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Read the lyrics, invest in the tale,
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This review is from: Bergtatt (MP3 Download)
Everyone seems to have their own take on black metal and there is a certain expectation with releases from the early Norwegian bands that they will contain that frisson of excitement that has made the genre so fascinating since its inception. Ulver and 'Bergtatt' are exceptions to that rule, not only because Ulver later moved away from black metal, but because at the time of release their first album seemed quite a distance from the philosophy of the other Norwegians, though time has seen many of the ideas on this album accepted more widely.
First of all, the clean vocals and acoustic guitars are striking, which brings the album a folky feel reminiscent of the first Satyricon album and suits it slightly better to the fairytale that the 5 "chapters" tell than pure aggressive black metal. It is in the lyrics and the detail that 'Bergtatt' really becomes interesting, with a dramatic storyline told poetically in Norwegian, although I believe the songtitles and possibly some of the lyrics are in Old Danish. I would advise reading the lyrics with the album on the first listen and getting a good sense of the story both in the original language and in translation, because there is a lot of depth to a fairly simple story and the conviction in Garm's voice makes it a powerful part of the recording.
The concept aside, there's some very worthwhile black and folk metal, all of which is soaked in the pungent nostalgia that makes this period of musical history so intriguing. Riffs tend to be thoughtful and atmospheric (more Burzum than Darkthrone) and the few lead moments are highlights. All in all, a thoughtful and compelling titbit from the second wave.