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Album Review: Childhood’s End by Ulver

by Rui Alves 13 days ago in album reviews

How Ulver revamped the psychedelic era with their studio album Childhood’s End

Childhood’s End cover art by Ulver.

As a writer and musician, I keep looking for the golden fleece. Hence, today my wanderings through the musical labyrinth lead me to Childhood’s End by Ulver.

These Norwegian "wolves" still manage to surprise us with each new album. They tear through several layers of skin and lycanthropically transform themselves into various musical entities.

Thus, there’s little left of the original black metal at the level of the band’s sound since, currently, Ulverlooks for avant-garde environments full of experimentalism and melody.

Childhood’s End is entirely a cover album of psychedelic rock from the '60s, an acid trip through kaleidoscopic landscapes enveloped in dreamy clouds of opium:

‘My feeling is that most people’s knowledge sort of limits itself to The Doors,’ says Rygg, ‘The Doors were cool, but there was so much else going on… in the underground, records that got lost and didn’t get as much recognition as they deserved in my opinion.’ — Kspcope

The album includes Ulver’s versions of tracks from The 13th Floor Elevators, Electric Prunes, Jefferson Airplane, The Pretty Things along with less known tracks by The United States of America, The Beau Brummels, or Bonniwell’s Music Machine.

Track-by-Track Analysis

"Bracelets of Fingers," an original by Pretty Things, is the paradigmatic example of the excellence in this journey to the past. Besides being one of the most captivating songs on the album, this version of "Bracelets of Fingers" gains new dynamism and a vast amplification of its psychedelic matrix: "Fly to the moon on the curve of a spoon / I turn upside down / Tumbling through leaves as I scatter the seeds / On an eiderdown / Love, love, love."

After the initial theme, the longest of the album, the songs follow each other with the speed of shooting stars, fleeting flashes of two or three minutes that give great vivacity to this Childhood's End. Noteworthy moments like "Today," an original by Jefferson Airplane, with a metrical downtempo rhythm. Please note the highly melodic interpretation at the level of Kristoffer Rygg's voice.

"I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night," by the Electric Prunes, is the perfect counterpoint to "Today" for the intensity and rhythmic ride that the band imposes from the beginning chords, inviting oscillating body movements on the dancefloor: "Then came the dawn / And you were gone / You were gone, gone, gone / I had too much to dream last night / Too much to dream / I'm not ready to face the light / I had too much to dream."

Surprisingly, "66-5-4-3-2-1", a theme full of distortion and punk-rock energy, recovers the sound of the English Troggs. Irresistible the more "chill out" moments like the delicate "Everybody's Been Burned," "Dark is the Bark," and the gloomy and Saturnian "Velvet Sunsets."

My favorite track from “Childhood’s End” is the mesmerizing and ethereal “Magic Hollow.” Ulver’s version of the song by American rock band, The Beau Brummels, is a breathtaking moment that is well worth a listen.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Childhood's End escapes the chronic problem of most cover compilations, which are usually limited to nostalgic revivalism.

Hence, after the first few tracks, we completely forget that this is not an album with originals by Ulver and travel enraptured in this web of sound that hypnotizes the senses and puts us in a state of mellifluous torpor.

Ulver teamed up and joined forces last year with members from Enslaved and announced Drott, a new dark folk prog outfit, and released their first single, "The Marauders."

The single is the installment piece from the band's dark instrumental progressive rock full-length album, Orcus, which will be released through By Norse Music on September 24.

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album reviews
Rui Alves
Rui Alves
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Rui Alves

I write to find the surrogate writer in me.

Rui is a graduate of the University of Porto, teacher, and life-coach.

He is also a partner of Rock n’Heavy and the founder of ZENite.

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