Throughout the years, Ulver and the mastermind behind the band, Garm, have broken the boundaries in music and proven that ‘black metal’ and ‘metal’ labels can easily become too limiting.
How’s the live experience of the band’s music then? On my way to the Circus I was more than curious to see the ever-changing legends of Ulver onstage…
Even during the first song of the evening, “Nemoralia,” the sounds and lights were coordinated to the point of perfection. The first beats followed by Garm’s clear, melodic voice could only be called enchanting. Clean vocals tore through the music and in the background, electronic beats worked perfectly with synths.
More hypnotic and a bit faster than the first song, “Southern Gothic” also proved that Ulver wouldn’t be stickick to the exact order of the songs from the newest album during their set. This arrangement worked much better than playing one track after another in the order of the newest release, creating dynamics to their concert. Later on, it allowed the band to intertwine songs from their latest full-length album, The Assassination of Julius Caesar, and their new EP, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. The night went on with “1969”…
The most melancholic song of the set was played next. “So falls the world” captured the audience with sorrowful vocals at the beginning and its electrifying, heavily EDM-influenced outro. Lyrics illuminating the screen behind the band only added the mood to what I would call the best song both on Ulver’s newest opus and on their Saturday setlist.
“Rolling stone” and its chorus sung in a lower voice than the high-pitched album version felt like a good alternative to the studio recording. The crowd visibly enjoyed the song’s radio-like atmosphere and funky electronic passages. Keeping it simple, the frontman bowed to the audience a few times and his ‘Thank you’s’ could be heard. No interjections or long speeches needed; Garm let the music speak for itself.
Next up was the first song from the Sic Transit Gloria Mundi EP : “Echo Chamber (Room of Tears)”. Another brilliant composition by Ulver, followed by “Transverberation,” which smoothly moved from a synthpop-inspired intro to emotion-filled vocals. The evening slowed down with “Angelus Novus” and its ambient synths.
“Bring out your dead” was the second song from the band’s newest EP played in the Circus, and last but not least, the latest album’s final piece “Coming Home” started with an ambient passage and a grim, less melodic spoken part rather than singing.
Then, the band leaving the stage briefly gave the impression of the set closing already, and to be honest, I’d much prefer such an ending considering the fact that the encore chosen by the band was none other than a cover song from the 80s, “The Power of Love.” Even though Ulver have proved how masterfully they can cover songs from decades ago (Childhood’s End album, anyone?), the gig’s ending felt like an unnecessary sugarcoating of the whole gig.
For those not used to the synthwave-inspired eighties vibe of “Assassination of Julius Caesar,” the set might have been monotonous; after all it consisted exclusively of the tracks from the band’s newest releases. I didn’t see that as a disadvantage, though, with the only disappointment being the gig’s encore. No more complaints to be made: Ulver created a captivating spectacle filled with otherworldly music and stunning works of light.