Perdition City

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Perdition City
Studio album by Ulver
Released 26 March 2000 (2000-03-26)
Genre Avant-garde, electronic, trip hop, ambient
Length 53:31
Label Jester
Producer Ylwizaker, Audun Strype
Ulver chronology
Perdition City
Silence Teaches You How to Sing

Perdition City (subtitled Music to an Interior Film) is the fifth studio album by Norwegian collective Ulver, issued in March 2000, via Jester Records. The album was recorded and edited by Kristoffer Rygg and Tore Ylwizaker, mixed by Ylwizaker at Beep Jam Studio and mastered by Audun Strype at Strype Audio.

Perdition City continues the experimentation seen on Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Metamorphosis, containing elements of trip hop, jazz, ambient music, spoken word and electronica. Described on its release as moody, atmospheric electronica,[1] cinematic in scope,[2] evoking a soundtrack for an imaginary film. Kerrang! praised the album, noting "This ain't rock 'n roll. This is evolution on such a grand scale that most bands wouldn't even be able to wrap their tiny little minds around it."[3] Musically, Ulver not only explores new genres, but also shift from extrovert, into more introverted moods, or interior music.[4]


The Metamorphosis EP, issued in September 1999, showcased Ulver's new electronic sound, delving into what will become the foundation for all future records.[5] Thus, acting as a musical trailer for Perdition City.[6]

Now consisting of only two members — Rygg and Ylwizaker — the duo started to incorporate field recordings into their work. During the making of Perdition City they would hang microphones outside the window of Tore’s 5th floor apartment, to capture inner city street sounds, car horns, people chattering, etc.[7]

The potential Ulver was discovering in digital sound manipulation with The Blake Album would have a clear affect on the evolution of Perdition City. It was obvious that the various new alleys they had walked down with the Blake album had given them enough satisfaction that their curiosity to see what else they could do with computers was too tempting to ignore. As Garm explains, “We wanted to focus on the electronic aspects of The Blake Album. We’ve always cultivated the opposites of things in a sense. So Perdition City ended up being a very electronic record. We kind of use all the music knowledge that we’ve acquired.”[8]

“For every record we make it takes more and more time and more and more in the way of thinking,” notes Garm. “We have higher standards that we have to live up to, not exactly commercially or to the audience but to ourselves. We have pretty strict demands on ourselves. It’s easy for us to make music but very difficult to make music that we think is interesting. Every record is failure. It’s a relative failure. It’s always a failure. But you go on when you fail. And there’s some comfort in that idea. That kind of getting close to that own space or musical personality but it’s still relative failure in our book. In that sense it’s a struggle for us to make music. We are our own worst critcs.”[8]

Subtitled Music to an Interior Film, Perdition City, and companion EP’s Silence Teaches You How to Sing and Silencing the Singing, represents a natural bridge to their work in film scores. Musically, the collective shift from extrovert, into more introverted moods, or interior music.[4] In response to the subtitle, Rygg adds, "We mean just what we say, an abstract "inner movie". It wouldn't be wise to comment on anything afterwards in case there would be a hidden message."[9] Some reviewers have stated that Perdition City is “much more than background music, which is capable of adding atmosphere to a film but taken out of context as a standalone piece is ultimately worthless. This music is too obtrusive, and to be frank, too good for a soundtrack.“[10]

Expanding on the photography included in the Perdition City booklet, Rygg comments, "We didn't consciously think of taking the listener into a concrete city, it's more of a metaphor and abstract. A friend of mine who has written books and taken many photographs inspired me to capture weird pictures. We then compiled the best of them to support the story the lyrics make. We tried to make an anti-aesthetic whole that would create a documentary feeling."[9]

Printed in the sleeve note is states: "This is for the stations before and after sleep. Headphones and darkness recommended."[11] Kristoffer Rygg adds, “Darkness is always fascinating, as well as the great void. It doesn’t matter under which aesthetic circumstances this void appears. It is always there and that was important for us to realize on Perdition City: the void is even over the voice. (…) It is funny you call us criminal alchemists. Indeed in our lyrics there are enough criminal and alchemical aspects, or fascinating borderline topics, to be more concrete. That all takes place in the dead city, or better: in a centre, an imagined location of nowhere and nothing.”[12]

Rygg, commenting in Unrestrained magazine in 2007, said, "It's like I say, we only have three consistent albums. I think Nattens madrigal is one, I think Perdition City is one, and I think this new one. They all sound pretty dead set. We were heavily into stuff like Amon Tobin, Warp Records, et cetera, and that certainly influenced the sound of that one." Continuing, “[Making film soundtracks] was more painstaking work than we thought. It's exciting work, but it's also more commercially orientated. You can apply your own tastes and your own vision, of course, but only to a certain extent. It always comes down to what the director and producers have in mind. And I respect that, as they are the ones with lots of money at stake. As a musician, it's an advantage if you get involved early in the process, before the editing is done because then you can cross edit sounds and images for better momentum or what have you. Whereas if the stuff is already edited, it can be difficult to get it to fit. Also, you have to learn to put your ego aside because the film itself is obviously the priority, so it's not like making an album. It's not music on its own terms. It's an underscore, aimed more at the subconscious experience. In a cinema context, you're not really supposed to listen to the music, but feel it."[13]

Critical Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars link
Sputnikmusic 4.0/5.0 stars link 10.0/10.0 stars link
Prog Archives 3.88/4.0 stars link favourable link
Teeth of the Divine favourable link
Avantgarde-Metal favourable link

Upon its release, Perdition City received positive reviews from music critics.

Writing for AllMusic, William York comments, “Fifth album, Perdition City is an album of moody, atmospheric electronica, built up around basic down-tempo beats and noir-ish electronic piano harmonies, and then fleshed out with various blips and bleeps, static noises, samples, and occasional vocals. Surprising moments include the lonely soprano saxophone solo on the opener, "Lost in Moments" (which comes dangerously close to adult contemporary/smooth jazz territory); the gravel-voiced Ken Nordine-sound-alike reciting what sounds like a voiceover from a '60s detective show during "Dead City Centres"; and frontman Christophorus Rygg's slick blue-eyed soul (!) singing on "Porn Piece or the Scars of Cold Kisses." Still, the highlight is the album's closing track (and its only real "song"), "Nowhere/Catastrophe," with its climactic vocal harmonies and purring, liquid-like electronic accents. Perdition City evokes just the sort of desolate, rainy-night-in-the-city atmosphere it sets out to create.”[14]

SputnikMusic concludes, “Not enough can be said about the many transitions in musical direction Ulver have gone through, throughout their 11 year career. After their release of Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in 1998, it had become obvious that Ulver had parted ways with the folk and black metal that they were already so well known for. [The Perdition City] album takes the listener on an adventure through different genres of music all blended together by vocal climaxes and interesting trip hop beats.[15]

Metal Archives comments, “Ulver seizes and expands on the efforts of Metamorphosis, stretching and reworking the ideas of two of those songs across Perdition City. You can see the emphasis of "Gnosis" from the EP in four of the tracks on Perdition City; “Lost in Moments,” “Porn Pieces,” “Hallways of Allways” and “The Future Sound of Music.” All feature driving drum loops, the gradual dynamic build of a single texture, coupled with sharp dynamic contrast, and sharp synths and piano slowly building on the original texture.”[16]

Metal Storm rated the album 10/10, commenting, “The 53 minutes of this album reach the best achievement music can reach: they give emotions. The music is able to paint - with a palette of a wide range of different sounds (electronic and analogic) a scenario around you. Sometimes, just a few times, Garm’s eerie vocals remind you of human beings living there, with delicate taste, never obtrusive but strong in their imaginative power. Like the booklet, no lyrics but pictures, moments of the city, instants of the everlasting flowing stream of its life.”[17] noted, “Ulver continue to expand beyond and free themselves of their metal roots with this, their 5th full length album, the subtitle referencing an imaginary film that this music provides the soundtrack for. Perdition City concentrates even further on subtle and dramatic intensity, atmosphere and decay. Strains of John Zorn's Naked City, Vangelis' Blade Runner and John Barry soundtracks are present as emotive piano, strings, saxophones, electronics and the sounds of the city permeate much of the seamlessly flowing 53 minutes. The first few tracks open the album with fluid juxtapositions of all the elements, including big live drums and passionate vocals (in English, a presence on about half the album). Ulver's music is genuine regardless of what genre they're dipping into or what direction they choose to tread.“[18]

Jonathan Arnett, writing for webzine Satan Stole My Teddybear, adds “Perdition City, easily one of the most amazing psychedelic albums I've ever encountered. A groovy, edgy, often eerie, sometimes even downright disturbing, but always otherworldly atmosphere. Random noises and sheets of sound come and go from odd angles in the background as the music swirls and shifts constantly. Soft, repetitive sections bring on dreamy trances, which suddenly collapse into extreme, eye-popping wakefulness as the music crashes into pulsating waves, leaving the listener's heart racing with the beat. These unpredictable, drifting song structures make Perdition City an difficult album upon which to concentrate intently but ideal for taking a mental excursion and drifting along, idly tripping on whatever catches your fancy.“[18]

Chris Dick, writing for webzine Teeth of the Divine, adds “Ulver is unquestionably at a high note in its post-metal career with his its newest work. Sure, there are still soundscapes to iron out, beats to manipulate and songs to sample, but, in the end, Perdition City is a mammoth work of electronic genius.”[19]

Webzine Leonard’s Lair concluded. “It's hard to believe that this Norwegian collective once plied their trade in heavy metal given the offerings laid on for the listener. [Perdition City] is one of the most consistently riveting and atmospheric releases that is likely to be heard this year.”[10]

Thor Joakimssonm writing for Avantegarde Metal reflects, “No place was filled with so many dark surprises and anticipations of vulnerability like Perdition City, none reflected so many different shades of a void that still keeps inspiring musicians from various scenes. Ulver’s restlessness might be a pain in the ass of the wolves sometimes, but their creativity and sensitiveness, their fascination for darkness and contrasts allows them to supply their musical paintings with sublime nuances others can only dream of. Perdition City still proves this with seldom easiness.”[12]

However, not all reviews were positive; David M. Pecoraro rated the album 2.6/10, writing for Pitchfork commented, “Who knows? Maybe Perdition City was nothing more than a well-intentioned but ultimately ill-advised experiment for these guys. Maybe, in their more traditional form, Ulver is a really solid metal band. If that's the case, well, you can't blame a band for trying something different. That said, Ulver might want to consider a return to their metal roots. If I want to hear something creepy, I'll stick to the real thing.”[20]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Lost in Moments"   7:16
2. "Porn Piece or the Scars of Cold Kisses"
  • 2.1 "Piece One"
  • 2.2 "Piece Two"  
  • 3:58
  • 3:11
3. "Hallways of Always"   6:35
4. "Tomorrow Never Knows"   7:59
5. "The Future Sound of Music"   6:39
6. "We Are the Dead"   3:40
7. "Dead City Centres"   7:10
8. "Catalept"   2:05
9. "Nowhere/Catastrophe""   4:48
Total length:

"Catalept" is a remix of Prelude from the film Psycho.



  1. ^ York, William. "Ulver Perdition City". AllMusic. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Ulver Perdition City". AllMusic. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  3. ^ "ULVER BLOOD INSIDE". Jester Records. June 2005. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b York, William. "Ulver Perdition City Review". Johnathan Hill. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  5. ^ Side, Oliver (December 20, 2008). "Ulver - Metamorphosis". SputnikMusic. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ York, William. "Ulver Metamorphosis". AllMusic. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  7. ^ Beaudreault, Seth Robert (November 24, 2009). "ULVER - Born Again From The Merciless Mother". Avantgarde Metal. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Ulver". Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Vuoti, Sauli (December 7, 2005). "Ulver Interview - Kogaionon - Underground Music Magazine". Kogaionon. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "Ulver - Perdition City". Leonards Lair. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Ulver - Perdition City". Discogs. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Joakimsson, Thor (November 25, 2009). "Ulver - Perdition City". Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  13. ^ Hughes, Rob (September 2007). "TRAGIC SERENADES". Unrestrained Magazine. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ York, William. "Ulver Perdition City". AllMusic. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Ulver Perdition City". SputnikMusic. January 18, 2005. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Interesting Sounds and Music - 85%". Metal Archives. November 12, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  17. ^ York, William (June 23, 2005). "Ulver - Perdition City". Metal Archives. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "Ulver "Perdition City [Music to an Interior Film]" Jester Records Trick 007 2000 (53:37)". Brainwashed. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  19. ^ Dick, Chris (March 26, 2000). "Ulver - Perdition City". Teeth of the Divine. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  20. ^ Pecoraro, David M. (January 24, 2002). "Ulver - Perdition City". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved June 1, 2014.