Norway’s Ulver is truly an oddity when it comes to the metal scene. While they technically aren’t metal (and haven’t been for more than two decades), they are reveled for their creativity and artistic drive. Their new release The Assassination of Julius Caesar is a proud testimony to their willingness to take their metallic beginnings and propel them into unexplored territory.
Their first three albums are considered some of the best the black metal scene has to offer so when the group turned to electronic music in 1998, metalheads around the world did a double take.
Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell marked Ulver’s first foray into experimental electronica and was an overly ambitious piece of music. Since then, Ulver has continued to morph their sound, pursuing a sound that was completely different from their previous effort.
Fast foward to 2016’s ATGCLVSSCAP, an album incredibly bold in its strangeness and overall lack of concrete direction. An interesting collection of songs, if they can be called that, but ultimately too abstract for its own good. After such an album, it is reassuring to know that Ulver can still write compelling music.
One thing that The Assassination of Julius Caesar is not is unfocused. Whereas ATGCLVSSCAP was completely unpredictable in what would come next, you know almost exactly what you are going to get with Julius Caesar once you get past the first track.
All of the songs on the album are pretty mellow. The darkwave influences are heard in every track, and the additional female back up vocals layered behind Garm’s crooning voice actually made me think of some songs off of The Dark Side of the Moon.
The first track, Nemoralia, sets the stage for what you can expect to hear for the duration of the album. Its got a consistent synth beat and has a surprisingly upbeat melody, something that is not all that common in Ulver’s work. The second track, Rolling Stone, introduces the beautiful female backup vocals. The tracks never really stop being catchy, but in a way that doesn’t come off as annoying. The hooks are subtle and smooth as silk. The overall sound of this album is similar to their album of 60’s psychedelic covers Childhood’s End.
The final track, Coming Home, is truly a masterpiece in its own right, starting off with a darkwave beat that sounds much more familiar to Ulver fans. The song rambles on in a long jammy segment that eventually has a saxophone layered onto it. Dark and classy, for sure.
Ulver is not for everyone, and Julius Caesar doesn’t change that fact. But for those who are looking for something a little different or something that won’t scare off your parents, Ulver’s latest offering is something that is as compelling as it is accessible. Dark, moody, and undeniably catchy, The Assassination of Julius Caesar makes for Ulver’s best foray into the electronic music territory to date.
Visit the band’s website and check out their back catalogue here.