Kscope has announced that ULVER are the latest band to join their roster. Early pioneers of Norwegian black metal, the band have continually evolved throughout their career and now stand as living legends of the dark music industry.
The last two years have also seen ULVER manifest into a live band. Following their first live performance in May 2009, at the Norwegian Festival of Literature, the band toured Europe in 2010, selling out prestigious venues such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, Volksbühne in Berlin and Casa da Música in Porto, to great acclaim.
2010 culminated in a packed performance in the main theatre of the Norwegian National Opera. ULVER were the first band outside the established Norwegian music scene to be invited to play at the opera house and a DVD of this landmark performance will be released on Kscope later this year.
Such an invitation is quite an accomplishment for a band that has always remained uncompromisingly independent, operating without marketing, advertising or any backing from a label (except their own imprint, Jester Records). Despite this stance the band are revered around the world, have sold in excess of half a million records, have well over 11,000,000 plays on Last FM and the interest does not seem to be fading; indeed the band are now preparing to add another bookmark to their chameleonic legacy.
A bigger label, management, touring — all this is new and unchartered territory for the band, and one in which they are not necessarily savoir-faire. During the last two years they have shifted from the safety zone of the studio towards a more traditional route, facing the music rather than hiding in the shadows. Everything can happen, and has. The new album, “Wars Of The Roses”, clearly reflects this.
With a long-standing reputation for being unpredictable and unafraid of radical departures, the most subversive aspect this time is perhaps the band’s increased accessibility; even touching on the polished sensibilities of pop and rock. The opening track, “February MMX” (audio stream available below), is a striking example.
But naturally with ULVER comes ambivalence. Fringe figures appear: horror connoisseur Stephen Thrower of COIL and CYCLOBE, experimental guitar-guru Stian Westerhus along with British free improvisation legends Steve Noble and Alex Ward. They all play important parts on the album, their instant instincts perfectly aligned with ULVER’s composed compassion. The familiar baroque menagerie of piano, wood and wind sit alongside the machines and the ghosts within.
The album ends with “Stone Angels”, a long and winding dreamland narrated by Daniel O’Sullivan (who became a core member of the group in 2009). The text is written by acclaimed American poet and translator Keith Waldrop, an acquaintance of Jørn H. Sværen, the author in the band. It is, quite frankly, beautiful.
Thematically, the same is at stake as always with ULVER: the human condition and a world in fall. But this time the landscape is viewed from a bird’s eye perspective, exposing culture and tradition rather than the personal vulnerability expressed on previous albums. In the words of Julian Cope: “ULVER are cataloguing the death of our culture two decades before anyone else has noticed its inevitable demise.”
“Wars Of The Roses” was mixed by producer extraordinaire John Fryer (DEPECHE MODE, COCTEAU TWINS, SWANS), following a chance meeting outside Crystal Canyon studios during the latter stages of recording. Sounds like fate.