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Childhood’s End

Kscope Music (2012)
Rating: 6.5/10

If ever there was a band that did whatever it wanted, all the time, it’s Ulver. The Norwegian band started out building a solid fanbase in the extreme metal market, but quickly proved they had a lot more to offer than all things aggressive.

The band has become well known for its musically intricate and deeply artistic works over the years, but on Childhood’s End the band take a break from the experimentation and boundary crossing. The album features Ulver’s take on 16 psychedelic-era cover songs, many of them so obscure even lifelong music diehards (like myself) will be hard pressed to know or remember them all.

As with any psychedelic music, the sound here is often dark and mostly jangly. Ulver have done a really excellent job of putting together songs that actually flow well though. The album as a whole has a very fluid feel to it and it’s not hard to imagine the band locked in a dark room at 3:00am drinking adult beverages and partaking in things that are illegal in my country, while playing around with atmospheric guitar tones and making their voices echo.

The songs chosen here are so unique that it’s way too complicated to really review them. Instead, I’ll tell you what I felt stood out here. ‘I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)’ is a certain highlight and probably one of the better known songs on the album as it’s an Electric Prunes cover. The same goes for Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Today’.

Another standout for me is The Pretty Things’ ‘Bracelets Of Fingers’, which is one of the oddest songs I have heard and I would be willing to bet that it inspired a young Alice Cooper in many ways. ‘Magic Hollow’, originally done by The Beau Brummels, is a cross between Renaissance and Pink Floyd. It has a certain wild beauty to it but also a serious undertone that shifts your mind away from fairies and maidens faire.

‘Can You Travel In The Dark Alone’ is another highlight, boasting a brighter sound and a semi-anthemic vocal that almost makes you want to sing along. It’s a cover of a Gandalf tune, but I could totally accept it as an overtly eccentric Ulver original.

Much like the The Lemonheads covers album (2009’s Varshons), the strength here is that very few people will know the majority of these songs. In that sense, it’s really easy to accept it as Ulver because the original isn’t milling around in the back of your head while they are playing their rendition. Overall, I really enjoyed this album and it’s nice to have an Ulver album that isn’t so artistically heavy and serious. The band almost sound like they are having fun on Childhood’s End and it’s a refreshing change of pace.

Mark Fisher

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