Brutal Assault - 2009

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Forgive us
In large capitols, this is what the projector screen used as a backdrop said before Ulver’s highly anticipated concert at Brutal Assault began. Perhaps it was a conscious decision, as the band felt it would disappoint several of the hardcore black metal fans of the crowd with their set, perhaps it was just an unimaginable idea thought out by leading man Kristoffer Rygg (a.k.a. Garm, Fiery G. Maelstrom, Trickster G and more)…

No matter what prompted this intro, the music soon started rolling out of the speakers like warm syrup, soothing our torn souls after a long day of devil-worshipping music.
Admittedly, I am no scholar in the ways and music of Ulver, but it soon stood apparent that they were going to concentrate their set on the, what could be called later era of Ulver; the one with the grand productions, atmospheric sounds, and very little shrieking guitars and unhallowed grunts. In other words, if you were hoping for a trip down memory lane with one of the old classic Norwegian black metal bands, you were sorely mistaken.
On the other hand, if you were ready to open your mind onto a whole new type of experience never before seen at a metal festival, and only rarely in the world outside, then you were in for a real treat!

There were several people on the stage, the word musicians might be a bit odd to use here as most of them were just hanging over a laptop or some other kind of electric device, and Mr. Rygg himself had been placed a bit back on the stage and was constantly shrouding himself in a cloud of cigarette smoke, as if he was not comfortable being seen as the frontman of a liveband. Once in a while he would emerge to fill in some vocals to complement the music, but he was just as quick lost again in the dark among his equipment.
So the band themselves weren’t up to providing an extravaganza of a show, but instead they chose to put on a very suggestive, sometimes disturbing video production which went hand in hand with the often soundtrack reminiscent music.
It was clear that the finer details were lost on some parts of the crowd; during one song images of Adolf Hitler and Jews in mass graves were shown, and the man in front of me completely lit up and started heiling with outstretched arm. Maybe I’m the one in the wrong here, but I hardly think this was the reaction the band was going for…
In my own opinion, no matter how grand the video-production may have been, I found the best way of taking the music in was to close my eyes, let it fill my senses, and see where it would take me.

Surely, this concert was an enormous contrast to Testament who had just played and Dark Funeral who were coming on afterwards, and no, it did not have much to do with metal as we know it, but I must admit I found it both brave and inspiring!
All I could have wished for was some more (any?) personal connection with the audience, but who knows, maybe this would have ruined the atmosphere and mystique?
All I know is that I have never witnessed anything quite like this before, and I doubt I will see its like anywhere again…

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