Written by Lisa Melograno
Ulver, the Norwegian band fronted by Kristoffer Rygg, has had quite a career, starting as a Black Metal band, that moved on to experiment in multiple genres including Fold Metal, folk, avant-garde, and trip-hop. This time Ulver is back with their new album, Flowers of Evil, out now via House of Mythology. Michael Rendall (the ORB) and Martin Glover (Killing Joke) were on board with the production and mixing.
Flowers of Evil continues the story where the Assassination Of Julius Caesar (2017) left off with a more stripped back electronica synth-pop sound while leaving the listener with dark and contemplative emotions. Although Flowers of Evil is more simplistic, it’s still electronically influenced by stimulating beats, alluring synthesizers, and seductive guitar progressions. While this is a vast difference instrumentally from their Black Metal days, the lyrics and imagery remain the same in that they both use despondent words to portray the dilemmas mankind faces today. Ulver‘s use of poetic lyrics combined with electronic and dark synth-pop creates this imagery flawlessly.
Flowers of Evil’s “One Last Dance” starts out quiet and slow and gradually builds up with pulsing beats. This paired with Kristoffer Rygg‘s smooth and haunting voice with deep and poetic lyrics are a glorious way to start the tone for the album.
“Russian Doll,” the first single released, exemplifies the upbeat explosions and patterns of dance music that you can find yourself swaying to although the lyrics bring you back to dark-synth, telling of human trafficking in the Baltic. Ulver‘s Kristoffer Rygg explains, “Although this is pop music in our heads, the images and connotations in the lyrics are probably far away from what one usually associates with this genre.”
“Machine Guns and Peacock Feathers” is engaging with its heavy beats, tight guitar complimented by Rygg‘s sultry smooth voice. Female backups and snappy hooks are an added bonus making “Machine Guns and Peacock Feathers” quite catchy. “Apocalypse 1993” is equally engaging with its tight drumming and hard-hitting grooves. “Hour of the Wolf” has a great groove and rhythm section embodying heavy beats, synthesizers, and upbeat tempo with the dark lyrics Flowers of Evil portrays.
The most memorable hooks can be found in “Little Boy,” “In the Killing Fields,” and “Flowers of Evil.” Nostalgia reflects the title perfectly with its thought-provoking reflective lyrics, catchy hooks, and female backups and stimulating beats beginning the progression of gradually slowing the tone back to somber. Flowers of Evil close with “A Thousand Cuts” a reflection and penance of sorts. It captures the theme and mood of the album perfectly and leaves the listener thoughtful contemplative.
In Flowers of Evil, Ulver creates an apocalyptic picture of the modern world referencing the darkness of humans embracing unsettling and thought-provoking topics but does so while leaving the listener to their own thoughts. Kristoffer Rygg‘s captivating sultry voice becomes the narrator, while the electronically influenced weaving synths and crescendos become the story. Although Flowers of Evil sounds much like 80’s synch-pop and dark new wave, it is by no means a copy of the music. They have managed to re-create it. I believe Ulver has moved to the realm of a genre that they excel in.
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