Ulver’s most recent album, ‘The Assassination of Julius Caesar’, was a major slab, packed with rich imagery, beguiling historic references and some great individual songs.
It seemed to mark a new era for this most mercurial of groups, progressing beyond the dark sparseness of the proceeding records to embrace dark 80s pop and more straightforward songs.
They managed it while still retaining that slick, somewhat reserved vibe.
‘Sic Transit Gloria Mundi’ is, in the band’s own words, a platter of “sad remains from our Caesarean banquet”, consisting of two tracks plus a Frankie Goes to Hollywood cover.
Rather than being a mope of an EP though, these songs more openly embrace the swaying club beats that were so clearly hinted at on tracks from ‘The Assassination…’ like on the outro to ‘So Falls the World.’
It continues to push those big, synth-driven choruses, and the Rygg’s referencing of world events (especially British ones) for lyrical inspiration.
‘Echo Chamber (Room of Tears)’ opens with lots of dark papal imagery. We’re told “white smoke billows…” while the EP’s cover star, Bacon’s corruption of Pope Innocent X, screams on. This is then contrasted with smoke from the Great Fire of London, and that of the 7/7 bombings drifting above Russell Square.
The whole track is delivered with a satisfying chorus , with a repeated refrain that carries enough pure power to have justified it’s inclusion on this release.
‘Bring Out Your Dead’ takes us instantly to another time and place, “driving down Sunset Boulevard” pointing to “frightened Americans…on every corner” while seemingly pointing out the rickety shelter of retro-nostalgic culture. That the band do so through a release so drenched in 80s sounds resonates with a dark irony.
It’s got to be one of the band’s most accessible and simple songs yet. Full of juicy melody and layered keys, it bounces along to a restrained instrumental crescendo that any synth band would kill for.
Finally, the atmosphere changes suddenly with a cover of ‘The Power of Love’.
It’s a reminder of just how good a song it is, the band pulling it off with pathos and with a velvety, electro feel that adds something special to it. Just in time for Christmas, it manages to avoid the overblown aspects that featured on the band’s last cover record.
‘Sic Gloria…’ will prove a short but quality addition for those that found ‘The Assassination…’ an absorbing experience. It’s refreshing to hear the band pen songs that go down easy, while the lyrical aspects haven’t been as interesting since the Blake record.
4 / 5 – Lorcan Archer ::: 27/11/17