lot of influence from the world of Enslaved. However, Ulver's style feels a lot more beautiful and wondrous, whereas Enslaved come off as far more aggressive. Garm's clean vocals have an ethereal sheen to them that make the album a very interesting experience. He's certainly a stronger clean vocalist than Grutle, but I think I like Grutle's harsh vocals even more than Garm's at this stage. Garm would go on to be an extremely versatile vocalist performing some of the most iconic vocal performances in Black Metal with the likes of Arcturus and Borknagar. Now "Bergtatt" certainly has its aggressive moments and I think back in the early 90's like this they were still just piecing those styles together. So the shift between ethereal beauty can shift harshly into vicious and intense Black Metal. I think the modern scene that is built off of these origins is trying to be more conscious on blending the elements more seamlessly, but its something I've noticed quite a bit when revisiting these old releases.
To this day, "Bergtatt" is really my "go to" album when I listen to Ulver, which has tapered off over the years. One of the reasons I'm trying to revisit the classics. It's probably been ten years since I last heard "Bergtatt", so its really a wonderful thing to be able to revisit the album today and still find enjoyment in it. It really says something about how "Bergtatt" has stood the test of time with it's writing and style. Naturally, it would influence a host of future Black Metal bands and Ulver's blend was a bit of a shift from what was being performed in the early scene. I always felt bands like Einherjer, Enslaved, and Helheim were performing a similar style, but Ulver's style, at the time, was always a little different in feel in some respects, but not in a way you could outright call them Viking Metal.
"Bergtatt" is such a refined album compared to the demo and I think that shift in quality was wholly unexpected. Truly a classic to be remembered.
Genre: Black Metal
1. Her Begynner Mine Arr
2. Tragediens Trone
4. Ulverytternes Kamp
5. Nattens Madrigal
Ulver has certainly grown to legendary status over the years, albeit their career in Black Metal has been extremely brief. Prior to"Vargnatt" there was also a rehearsal released the same year, which I've never heard and am not that interested in tracking down at the moment. The only version of "Vargnatt" I had been able to acquire is the one pictured above and it's a very poorly made bootleg. The transfers are extremely noisy and loud and I would think the recording is actually a rehearsal rather than the actual demo. So, I've found a better version elsewhere and am listening to that in order to capture the actual music performed on "Vargnatt". The bootleg doesn't even have the full track listing, so it is quite the rip off in the grand scheme of things.
The way this band starts is quite strange in the grand scheme of things. Ulver's career has boasted some of the major players in Black Metal, but during the "Vargnatt" days only Garm and Carl-Michael would go on to be involved in the genre more, until Garm changed genres and seems to have backed off from Black Metal for the later part of his music career. Carl-Michael (drums on "Vargnatt") is still heavily involved with Metal performing in bands like Aura Noir still. Jørgensen would go on to play guitar in Ulver, but after that he seems to go onto other things after Ulver, but he only performed acoustic guitars on "Vargnatt".
So, it's kind of clear that Ulver's "Vargnatt" would have a bit of a different feel compared to their later works. There are a lot of elements on here that feel outright awkward and some of the guitar work feels similar to what Ved Buens Ende would later produce. Garm's vocal work on here is simply strange, at best. He has some standard rasps, but at other times he has this sort of whiny clean voice similar to what Misanthrope's vocalist is fairly known for. He also invokes some weird falsetto parts, which sound terrible, but they are very few on this release, thankfully. The guitar works ranges from mid-paced Black Metal, but with a lot of acoustic material blended in. At this point it doesn't sound so much like a Folk/Black Metal band at all really... it just sounds like a Black Metal band with acoustic guitars. The title track, however, is actually very good and they close the demo on a very strong note. There are a lot of good sections here and I can see why the band was picked up to release a full-length next.
In the end, there wasn't a lot I found appealing with "Vargnatt". I think people laud over this more as a novelty item than anything else these days. In the modern era, I feel like it's really in vogue to be an Ulver maniac, and while I like Ulver's material, I have to say I did not like "Vargnatt" very much. The only aspect of "Vargnatt" that I found remotely enjoyable was the acoustic guitar work and some of the Black Metal riffs here and there. But when Garm comes in with that falsetto he just drowns out all the guitars... it's just no good when that happens. Certainly, a novelty in Ulver's career and certainly different than the rest of Black Metal being produced in the same years, but not nearly as strong as what Ulver would eventually become on later releases.