Darkthrone didn’t go disco. Mayhem never went funk. Of all the classic bands spewed from Norway’s second wave of black metal, Ulver are the most experimental, and the most successful at it. Any tosser with a Roland can string a few notes together and call it ‘ambient’ – it’s so easy, Varg Vikernes did it from prison. Pop music isn’t easy, though. And following years of genre- hopping, 2017’s The Assassination Of Julius Caesar saw Ulver just make a great pop album. Embracing their love for 80 hit-makers like Talk Talk and Depeche Mode, they reinvented themselves once more.
Flowers Of Evil picks up where The Assassination Of Julius Caesar left off, layering eight songs with all manner of vintage accoutrements and titbits. But it never feels old-fashioned, despite Machine Guns And Peacock Feathers’ snapping, snare-heavy disco beat and backing vocals appearing as Boney M on downers. This is largely down to production duties being handled by Killing Joke’s Martin Glover, who also twiddled Ulver’s knobs for … Julius Caesar; nostalgic sounds play a prominent part, but it’s all crisp as can be, slicker than a seal’s satchel.
Speaking of slick, Kristoffer Rygg, the band’s sole original member, has a larynx of velvet. Above all, he is what consolidates Ulver’s transformation – the fact that he goes all Talk Talk’s late Mark Hollis in Apocalypse 1993, a song detailing the Waco siege, during which 86 people were killed, doesn’t seem incongruous at all. It’s simply… Ulver. Uncompromisingly Ulver.
They completed black metal, then moved on. The fact that old fans stayed on the journey is testament to this band’s singular vision. So suspend your disbelief and allow Kristoffer to wail about vampires on Night Of The Wolf; and lose yourself in Little Boy’s undeniable rhythms and 19th-century French Dandyist references. Flowers Of Evil is danceable decadence defined.