Label: Century Media Records
Are Ulver the best band to have arisen from 90s black metal? It might feel like a contentious statement, but in terms of artistic evolution, it seems a reasonable statement to make. Even during their early days they were pushing at the boundaries of the genre, what with their second album Kveldssanger being a folk album, and the way they would leave the genre behind with albums like Perdition City and their evolution into prog and pop is remarkable. Their last actual black metal album, Nattens Madrigal (or Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne til Ulven i Manden to give it its full title), represents a high point of the genre, being one of the best raw black metal albums ever made, and as such, it’s no wonder they left the genre behind. Without changing drastically, how could they possibly top this?
In some ways, it’s good that we don’t have an answer to that question – what with how brilliant Ulver’s non-black metal albums are – but Nattens Madrigal is a remarkable way to exit the genre. With a production that is red-raw, completely devoid of bass and almost painful to listen to at points, it is an album that sounds bad in a beautiful way. And unlike most raw black metal, it’s not relying on poor production to mask poor songwriting; this is an album filled with excellent leads, riffs, and songs. The more time I spend with black metal, the more I appreciate Nattens Madrigal – and given how much black metal I listen to, that says a lot.
Nattens Madrigal can be streamed on Spotify. For physical copies, you are best checking your distro of choice, or Discogs – for some reason, despite reissuing it on vinyl within the last few years, it’s not available on the Century Media webstore.