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NORWAY, Oslo

Date Formed 1993

Categories: Avant-garde, Black Metal

ULVER

Current Members

Past Members

Studio Session Members

Biography

ULVER was initially a Satanic Black Metal act that stood out from the pack with their use of flute and acoustic instruments alongside the more familiar screams and grating guitars. However, taking their cue from the lycanthropic namesake, ULVER's neo-noir musical mutations over the years saw the project rapidly draw away from genre stereotypes, pursuing ever more radical musical landscapes to such an extent that latter day works are almost Jazz orientated. ULVER's Oslo based frontman Garm (titled after the Norse dog guardian of Hell), real name Kristoffer Rygg, is also a member of two other Black Metal institutions ARCTURUS and BORKNAGAR. ULVER, Norwegian for 'Wolves' and created in 1992 by a then fifteen year old Rygg and SATYRICON drummer Carl-Michael Eide (a.k.a. 'Exhurtum', 'Czral' or 'Aggressor'), issued the November 1993 demo 'Vargnatt' ("Wolfs Night"). Guitars would be handled by A. Reza and Grellmund whilst Håvard Jørgensen took on keyboards. Robin Malmberg of MYSTICUM sessioned bass. Rehearsal sessions leaked that year onto the tape trading market included ULVER's rendition of CELTIC FROST's 'Babylon Fell'.

Eide left for VED BUENS ENDE during 1993 and subsequently became an industrious figure on the Black Metal scene, contributing to AURA NOIR, CADAVER INC., VIRUS and INFERNÖ although billing himself 'Aggressor' or 'Czral'. Installed on bass guitar during 1994 would be Skoll (Hugh Steven James Mingay) of FIMBULWINTER, ARCTURUS and VED BUENS ENDE. The drum position was taken by AiwarikiaR (Erik Lancelot) of VALHALL. Necromantic Gallery released a split EP, billed 'Ulverytternes Kamp', as a collaboration with MYSTICUM.

A debut album, 'Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler', translated as "Mountain Taken - A Fairy Tale In 5 Chapters", was delivered in November 1994 through the Head Not Found label. The album, which includes Aismal (Torbjørn Pedersen) on keyboards, relates the legend of abduction into the mountain netherworlds by the little people. Studio accompaniement came from the VED BUENS ENDE credited Lill Kathrine Stensrud on vocals and flute alongside pianist Sverd (Steinar Johnsen). So strong was this release that many cite ULVER's full-length debut, juxtaposing the harshest of Black Metal with authentic Folk, as the most accomplished musical work to have come out of the early Norwegian scene.

ULVER followed in 1996 by 'Kveldssanger' ('Twilight Songs'), co-produced by Kristian Romsøe and recorded at Endless Lydstudio in Christiania, which proved to be drastic about turn, being a mesmerising, mainly acoustic affair overlaid with subtle orchestral landscapes. Although all elements of Black Metal had been dispensed with, the sheer quality of 'Kveldssanger' effectively muted any potential backlash.

March 1996's 'Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden', ("Madrigal Of The Night - Eight Hymns To The Wolf In Man") on German label Century Media, marked a return to the band for both Skoll and Torbjørn Pedersen, and saw ULVER momentarily back to full force, Satanic Black Metal woven around lyrical themes based on lycanthropy. Added to the group as permanent pianist would be Tore Ylwizaker. Tragically, rhythm guitarist Grellmund took his own life on New Year's Eve 1997.

Establishing his own Jester imprint, Rygg put out the hugely ambitious conceptual piece 'Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell' issued in December 1998 as the debut product on Garm's own Jester imprint. With Metal now completely absent from Ulver's palette, this sprawling work, utilising song 'Plate' titles not as individual identifiers but merely as reference points, took the listener on a journey through electronic distortion and even trip-hop. Remarkably, with such a chasmic musical jump, ULVER appeared to carry their Black / Folk fan base along with them.

Involved in this opus would be regular contributors guitarist Håvard Jørgensen and drummer Erik Olivier Lancelot along with bassist Hugh Stephen James Mingay, EMPEROR's Samoth (Tomas Thormodsæter Haugen) and Ihsahn (Vegard Sverre Tveitan) as well as DARKTHRONE mentor Fenriz (Gylve Nagell). The album appeared to close with the track 'A Song Of Liberty', although a twenty minute period of silence ensued before the real finale arrived in the form of 'Chorus'.

An interim Techno-Ambient outing, the 'Metamorphosis' EP, arrived in September 1999. Other ULVER releases featured on the 1999 EMPEROR album 'IX Equilibrium', ULVER offering a radically remixed version of 'Sworn' whilst HAGALAZ' RUNEDANCE came in for a similar treatment with a re-constructed "Jaxtaposition" mix of 'The Falcon Flies' on the 'Urd - That Which Was' EP. Under the pseudonym of 'Trickster G' Garm guested on the ZYKLON 2000 album 'World Ov Worms', the side project of Samoth and EMPEROR colleague Trym in collusion with MYRSKOG's Destructor.

ULVER's March 2000 album 'Perdition City: Music To An Interior Film' proved to be far removed from the raw Black Metal at the band's roots as Trickster G. delivered an out and out electronic film soundscape soundscape imbued with the warmth of organic jazz and blues passages. Aiding in this endeavour would be bassist Øystein Moe of TRITONUS, saxophonist Rolf Erik Nyström and no less than three drummers in Ivar H. Johansen, Kåre J. Pedersen of EUROBOYS and the notorious Frost (Bård G. Eithun) of THORNS and EMPEROR repute. Novelly, recording of 'Perdition City: Music To An Interior Film', labelled "Headphones and darkness recommended", had been partly funded by the Norsk Kassettavgiftsfond, the Norwegian Ministry of cultural affairs.

ULVER's unpredictability stretched into a brace of self-styled "improv-glitch" 2001 EP's, September's 'Silence Teaches You How To Sing' being a solitary 24 minute track of chaotic noise experimentation and December's equally compelling 'Silencing The Singing'. Both these outings would be restricted to limited runs and subsequently gathered up on the 'Teachings In Silence' album.

By February of 2002 the man was in collaboration with famed Dutch experimental Rock act THE GATHERING. The next installment in the ULVER saga came with the January 2003 'Lyckantropen Themes' album, a totally instrumental, supremely minimalist soundtrack to a short film by Steve Ericsson. In April 2003 a compilation of sorts was presented with '1993-2003: 1st Decade In The Machines', actually comprising remixes of ULVER compositions by outside artists such as MERZBOW, UPLAND, INFORMATION, JAZZKAMMER and THE THIRD EYE FOUNDATION. New music came in October with the string orientated exercise in aural malevolence, the EP 'A Quick Fix Of Melancholy'. A second film soundtrack emerged before the close of 2003, 'Svidd Neger'. With the celluloid host an observation on the exegesis of human violence, Garm's musical ally discharged an equally dark aura.

During late 2004 ULVER would be revealed as having contributed a song 'Strange Ways' to a KISS tribute album assembled by KISS Army Norway and Voices Music Entertainment. Also committed to tape would be a fifteen minute work in collaboration with Stephen O'Malley of SUNN O))) and Julian Cope of TEARDROP EXPLODES.

Garm guested on SOLEFALD album recordings in early 2005. That May it would be learned Garm, in collaboration with the SIRIUS and ARCANE WISDOM credited Daniel Cardoso ('Vukodlack' / 'Hammer V') and what were described as "noble assistants" had activated Heavy rock project SINDROME, cutting a debut album 'A Killer View'. Cardoso and Garm subsequently worked up Stoner project HEAD CONTROL SYSTEM.

ULVER's June 2005 effort, 'Blood Inside', came in bewildering array of packaging options. A limited run of 2000 CDs were encased in a red velvet box whilst vinyl variants, issued through Profound Lore Creations, were pressed in no less than six different coloured vinyls. Naturally, 'Blood Inside' confounded fans and critics, ULVER once again employing analog instrumentation but having twisted its form to such a degree that songs were by now structureless and vacuous. Håvard Jørgensen featured as main guitarist with Mike Keneally of MULLMUZZLER also on six-strings, Bosse donating guitar to 'For The Love Of God' and Czral supplying drums on close out track 'Operator'.

ULVER performed live for the first time in 15 years on Saturday 30th May 2009 at the Norwegian Festival of Literature at Maihaugsalen in Lillehammer, Norway.

Garry Sharpe-Young

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