Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Style: A mixed bag. Hard rock/heavy metal laced with darktech, experimental/electronic, jungle, drum & bass, and ambient soundscapes.

Vocals: Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg (or Trickster G, as he is called here) is one of my favorite vocalists in Obscure music. His voice contains elements of James Hetfield (Metallica), Jonathon Davis (Korn), and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails). I have come to despise these three vocalists over the years; however, he is capable of overcoming these unwanted similarities with a very distinct and well-tuned delivery. His voice may seem pompous to the virgin ear, but it grows on me with every listen of an Ulver or Arcturus record. He sings in a low, serious tone, a soaring higher-octave voice, and a well done spoken word. There is also a Norwegian female vocalist on this album who is also excellent. All vocals are clean. 10/10

Guitars: Guitars do not play an enormous part in the record, but they do show up in small, innovative sonic spurts and screeches. I must praise the guitar on this album (performed by original member, Haavard) for being, at the very least, inventive and memorable. 10/10

Bass: Very well done bass, quite audible. This is a very bassy album, come to think of it. Loud, vibrating bass. Nothing extremely technical, but it fits the music very well. 9.5/10

Drums: Early member Eric Lancelot, who played drums and flute on all of Ulver's official releases, left the band after this album. Although he is credited with drums here, I believe they are programmed a lot of the time. When you can make out some organic drumming, it is very well played, but the programmed drumming is also excellent. 9/10

Keyboards: Electronic music plays a huge role on this album, and its what turned a lot of metal freaks away from this band. Most every song contains a wall of bizarre, brilliant, and inventive keyboard and scratch table noise. Imagine Nine Inch Nails/Coil/Skinny Puppy/Aphex Twin electronic music, but much more interesting. If you CAN'T STAND that kind of thing, stay away. However, I didn't think I liked that style of music until I heard this album. 10/10

Songwriting: All lyrics are taken from Pre-Romantic, English poet William Blake's epic poem "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell". This is a brilliant work of literature, and just from listening to this double CD I became very interested in the works of William Blake. Who says metal doesn't expand your mind? Blake's poem is split up into "Plates" (sections) and it mostly contains observations on nature and religion. Christianity is not viewed as a bad thing in this poem, so stay away if that bothers you. William Blake was an intellectual Christian, so he had the type of mind that could follow Christianity, but still question its weaker points. All music is excellently written (I would say "brilliant" but that term is too easily thrown around). The dynamics of the music fit the lyrics perfectly. The one problem is the 25 minutes of dead space in the middle of "A Song of Liberty". I do not get why they did that. 9.5/10

Production: A huge, glossy, motion picture soundtrack production. Very bassy, but all instruments are highlighted. It fits the music. 10/10

Packaging: Very high quality. Comes in a cool cardboard slipcase, and contains all the lyrics. Its also has the notorious "car" publicity photo of the band. 10/10

Overall: I could not have been more impressed and delighted with this record. I have enjoyed all of Ulver's recordings, but this one is the standout. Get it immediately unless you absolutely detest experimental music.

Grade: A-

Points of Interest: Ihsahn, Samoth, and Fenriz do all vocals on the final track of the album.

2001 raagoonshinnaah