Ulver - Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler
The whole genre of metal is something which had passed me by almost entirely until recently. And for that, I have to say, I was actually quite glad. Anything I had ever heard of metal seemed to consist of a bunch of longhairs playing guitars at 150 miles an hour with someone growling at me in some Scandinavian language. Not my idea of a good time, unless I quickly wanted to develop migraine. However, I was wise enough to realise that this may not be all there is to the genre and determined to see if there was anything I could find which I could actually listen to. I turned to a tried and trusted metalhead friend for advice, and Bergtatt was one of the albums suggested. It turned out to be the only one which I could actually listen to without feeling the stirrings of the aforementioned migraine.
OK, yes, there are times when I get growled at, and yes it is in a Scandinavian language - Medieval Danish. Yet there is more to it than that, substantially more. On listening to it, even though I could not understand it, I could discern a pattern to the tracks and it is no coincidence that they are arranged as Chapters in a story. There are three distinct themes which run through this which, correctly or otherwise, I identified with characters. The first is Graablick, whom I interpret to be some kind of monster who lives in Troll Forest (Troldskog). When he appears, there is plenty of rather stereotypical growling over harsh black metal rhythms. Precisely the sort of metal which confirms my worst fears. The second theme is of the maiden, characterised by harmonic singing backed by acoustic guitar. The third theme is when the maiden enters the world of Graablick, harmonic singing backed by harsh black metal. The combination of the three provides a story which is reasonably easy to follow - a maiden gets lost in Troll Forest. Graablick watches her and then there is some form of encounter - purity against evil - culminating in an apotheosis. The exact details are largely irrelevant, but in that sense it is a typical mythical/fairytale of good versus evil.
In general, the five songs (or chapters) combine the themes with a libretto which runs throughout the album. The division of the songs is, in many ways, rather pointless and it may as well have been combined into one long track. However, the division serves the purpose of enabling a listener such as myself, who finds the growling bits to be a negative, to break the music down into convenient segments, some more pleasant than others to listen to. Indeed, it is with the first track, "I Troldskog Faren Vild" (Lost in Troll Forest) that what I will call the acceptable sound of black metal is at its most compelling. This track is undoubtedly the highlight, and a track which stands on its own merit. The combination of beauty and ferocity as the maiden enters and then gets lost in the forest, approaching closer and closer to the dark world of Graablick, is quite a compelling listen.
At other times, patience and tolerance is tested to the limit. "Soelen Gaaer bag Aase Need" introduces Graablick's presence which reveals itself more fully in the next track, "Graablick Blev Hun Vaer", the quiet introduction of which, with flutes and gentle sounds belies what is to come. The hiatus in the middle, of crackling twigs as the maiden walks through the forest in the presence of the monster heightens the tension before, once again, you are racing through the forest with Graablick as he pursues his prey. "Den Stemme Locker" is the last pure acoustic part of the album culminating in that apotheosis as evil reaches its prey. That it all ends with an acoustic passage to the sound of a flowing river suggests a positive end - good triumphing over evil perhaps.
In some ways this is what Comus' First Utterance may have sounded like had they been a black metal band instead of a progressive folk one. But in reality, Bergtatt should not really be compared with anything else, except perhaps other examples of black metal. As I am unlikely to explore the genre much further, I can recommend this to the neophyte as being worthy of a closer look. It may not always be to taste, but it has parts which are beautiful to listen to. If you feel the need to have one black metal album in your collection, I suggest you make it Bergtatt.
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on 2011-03-16 CharlesMartel Said:
Perhaps one of the most revolutionary and influential metal albums of all time. Forget their later ambient/industrial stuff, "Bergtatt" is one of those must have albums.