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Ulver - The Assassination Of Julius Caesar (2017) - Review

Band: Ulver
Album title: The Assassination Of Julius Caesar
Release date: 7 April 2017
Label: House of Mythology

1. Nemoralia
2. Rolling Stone
3. So Falls The World
4. Southern Gothic
5. Angelus Novus
6. Transverberation
7. 1969
8. Coming Home
9. Nemoralia (Youth ambient mix) [Bonus]

Some bands or artists are simply meant to push the borders forward. The evershifting and experimental band Ulver has showed us this so many times, and while waiting for every their new album fans are in kind of a sweet distress and anticipation of what they'll get. This band has since their beginnings in 1993 as a folk-black metal band evolved so very much that almost every direction that they take in the end transcends the limits of the certain style. It happened so already in their early years when they took an extraordinary approach in the black metal style, but it was with their fourth album, Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell (1998), when the band decided to expand their artistic and musical visions and went on a journey to find new musical trajectories. Introducing more and more electronics, industrial and ambient elements, the band became one of the most respected and articulated when it comes either to find new sonorities or processing the well established styles.

It was in 2007 when Ulver released one of my all time favorite albums, the shimmering Shadows Of The Sun, and since then I'm their devoted fan. Not that every single album of them released was of my liking, especially the previous double album ATGCLVLSSCAP, consisting of multitracked and studio-enhanced live, mostly improvisational, post-rock, ambient and electronic soundscapes, was kind of a difficult listen, but still ok, now we are in front of a completely new story, the new album of these Norwegians is a surprise like I don't believe that many of us have expected. The band this time has shifted shape like never before and created their "pop" album. The Assassination Of Julius Caesar is in the words by band an album that they were longing to do for many years, to delve into the music of their childhood. On the first glance it seems that this is just another retro wave or something album, but in reality it's far from there, it's an highly aesthetic album of clearly defined sound that simply sweeps away with almost every single retro wave or 80s revivalist pop album released lately. Ulver while looking back they created something stunningly immersive and coherent, something so very eclectic, spellbinding and evocative.

Musically this new album is placed in the 80s synth-wave, new wave, synth-pop, and more than anybody else fans of bands like Depeche Mode, Tears For Fears, Ultravox, The Human League, New Order and similar will be pleased by this offering, but it's not that simple, Ulver added kind of primordial electronic stuff that could be in a way compared with Kraftwerk, OMD or Tangerine Dream in the first place, and like their country mates Apoptygma Berzerk, even if not in such a drastical way, on their latest album they aim to evoke something "historical" in a completely new light. Yet Ulver stay loyal to their uncompromising dark nature and the wolfish soul is cleary evident. More than anything else we must know that The Assassination Of Julius Caesar is not a nostalgic album, it's still a genre defining work of art, it's a subtle musical universe where “pop” is more a mark of distinction, denoting immediacy and possible body movement.

The Assassination Of Julius Caesar plays with historical events, human errors, from of course like the title suggests, the assasination of Ceasar, to assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II, death of Princes Diana, and much more, Ulver moves seamlessly through time and space. Already with the opener "Nemoralia", the core crew behind this album, Kristoffer Rygg, Jørn H. Sværen and Tore Ylwizaker, pushes us into the world full of penetrating catchy melodies and refrains, where deep bass lines, spacey synths, soul melting voices, various electronic samples, profound beats, danceable rhythms, hook-laden passages, psychedelic pulsations and haunting ambiental background defines the musical spectrum. Each one of these eight tracks differs from another and yet the whole thing stays in perfect proportions following the line. The listener can't remain cold while listening to highly dynamic sound of danceable popy "Rolling Stone" with addictive female backing vocals and addition of saxophone played by legendary Hawkwind shaman Nik Turner. Intriguing as hell, there's always something obscure and sinister present in the backdrop, and in the most explicit way it comes in front in the absolutely amazing dark epic drama with a slight post-industrial-ambient Laibach-ish vibe present in the stunning "Coming Home".

While lyrically based on human tragedies this album's sound is oddly very erotic, but at the same time also so very melancholic. Like for example the most emotional track here, "So Falls The World", of which its first half in a strange way reminded me of Paradise Lost's controversial album Host. Pure emotion and melancholy is so graciously and in a staggering way transfered to the listener in the cathartic and so very addictive "Angelus Novus", with a refrain that can get easily stuck in your head for a long time, or in the mesmerizingly beautiful "1969". Each track offers a different journey which in the end reunites in a contemplative world of utter romance and cultural self-cleansing sonic unity. There are no bordes, there are no rules, it's simply the sound of a creative machine named Ulver. The Assassination Of Julius Caesar, Ulver's thirteenth album, is a majestical, lets say dark pop album, which reinvents the term "pop" and adds some completely new terms to it. Don't be scared of the world "pop", it's nothing similar to most of the above average "pop" music released since mid 90s, this "pop" is for everyone who wants to expand his musical borders with a product that might be considered as the most ambitious and majestic work done by Ulver so far. Masterpiece!

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 10/10