Wonderful Shifting Sounds
Ulver have never been strangers to electronic music. Dating back to 1998 with Themes From William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell they have experimented with some sort of electronic element. Later they incorporated symphonic elements and even retro psychedelic rock with 2012’s Childhood’s End. So it comes as no surprise that with their latest album, The Assassination of Julius Caesar, that they would continue to dabble in the electronic realm. The Assassination of Julius Caesar is a culmination of everything they have done so far and is wonderfully executed.
Ulver’s previous albums have used a more complex or abstract composition. Garm / Kristoffer Rygg’s vocal style is different from previous albums as well normally more unorthodox it actually feels like he’s singing here, but it fits the music perfectly. The Assassination of Julius Caesar is a bit more simple and straightforward yet multilayered so songs are deceptively intricate. The lyrical content of the album alludes mostly to the conundrums of religion.
The album begins with Nemoralia, a song taking place around the Roman festival of torches and following the lyrics presumably around 64 AD as it is about Nero burning Christians and allegedly starting the great fire of Rome around the 18th of July. But the final verse juxtaposes the goddess Diana with Princess Diana. The song is very synth heavy with a simple beat and flecks of electronic blips scattered throughout. The tone is haunting given the subject matter but the music is somewhat upbeat rhythmically
The album continues on to Rolling Stone which is where the album really begins to shine. Everything from the previous song ramps up, this could be construed as an evil disco song, perhaps carrying some influences from Childhood’s End (the album mentioned earlier). They even bring in a guest vocalist, Rikke Normann, for some extra flavor. However, for the last third the song disintegrates into beautiful electronic noise. So Falls the World follows a similar archetype, starting slow, lamenting the end of civilization with history repeating itself and towards the end of the song it has some sort of electro party dance beat the screams of innocents dying juxtaposed on top. The album carries on like this with songs transitioning in and out of various elements.
When all is said and done Ulver have crafted something special. Be it the symphonic elements they’ve used in the past incorporated into songs like Angelus Novus or orchestral elements into So Falls the World, they have certainly refined their style into something unique. Ulver never fails to make something different even if they are using elements from their past albums. The Assassination of Julius Caesar is one of their, if not the, best albums they have ever released.