wed 01/04/2020

CD: Ulver - The Assassination of Julius Caesar | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Ulver - The Assassination of Julius Caesar

CD: Ulver - The Assassination of Julius Caesar

High-concept Norwegian art-rockers in pop album shocker

Ulver's 'The Assassination of Julius Caesar': a pop album

The Frankie Goes to Hollywood of “Two Tribes”. Talk Talk. Stadium-era Depeche Mode. Laibach. a-ha’s aural dramas “Stay on These Roads” and “Manhattan Skyline”. “New Year’s Day” by U2. These are the musical building blocks of Ulver’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar.

The Frankie Goes to Hollywood of “Two Tribes”. Talk Talk. Stadium-era Depeche Mode. Laibach. a-ha’s aural dramas “Stay on These Roads” and “Manhattan Skyline”. “New Year’s Day” by U2. These are the musical building blocks of Ulver’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar.

The death of Princess Diana. The attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. The Greek goddess Artemis (Diana, in the Roman myths) and story of Actaeon the hunter who saw her naked body so was killed by dogs. The Bernini statue The Rape of Proserpina, used as the album's cover image. The death of the Sixties dream. Overwhelming compulsions to come home. The fall of dynasties and empires. These are the narrative building blocks of Ulver’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar.

Attempts to pin down the venerable Norwegian band – which, really, is a vehicle for their only constant, Kristoffer Rygg – are pointless. Once, long, long ago, they were black metal. They have tackled forms of folk and opera, united with performance art and ballet, and collaborated with, variously, Sunn O))) and The Tromsø Chamber Orchestra. In this context, the unpredictable is the only predictable.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar, Ulver’s 13th studio album, sounds exactly like what its building blocks suggest, runs a concise 44 minutes and collects eight clearly delineated songs each of which has a tune, a beginning, middle and end. It is not inaccessible. It is a pop album. Nonetheless, whether such a supra-meta-music could be popular as such in any mainstream sense remains an open question.

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