According to the press notes:
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 (Killing Joke) have taken crystalline care of the mix.
Sounds like it has potential. Does it?
Yes it does.
'One Last Dance' starts the record off in suitably moody and apocalyptic fashion. Arpeggiated synth riffs battle it out with a building noise before we get the line that we "...have seen the burning/God has laid upon the human race." You begin to envisage a burning metropolis, building collapsing while you sit on a mountaintop. Carrying on in such fashion for nearly two minutes, the beat kicks in and the song goes midtempo, but with a more haunted feel than had been previously apparent, thanks to the mix of guitar feedback and wistful synth sounds.
Hardly the cheeriest opener to an album but, as a palate cleanser, it is brilliant.
'Russian Doll' was the most obvious choice for a single, owing to a breezy chorus about being in the trunk of a car, Natural Born Killers style (possibly). The tune is much more abstract, but still has an airless feel to it.
The best song on here is 'Machine Guns and Peacock Feathers', due to the chuggy guitar and effortless vocals combining with a three note synth riff to create an effortless piece of alternative pop, with some swell backing vocals adding to the cool veneer.
Using a still from 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' as the cover is not only a neat throwback to the covers of the likes of Throbbing Gristle and Leather Nun, but also serves as a commentary on the "gender wars" going on as we speak. Don't believe me on that interpretation? Read this description of the scene in question from a movie blog:
Maria Falconetti's devastation is read on her face in its many mutating and varying degrees from start to finish. Here, she is shamed and humiliated for her "heretical" stance and for her denial of gender.
Operating in the same terrain as the likes of Lust for Youth (in the sense that the record has a very pronounced sheen of 80's pop over it), Flowers of Evil is a sophisticated, intelligent, at times groovy and expansive record that would sit well alongside the likes of Talk Talk and The The. It also serves as a companion piece to Ulver's previous record, The Assassination Of Julius Caesar.
The perfect soundtrack for a cloudless, sunny day when you dream about the world ending.
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.