Death Metal Band Ulver – Perdition City

Ulver have traversed many musical genres during their long and fruitful career, from pastoral folk and trip hop to classical Gregorian compositions and beyond, without ever losing their sense of place and ability to evoke feelings of limitless self-discovery.

Bergtatt et eeventyr i 5 capitler was their debut offering and it pioneered black metal with delicate acoustic passages and flutes (then rare among genre bands). It created an unforgettable sound which has since influenced bands such as Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room.


Ulver stands out amongst Norway’s unpredictable and inspiring music scene as an outlier, adhering to Newton’s law that constant velocity equals rest – moving with each and every challenge and adventure regardless of any simplistic genre pigeonholing.

Ulver first dared to venture beyond black metal with their 1999 album Metamorphosis and into experimental music, breaking free from black metal’s confines and into experimental sounds with experimental sounds like metamorphosis and experimental. Rygg then invited Tore Ylwizaker – an esteemed composer and multi-instrumentalist from Finland – into their ranks, which revolutionised their sound into orchestral dark rock epics on Flowers Of Evil and Perdition City albums thanks to Ylwizaker’s input.

These songs were filled with imagery and symbolism drawn from religion, politics and art. For instance, ‘Fleurs Of Evil’ draws heavily from the tragic events surrounding Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas while ‘Apocalypse 93’ refers to the fire which devastated Fantoft Stave Church in Bergen. Additionally, Machine Guns And Peacock Feathers alludes to bombing of Berlin Wall while title track ‘Hour Of The Wolf’ alluded to Bergman’s film of same name.

Ulver continues to explore new terrain while remaining faithful to their broad aesthetics on their latest album ATGCLVLSSCAP. The band have moved away from their decadently danceable 80s synth-pop approach in favor of more classical and expansive sounds which feature various guest musicians such as Stephen Thrower from Coil and Cyclobe as well as Norwegian free improvisation pioneers Stian Westerhus and Steve Noble along with British musician and composer Daniel O’Sullivan who became part of their core lineup back in 2009. All have contributed towards creating this album.

This musical journey from its depths in the sea up to a towering temple in Oslo explores spirituality, existentialism, and self-transformation while remaining both haunting and hopeful – truly an ambitious work from one of Norway’s most influential bands.


Ulver’s discography makes it hard to pinpoint their stylistic development precisely; however, one can easily notice dramatic shifts during their first few albums as the band started abandoning traditional black metal sounds in favor of more expansive and experimental sounds.

Ulver’s musical experiments truly took off with their 1996 release Kveldssanger. A completely acoustic folk record, Kveldssanger is filled with nature mysticism and tender guitar passages that mark an early signpost as they moved beyond black metal into exploring more diverse sonic territory.

In 2011, they would continue exploring all things creepy with an album created through collaboration with underground horror synth legends Carpenter Brut titled Pandemic Pastime Project that interpolates elements from John Carpenter’s classic slasher film Halloween soundtrack and mixes them with original compositions to produce a captivating spectral journey that is both engaging and playful.

As the decade progressed, Ulver continued to hone their improvisational abilities by crafting long-form downtempo compositions that go beyond musical abstractions and provide more than simply musical abstracts. These pieces serve to build dreamscapes tied together by themes and moods rather than strictly musical structures – similar to some contemporary electronic artists like Portishead or Boards of Canada who specialize in atmospheric sounds; yet Ulver have created their own sound all their own.

Perdition City was released as the band’s final result of their improvisational experimentation in 1998 and remains one of their most influential works, an experimental double album which deconstructed musical traditions while creating new ones. Perdition City remains one of the most groundbreaking pieces from black metal as a genre; an eclectic mixture of industrial music, art rock, prog rock and heavy metal from traditional to extreme elements that showcases each band member’s abilities as musicians and innovators.

Ulver’s fourth album, 2004’s Perdition City was an integral step in their musical progression; however, 2005’s Shadows of the Sun marked their shift away from black metal’s tradition-laden sound to more progressive sounds and approaches. This sparse, yet richly textured album serves as an experiment in minimalism while simultaneously soothing and unnerving listeners alike.


As much as the band’s musical evolution has set them apart from black metal in terms of strict musicology, Perdition City marked a point where they began to define themselves as “a great band”. Instead of the constricting confines of their early work, this album expanded outward in an expansive arc that encompassed ancient Greece, Egypt and Biblical lands. Ulver’s song structures were for the first time determined less by melodic and harmonic structures, than rhythm, groove and beat. Rygg, Jorn H. Svaeren and Tore Ylwizaker worked closely together in producing this album with legendary engineer Michael Rendall of The Orb and King Crimson fame providing meticulous attention to every detail. Pamelia Kurstin provided theremin expertise while Austrian audio abstractist Christian Fennesz also made appearances.

The Metamorphosis EP (trick006) marked another departure from black metal’s traditional formula. Here, music seemed less like the soundtrack for an interior film and more like an ensemble of acute visions about beauty, decay and loss; additionally it featured delicate acoustic folk features such as flutes and clean vocals that created a distinct musical atmosphere than its black metal predecessors.

Acoustic elements continued to feature on subsequent albums, yet increasingly were being used as frames rather than the basis for songs. An excellent example is Drone Activity; its fifth release offers an insightful work of distant observation which captures sounds that hint of an earth gradually dissolving into nothingness.

After searching through their own moonlit past, Ulver returned to the studio for Flowers of Evil, their eighth studio album. This effort marked their most fully developed record yet and the first in which their own compositional techniques began surpassing that of black metal forbearers; furthermore it heralded a renewed sense of urgency to explore wider sonic territory than was typical within black metal genre. Furthermore, Garm sang lead vocals for the first time on an Ulver studio record for Flowers of Evil.


Ulver was never expected to unleash such an extraordinary variety and creativity with their releases; yet they remain one of the most enigmatic bands, frequently subverting expectations by altering their sound at will.

After the black metal fury of Kveldssanger, Ulver took a deliberate step back with their third album Nattens Madrigal and focused more heavily on acoustic passages, reverb and lush melodies for Nattens Madrigal – a deliberate retreat from Kveldssanger and return to their roots as progressive dark wave/neofolk group.

However, that does not imply that their next album was any less epic or dramatic; indeed it is one of their most engaging and rich works to date – every song adds color and detail that creates a powerful and cohesive whole. Production on this record was simply flawless with strings, pianos and looped variants creating an aural landscape both beautiful and hauntingly gorgeous.

This album’s lyrics are truly incredible, drawing their inspiration from Draumkvedet – an epic medieval Norwegian poem – and delving deep into nature, anthropomorphism and our relationship to the universe. Their beauty and menace convey emotions similar to what one experiences from reading great works of literature.

Ulver’s most recent offering is Perdition City, a dark and experimental album which plays out like a modern noir thriller. This dark yet experimental music would make an excellent backdrop to rain-slick neon-splattered crime film; each track on Perdition City exudes mystery while building upon one another to create an atmosphere both seductive and disturbing.

This album by an impressive band that has evolved considerably since their black metal days is absolutely dazzling. Gone is the grandiose orchestral dark wave style; now they opt for an atmospheric and minimalist approach, creating an album which is both chilling and thrilling, certainly making for one of the year’s most compelling records so far.