Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ulver - Shadows of the Sun (2007, The End)

Ulver is one of the most unpredictable bands in the Avant-garde world. The Norwegian trio are firmly rooted in the capitol of the early 90's Black Metal scene; However, they only made a couple records that fit nicely into the genre.

This is an odd bunch. Its possible that the first album was recorded in the forest. Its also possible that when signed to major label Century Media, they put the sign-on Bonus toward Armani suits, haircuts, cocaine, booze and a car. Regardless, the mysterioso and non-conformity is all part of the allure for avid Ulver fans. The band insists that one can be Black Metal as fuck whether or not it involves corpsepaint, blastbeats or tremelo guitars.

The latest outing is their most somber and serene. Its a very laidback compilation of reflective and depressing elegies. Garm's vocals here are perfectly mixed, the heavy synth layers are a solid spine and the choral arrangements are just chilling. Though mostly ambient, the crescendos toward incidental drum tracks are always welcome and the minimal jazz-like trumpet is perfectly positioned. A guest appearance from Christian Fennesz is a nice surprise, as is the cover of Black Sabbath's "Solitude" from "Masters of Reality".

There is an intentional density created in this sound. One that calls to mind the title of their first album "Bergtatt" which, translated, means "wandering off into the mountains". There is a feeling that the solitude depicted in this narrative is a last rites of sorts, a man making peace before his final breath, what things might sound like after the wrists are slashed and the vital crimson is nearly drained. The heart is slowing, the brain is slowing and solace is finally achieved.

Overall, this is their most impressive and refined album to date...metal or not. I can't wait to be surprised by what happens next.

Get It Here

Or: Shadows of the Sun - Ulver

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