ULVER — Nattens Madrigal: Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden (review)

ULVER — Nattens Madrigal: Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden album cover Album · 1997 · Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
While ULVER (Norwegian for “wolves”) has become synonymous with eclectic genre jumping between albums like virtually no other band in history of recorded music, in the beginning they at least attempted to create a series of albums in their “Black Metal Trilogie” which began with 1994’s “Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler.” However despite the supposed “black metal” part of the equation, even on their sophomore album, the wiley wolfy ones were pulling the old switcheroo by performing their second album in the metal-free zone of the dark Norwegian folk drenched “Kvelssanger.” For their third album they make a reprise and finish out the trilogy by bringing the black metal back to the forefront and on NATTENS MADRIGAL - AATTE HYMNE TIL ULVEN I MANDEN (translated from Norwegian as "Madrigal Of The Night – Eight Hymns To The Wolf In Man”), not only do they recapitulate the full fury of the debut but unleash the full fury of caustic black metal which races along like wolf pursued prey fleeing for its very life.

While the three albums are connected thematically, NATTENS MADRIGAL was the band’s international debut and most likely the first taste of the Norwegian wolf pack by the majority of the planet. The third installment of the trilogy is a concept that revolves around tales of the dark side of humanity that uses metaphors in the form of wolves in the moonlit night as depicted by the cover art. The album was recorded immediately after “Bergtatt” with no specific timeline for release but as the band got signed by Century Media in the late 90s, vocalist Kristoffer Rygg who is credited as Garm states that the band wanted to unleash their most abrasive and venomous attempt on second wave black metal as their international debut not only as a guidepost for their involvement in the early scene but also as a final farewell before they moved out of the black metal scene entirely. There was also a little shock value involved to freak out their new label as well.

NATTENS MADRIGAL is a relentless beast despite calm surreal interludes that incorporate ambient, industrial and other pacifying sounds. While these sounds are plentiful, they merely punctuate the main compositions that exude an overall abrasive and caustic second wave metal attack with adrenaline fueled blastbeasts, searing buzzsaw guitar riffs and lo-fi production that banishes the bass into Hades. As typical for the day, the din is fortified with vile, angry raspy shouted vocals typical of Darkthrone, Mayhem, Marduk and other similar second wavers of the 90s Scandinavian black metal scene. While the lo-fi aspects of NATTENS MADRIGAL are quite similar to the majority of over-adrenalized 90s black metal, ULVER excels in composing tight melodic constructs which at times such as in “Hymn I: Of Wolf And Fear” breaks out of the super aggressive mode and converts into melodic classical guitar with modern production before descending into the lo-fi hellfire pits once again.

While on the surface NATTENS MADRIGAL seems like a typical 90s black metal release, however it is in fact an interesting closer in their “Black Metal Trilogie” as it eschews the atmospheric and folk touches that the debut “Bergtatt” utilized and opts for a more primeval raw and angry evil as fuck sort of sound. While the fans of the day never could have predicted that after such an energetic and unrelenting display of black metal fury that constitutes the third and final installment of the trilogy, the clues as to where ULVER would take their next journey lay in the cracks between the caustic distortionfest. The ambient, industrial and psychedelic folk snippets between tracks would become the focus of the newer chapters of ULVER’s ever-changing journey. While i can’t say that i wish ULVER would have stuck to their black metal roots because so many other band’s were jumping on the bandwagon, i also cannot say that i don’t love the hell out of the early black metal albums that ULVER conjured up. On this one, they not only somehow managed to create beautiful melodies beneath the unbounded brutality but seeded the blueprint of their future musical adventures. NATTENS MADRIGAL is a satisfying adrenalized high octane 90s black metal release fortified with cool electronic embellishments.
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