Wednesday 29 March 2017

Review: Ulver – 'The Assassination Of Julius Caesar'

'The Assassination Of Julius Caesar'

Ulver are a beast unto themselves. With their roots in folk, black metal and post metal, they have evolved into a band that transcends genre classifications. They are now simply Ulver. A band that never looks back and never retreads old ground. With albums such as the stunning 'Blood Inside', 'Shadows Of The Sun', and 'Wars Of The Roses' under their collective belt, their discography with every release becomes an increasingly long shadow to escape. But with every release they do and are one of the few acts today worthy of being place on the avant garde mantel as a result.

Album number thirteen, 'The Assassination Of Julius Caesar', is another clear step forward unfettered by expectations. Though familiar elements remain – such as ambient electronics, post-rock atmospheres, haunting vocals and nods to drone, trip-hop, and industrial – there is nothing derrivative about this. The album weaves a conceptual narrative and the long winding songs in particular sweep you along in their wake.

Tracks such as '1969', 'Coming Home', 'Rolling Stone', 'Southern Gothic', and 'Transverberation', are fantastic additions to the band's huge body of work. They shift seamlessly between styles and genres with a prog rock like disregard, but all the time maintaining a pop sheen that would make the likes of Vice Clarke and Depeche Mode jealous. The quality of the songwriting and musicianship on display here just goes to show why Ulver are pretty much untouchable wherever their instincts take them.

The production, courtesy of Killing Joke's Martin 'Youth' Glover, is absolutely spot on for what this album needed to be, balancing the experimental flourishes with the solid pop bass-line, and allowing that haunting ambiance to creep through and dissipate like mist.

Thirteen may be unlucky for some but for Ulver it is a magic number. 'The Assassination Of Julius Caesar' is a highlight within a strong discography that already includes its fair share of highlights. Fans of Ulver's earlier works definitely won't be getting the return to their roots they may still crave, and yes it would be cool to see what modern Ulver could do within the extreme/folk metal framework of their past, but that's not the point. This album is a solid and complete statement made by a group of musicians at the tiop of their game.  

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