Ulver: Murder in "Magic Hollow"

Norwegian black metal band Ulver has a very interesting record coming up. Childhood's End will be a cover album focusing on classic and obscure psychedelic songs from the '60s.

Such tunes have always been a fetish for vocalist Kristoffer Rygg, who recently told Kscope Magazine, "My feeling is that most people's knowledge sort of limits itself to the Doors. The Doors were cool, but there was so much else going on...in the underground, records that got lost and didn't get as much recognition as they deserved, in my opinion."

One of those tracks is Beau Brummels's "Magic Hollow," which is accompanied by a fantastic video directed by Justin Oakey. The video plays more like a short film than most bits of cinemaudio, and is a rather beautiful if somewhat dark little work. Oakey knew from the first time he heard the song that it needed an otherworldly story to do it justice, and he delivered perfectly.

We open on a man (Jason Littlecross) entering a bare and cold forest, obviously in search of something. He comes across two beautiful women gathering wood, who lead him to the home of their...father? Husband? Teacher? It's not really clear.

What is apparent is that this man, Mark Tollefson, is in possession of a very important magical tome, which he happily shows off to his guest after offering him food and warm clothing. It's seems the perfect fairy-tale setup.

"I envision the traveler being a hand-for-hire searching out mystical objects for the wealthy, and the forest-dwellers are the naive owners of a powerful book," says Oakey via e-mail. "But for some viewers, perhaps it's more of a realistic tale of greed. Either way, I try to create open-ended (maybe even fragmented) stories that allow for others' minds to fill in gaps and create different meanings."

Fairy tales generally have childish cautions in them, but even the casual folklorist knows that most have much darker, much deeper and much bloodier versions handed down from more violent times.

You don't have to go back very far to find a telling of Red Riding Hood where the wolf first forces her to strip and burn her clothes, or the barbarous, tortured execution of Snow White's stepmother.

So too does "Magic Hollow" fade backwards into the weirding times. The hunter dons a black hood and without provocation proceeds to murder his host with an axe. Covered in blood, he takes the book, and even offers the girls a chance to leave with him.

It's a strange, senseless scene that shocks as much with its madness as with its gore. The girls refuse and he leaves in the night safe...but not for long

"The traveler may have murdered the man as it would be the only way to secure the text, or perhaps he was jealous of the man's strange relationship with the pretty forest girls," said Oakey. "A murder occurring between the two characters felt like it just had to happen, rather than surface from a logical explanation or obvious conflict. The traveler, for me, represents a certain world view where aggression and mercilessness is key."

Modern fairy tales have morals. They travel in neat little tail-swallowing circles, but the old tales, the forest tales from people that hadn't lost strange gods, they aren't about morals. They are anthropomorphic personifications of the teller's world. When Ulver chose to do due worship to the strange, trippy gods of psychedelia, it was only fitting that an appropriate fable be born from it.

A beautiful song, and a startling vision, "Magic Hollow" ranks high on the list of the best videos of 2012. Check it out below.

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