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Ulver - "Childhood's End" (CD)

Ulver - "Childhood's End" CD cover image

"Childhood's End" track listing:

1. Bracelets of Fingers (The Pretty Things)
2. Everybody’s Been Burned (The Byrds)
3. The Trap (Bonniwell’s Music Machine)
4. In the Past (Chocolate Watchband)
5. Today (Jefferson Airplane)
6. Can You Travel in the Dark Alone? (Gandalf)
7. I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night (Electric Prunes)
8. Street Song (The 13th Floor Elevators)
9. 66-5-4-3-2-1 (Troggs)
10. Dark is the Bark (Left Banke)
11. Magic Hollow (Beau Brummels)
12. Soon There Will Be Thunder (Common People)
13. Velvet Sunsets (Music Emporium)
14. Lament of the Astral Cowboy (Curt Boettcher)
15. I Can See the Light (Les Fleur De Lys)
16. Where is Yesterday (United States Of America)

Reviewed by on June 27, 2012

"The album is great music anytime, but if you happen to have a lava lamp and fuzzy posters in a darkened room obscured by a haze of smoke from a substance that’s probably not tobacco… well, you get the idea."

“Childhood’s End” is a chancy musical experiment, but who would expect anything less from the unpredictable Ulver? From black metal to ambient and avant-garde, the band has already been all over the musical map and back again, so perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that Ulver wanted to release an entire album composed of psychedelic rock covers from decades past. Taking the chance with yet another change of pace paid off, as “Childhood’s End” is an engaging musical trip from beginning to end.

Although there’s nothing overtly in the heavy metal realm here – don’t expect any of Ulver’s early black metal sounds to suddenly pop up – it’s also never boring. The unique, progressive song structures and unusual sounds prevent the music from having much lag time and there aren’t that many atmospheric or quiet parts. A full 16 songs might seem a bit excessive, especially for an album with no original material, but they are all fairly short tracks, with most landing around three to four minutes. The whole thing has a fantastic sound quality and the unique Ulver interpretations of the source material gives new life to old songs, making it more likely that people who didn’t grow up with the originals will be interested in hearing this sort of music.

“Childhood’s End” has a good mix of slower and more restrained tracks placed beside up-tempo songs, containing a flow that makes the end result feel like a complete package and not just random tracks placed together. There’s also just enough of a style shift between each song that the formula doesn’t get old. The opening (and arguably, best) track "Bracelets of Fingers” uses oddly distorted clean vocals and has a slightly dark edge, even though at heart it’s a hippy song about love. Skip ahead a few songs and you can practically see the rainbow colored waves flying out of the speakers with the psychedelic, tambourine-worshipping “In the Past.” It’s amazing how the majority of the disc sounds like one band creating one album, even though it’s 16 covers from 16 different original bands.

Simply put, the album is great music anytime, but if you happen to have a lava lamp and fuzzy posters in a darkened room obscured by a haze of smoke from a substance that’s probably not tobacco… well, you get the idea. If slightly folksy psychedelic rock from years past isn’t your thing then skip it, but for music lovers who can step outside the realm of metal and still find enjoyment, this will likely be a highlight release of 2012.

Highs: Each song is a fantastic modern re-imagining of old psychedelic rock tunes.

Lows: Unfortunately there's no overt metal thrown in (a black metal growl or two would have been a real trip!)

Bottom line: Ulver offers up 16 unique psychedelic rock interpretations of obscure and classic songs.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)