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Ulvik – Cascades Award winner

by Gary Hernandez at 28 August 2021, 4:54 PM

Man, I do love me some f’d up Atmospheric Post Black Metal that reminds me of abandoned cottages in the hinterdark of the Canadian wilderness. So, it shouldn’t surprise you that I am completely obsessed by ULVIK’s most recent release, “Cascades.” From the gorgeous album cover to the disturbing video for “Baaltis” to the oblique song titles (does “Baaltis” refer to the Syrian Venus?; the feminine of Baal?; a reference to Lady Baaltis from H.R. Haggard’s “Elissa”?; all of the above?) this album fascinates me.

ULVIK is a duo hailing from British Columbia, Canada. They have seven releases to their credit spanning to the way back of 2011. They haven’t always produced Atmospheric Black Metal that leeches your soul, but when they do, it’s pretty damn awesome. I should also note that ULVIK will donate 50% of the proceeds from “Cascades” to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, which is pretty damn awesome as well.

Like most Atmospheric albums, “Cascades” is characterized by a thick grayscape created by distorted, melodic riffs, a persistent underlayer of synths, and wendigo vocals. That haze, however, is broken by percussions that explode like heavy timber falling on flat stone. With songs like “Allmächtiger Gott! Lössch' aus” (trans: Oh, God! Wash it away), “Huis clos” (no exit), and “Nokhur,” it’s hard not to be swept up in the bleak, eldritch aesthetic this album exudes. For instance, Nokhur (featured in Atlas Obscura) is a cemetery in southern Tukrmenistan that adorns its graves with mountain goat horns to ward off evil spirits. Not sure if that’s what this track is about, but the possibility is there like the on again and off again existence of Schrodinger’s cat.

There is not a single bad track on “Cascades.” For my top three standouts, I’ll go with “Allmächtiger Gott! Lössch' aus” because it has everything from soothing acoustic interludes to wrenching riffs to chanting monks to drums that will crack your femur; “Nokhur,” easily the heaviest track on the album and, again, jesusmaryjoseph, those drums; and “Huis Clos” with its boots of Doom that stalk you with like something out of an Arthur Machen nightmare.

For fans of ULVIK, “Cascades” is a clear progression from “Volume One” and “Volume Two,” with “Cascades” being a little more consistent in its delivery. The band says they draw their influences from “folklore, esotericism, history and the dramatic Cascadian landscapes.” Maybe there is something in these themes that is shared across cultures and generations, like some wicked primeval archetype buried in our DNA that we instinctually recognize with equal measures of fear and awe. Either way, “Cascades” seems to surface that spirit. Enjoy.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1.  Baaltis
2.  Nokhur
3.  Huis Clos
4.  Allmächtiger Gott! Lössch' aus
5.  Salt of the Earth
George Allen
Jade Fadel
Record Label: Avantgarde Music


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Edited 29 March 2023

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