In 2013 the enigmatic and ever changing Ulver worked with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra to create their newest album, Messe I.X – VI.X. Talking about the album, they said “Much of this was recorded live, yet it is not a live album. We’ve spent long hours in the studio translating what happened that night.”
A dark and brooding release, it focuses on the minimalist performances of the orchestra, while mixed with the electronic edge Ulver has used in their music in recent years. It all sounds very cinematic, the soundtrack to something dark and mysterious. Opening track “As Syrians Pour in, Lebanon Grapples with Ghosts of a Bloody Past” provides an interplay of haunting strings, soft pianos and subtle electronics, it provides a mournful atmosphere as the title would suggest. Shri Schneider showcases more of the electronic side of the album, with some similarities to Tangerine Dream in the textures provided, mixed with the orchestra’s strings, this is an incredibly powerful track. Continuing in the same vein, each track sends us on a different dark journey. Glamour Box builds a sense of dread up to a strong climax, and “Noche Oscura del Alma” delivers some warped samples, giving an abstract confused sense to the piece.
There aren’t many vocals on the album, they prefer to let the music speak for itself. Garm only provides vocals for “Son of Man” and “Mother of Mercy”, his trademark brooding vocals adding another layer to the albums dark atmosphere, with the lyrics being rather dark and abstract, hinting towards anti-religious sentiments.
As mentioned, the album is very cinematic, and as such it flows very well. It isn’t written as a collection of pieces, it is a well realised album as most soundtracks are. Not one for standout tracks, the whole album is a masterpiece. Ulver have always had a flair for the experimental from their very inception, so one can imagine the magic the Norwegian Wolves can create when collaborating with an orchestra. Mournful, haunting, mysterious, overall this is a perfect late night album, the soundtrack to a dark internal film. Close your eyes and let Ulver’s music take you away. Highly recommended for fans of ambient electronic music, modern classical, film scores, or anyone who would like to hear something completely unique and experimental.
Ulver will also be releasing a collaborative album this February with Drone-doom metallers Sunn o))), a release which I have high anticipation for.