Flowers of Evil comes across as an unfeigned progression along the course set by that album, revealing a band moving deeper into beats and grooves, hooks and choruses, synths and guitars, yet sounding more stripped back, making room for the distinctive detail. Once again Michael Rendall (The Orb) and legendary producer Martin “Youth” Glover have taken crystalline care of the mix.
With Flowers of Evil Ulver have fled a burning Rome, only to confront further crime and corruption. ‘Russian Doll’, the album’s first single, moves determinedly through the night, with a story of unfolding tragedy and misery. ‘Machine Guns and Peacock Feathers’ brings fiery end-time imagery – “barrels are burning / great art will be destroyed” – with a disco beat and flashy ’80s synths. Dismal cries resound on ‘Hour of the Wolf’; echoing Bergman’s classic film, the song is dedicated to the hour between night and dawn, “when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most real”. ‘Apocalypse 1993’ reveals Ulver at their catchiest, its bounding-goat groove running hand in hand with a grand chorus depicting the catastrophic events at Waco, Texas, during the winter of that year – the very same winter that saw the birth of Ulver’s first incarnation. From that thorny undergrowth, this is what they have become: an eclectic, many-headed beast, chanting the ecstasies of the spirit and the senses.
Flowers of Evil unfolds with the shattering second single, ‘Little Boy’. A mysterious beat moves the track towards its thunderous climax, and here Michael J. York’s ominous pipes melt into the softer, moodier ‘Nostalgia’, a ’70s soul shuffle, and the heart-breaking Talk Talk-esque balladry of ‘A Thousand Cuts’. Finally, the wolves are back in the palace of excess, waltzing the night away. Yet around them, the wilderness rises, triumphant; “grass will grow over your cities”, as the Bible says.