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Ulver, 22 february 2010, Kraków
Background information
Origin Norway
Genres Black metal, folk metal (early)
Experimental, electronic, ambient, avant-garde[1] (later)
Years active 1993–present
Labels Kscope, Jester Records, The End Records, Century Media Records, Head Not Found
Website www.jester-records.com/ulver
Members Kristoffer Rygg
Tore Ylwizaker
Jørn H. Sværen
Daniel O'Sullivan
Past members Grellmund
A. Reza
Carl-Michael Eide
Håvard Jørgensen
Erik Olivier Lancelot
Torbjørn Pedersen
Hugh Steven James Mingay

Ulver (Norwegian for “wolves”) are a band from Norway. Since their first, folklore-influenced black metal release entitled Bergtatt – Et eeventyr i 5 capitler (1994), Ulver’s musical style has been fluid and increasingly eclectic, blending genres such as rock, electronica, symphonic and chamber traditions, noise and experimental music into their oeuvre, but with a heavy reliance on electronic recording techniques.

Musical overview[edit]

Black Metal Trilogy[edit]

Although Ulver's first three albums are often called their “Black Metal Trilogie”,[2] they are quite different in style, with only two of them belonging at all to the black metal genre. The archaic Dano-Norwegian lyrics were inspired by Baroque poets such as Ludvig Holberg and the hymn-writer Thomas Kingo. The themes of the lyrics were greatly influenced by Scandinavian folktales.

The album Bergtatt – Et eeventyr i 5 capitler is placed in the folk-themed black metal genre for its occasionally fast tempo, distorted electric guitars and croaky screaming vocals intermitted with melodious acoustic passages with singing, and for having a fantasy storyline. The title Bergtatt translates as "taken by the mountains"; in Norwegian folklore the word refers to people who wander off into mountains, lured by trolls or other mythic creatures. The narrative of the album's lyrics follows a maiden as she becomes so mountain-taken. The subtitle translates as "A Tale in 5 Chapters". Bergtatt features a melancholic, fully acoustic song "Een stemme locker" ("A Voice Beckons").

Kveldssanger, Ulver's second album, contrasts with Bergtatt as it uses classical guitars, cello and chamber chants, completely eschewing the metal elements of Bergtatt, while still having a folk theme. Garm has since remarked that Kveldssanger was an "immature attempt at making a classical album", later adding that the performance was immature, yet the content is strong when their youth at the time is taken into account.[3]

The third album, Nattens madrigal ("Madrigal of the Night"), saw the band returning to a black metal style similar to Bergtatt. Unlike on Bergtatt, however, the only acoustic instruments appear in a brief interlude in the first track. The album is intentionally underproduced, akin to Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger, with buzzing guitars and rather muffled drums. There are rumors surrounding this album and its recording, the most famous being that the band recorded this album in a forest, something which Garm has repeatedly denied. A lesser-known rumor is that the band purposely recorded the album on a four-track cassette recorder and used the money that Century Media gave them for other things, like Armani suits, haircuts, cocaine, beer, or a new car, or all of the above. When questioned on this matter, Garm only affirmed that the band has expensive tastes.[3]

The Blake album[edit]

Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, released in 1998, was different from what Ulver had made before. Tore Ylwizaker, a new composer and sound architect, added to Garm's expanding artistic visions, and together they stepped over the boundaries of black metal aesthetics, creating a genre-defying work. In this album, the musicians blended electronics, industrial music elements, progressive metal and avant-garde rock, adding ambient passages. Lyrically, the album incorporates the entire text of William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and relies on guest vocals. Despite confounding and perhaps alienating many fans of the band’s first three albums, the album received widespread acclaim from critics within both the rock/metal and alternative music press. For instance, it was reviewed as album of the month in several high-profile magazines such as Terrorizer, Metal Hammer, and Rock Hard. It also ranked very high at many year's best polls that same year.

The metamorphosis[edit]

In 1999 the group declared:

Ulver is obviously not a black metal band and does not wish to be stigmatized as such. We acknowledge the relation of part I & III of the Trilogie (Bergtatt & Nattens Madrigal) to this culture, but stress that these endeavours were written as stepping stones rather than conclusions. We are proud of our former instincts, but wish to liken our association with said genre to that of the snake with Eve. An incentive to further frolic only. If this discourages you in any way, please have the courtesy to refrain from voicing superficial remarks regarding our music and/or personae. We are as unknown to you as we always were.[4]

Ulver’s next two releases, the EP Metamorphosis and full-length album Perdition City, were even more experimental and pensive than the Blake album. The band moved further away from rock and metal and into a more ethereal style, much like that of Coil. The use of programmed sound and atmospheric arrangement is dominant here, unlike the previous albums.

Teachings in Silence and soundtracks[edit]

The band followed up these two releases with two minimalist/ambient/glitch works Silence Teaches You How to Sing and Silencing the Singing. These works featured minimal melodies and often had subtle, weird and unnatural noises within the song structures. Due to their individual rarity, they were later amalgamated as Teachings in Silence.

Having proved their proficiency at making atmospheric music, Ulver were hired to make music for cinema films like Lyckantropen (see Lyckantropen Themes), Svidd neger (see Svidd neger (soundtrack)), and Uno. Ulver's Silence Teaches You How to Sing was used in the 2012 supernatural horror film Sinister.

Second decade in the machines[edit]

Ulver, live in London 2011

Since 2003, Ulver graduated into a more symphonic style. They released the EP A Quick Fix of Melancholy, which kept the minimalist, sparse styles of their previous albums, albeit adding more dramatic and symphonic elements, with various string sounds and operatic vocal styles.

In July 2004, the band had recorded their sixth album, Blood Inside, which was released on June 6, 2005. Bringing back more traditional rock instruments like guitar and acoustic drums, combining them with classical instruments, brass horns, and their rich electronic inventory.

Ulver later joined the drone band Sunn O))) on a fifteen-minute track which appears on Sunn O)))'s WHITEbox box set, released in July 2006. Additionally, the trio had announced back in 2002 that they had been working on a string remake of Nattens madrigal, but Garm later stated on the message board of his alternative rock band, Head Control System, that the project "is in a state of total dormancy."[5]

The band's seventh album Shadows of the Sun was released on October 1, 2007. Garm described it as "our most personal record to date."[6]

Changes in line-up[edit]

At 2009, on the official Ulver website it was announced that the core three members of Ulver have become four with the addition of British composer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel O'Sullivan.[7] With this line-up a new album album consisting of cover versions of psychedelic music from the '60s was recorded and later released in 2012 under the name Childhood's End.

Wars of the Roses and Childhood's End[edit]

On November 24, 2010 the band posted on its official website a note that read: "2011 is the future, a Critical Geography, the new album of Ulver. The anthological presentation we've been hiding behind since Lillehammer is history after Warsaw".[8] However, on February 12, 2011 the band presented the song "February MMX" on their Facebook page, from the forthcoming album which was now renamed Wars of the Roses.[9] The album was made available in Norwegian stores on Friday April 15, 2011, followed by a U.K. release on April 25 and a U.S. release on May 3, 2011.

Ulver released Childhood's End, a collection of '60s cover songs, on May 28, 2012.


Studio albums[edit]


Splits, Collaborations and EPs[edit]


  • Rehearsal demo (1993)
  • Vargnatt demo (1993)

Box Sets[edit]

Remix Albums[edit]

Live Albums[edit]

Contributions and guest appearances[edit]

  • FeuersturmCentury Media Records compilation (1997) – "Soelen gaaer bag aase need"
  • Souvenirs from Hell – compilation (1997) – "Synen"
  • Ablaze CompilationAblaze Magazine compilation (1998) – "Hymn VIII"
  • Lords of Chaos: The History of Occult MusicLords of Chaos[disambiguation needed] compilation (2002) – often called "(untitled exclusive track)", but in fact it is a rehearsal of "Hymn VI" from Nattens madrigal
  • Frog Remixed and RevisitedMerzbow remix compilation (2003) – "Denki No Numa (Frog Voice mix)"
  • The Lotus EatersDead Can Dance tribute compilation (2004) – "In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Are Kings"
  • Uno – soundtrack (2004) – "Uno", "Avhør", "Brødre", "Brødre Rev.", "Flukt", "Gravferd", "David til ulvene"
  • Salto, salmiakk og kaffe – soundtrack (2004) – unreleased
  • Gods of ThunderKiss tribute compilation (2005) – "Strange Ways"
  • Sunn O)))WHITEbox (2006) – "CUTWOODeD"
  • ShockadelicaPrince tribute compilation (2008) – "Thieves in the Temple" (feat. Siri Stranger)
  • Agony & IronyAlkaline Trio (2008) – strings, programming, vocals on "Lost & Rendered" and "In My Stomach"
  • Pay For It (Single)Mindless Self Indulgence – "Pay For It [RMX]"
  • Genghis TronBoard Up The House Remixes Volume 3 – "I Won't Come Back Alive" (Ulver remix)
  • The Wall Re-Built!Pink FloydMojo (December 2009, issue 193) tribute compilation – "Another Brick in the Wall Pt.1"
  • Whom the Moon a Nightsong Sings – compilation (2010) – "Synen"

Live appearances[edit]

At the Norwegian Festival of Literature[edit]

On May 30, 2009 Ulver performed live for the first time in 15 years, at Maihaugsalen (part of Maihaugen) in Lillehammer, Norway. The concert was a part of the Norwegian Festival of Literature. The three band members were accompanied by guest musicians: Lars Pedersen (aka When) on drums, Daniel O’Sullivan (also in Æthenor, Guapo, Mothlite) on guitar and bass, Pamelia Kurstin playing Theremin and Ole Aleksander Halstensgård (from Paperboys).

Subsequent performances[edit]

Subsequently the only live appearances outside Norway were held at the Brutal Assault Festival in the Czech Republic on August 7 and at the Gagarin205 club in Athens,Greece (November 16). More festival appearances in Norway were announced: Øyafestivalen at Middelalderparken, Oslo (August 11), Møllafestivalen in Gjerstad (August 14), Pstereo'09 at Marinen, Trondheim (August 21) and London's Queen Elizabeth Hall (October 9).

Ulver at the Opera[edit]

On July 31, 2010 Ulver performed live at the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet with Christian Fennesz and the performance artist Ian Johnstone.[10]

Wars of the Roses Tour[edit]

From March 22, 2011 to April 21, Ulver played in several European countries to support their 2011 album Wars of the Roses. On this tour they performed said album in its entirety, and also added some abstract/improvised passages. Zweizz acted as support artist.


Current members[edit]

Former members[edit]

Session and guest musicians[edit]

Related bands[edit]

  • Arcturus – Another project of Ulver members Garm and Skoll, as well as Ulver session members Sverd, Knut Magne Valle, and Hellhammer, which started as symphonic black metal and transitioned into avant-garde metal. Garm left the band in 2003.
  • Borknagar – Norwegian folk-inspired black metal band that featured Garm on vocals on their first two albums.
  • Coil – Probably the band by which 2000-2002 era Ulver was most inspired, and to which it was most analogous.
  • Guapo – Guitarist/pianist Daniel O’Sullivan's progressive/art-rock band.
  • Head Control System – a duo of Garm and the Portuguese metal musician Daniel Cardoso.
  • Ved Buens Ende – Side project of Skoll and Carl-Michael Eide. Since disbanded, reunited and disbanded once more in early 2007.


  1. ^ Sharpe-Young, Garry. "Ulver". MusicMight. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  2. ^ "Ulver Interview in Decibel". Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  3. ^ a b "ULVER: The MetalKult Interview". MetalKult.com. 2007-11-12. 
  4. ^ Scott Seward, "Werewolves of Norway", Village Voice, May 6, 2003. [1] Access date: October 4, 2008.
  5. ^ quote was taken from Head Control System page (link is dead now)
  6. ^ "ULVER official site". 2007-07-13. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  7. ^ "ULVER official site". 2009-11-26. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  8. ^ "ULVER – HISTORY". 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  9. ^ "Ulver". 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  10. ^ "Ulver press release". 2010-05-13. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 

External links[edit]