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Ulver - Shadows Of The Sun CD (album) cover

SHADOWS OF THE SUN

Ulver

 

Post Rock/Math rock

4.06 | 247 ratings

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Trickster F.
Prog Reviewer
5 stars The wolves gather...

2 years after the cacophonous Blood Inside which emphasised the group's partial return to their rock roots, the Norwegian shapeshifters are back with another studio album. Unless you are not familiar with their music, you should know what to expect - expect the unexpected!

It happened so in Ulver's career that they never stuck to a single particular style and radically switched genres like mere gloves with virtually every release. The classic example is following Kveldssanger, an amateurish neo-classical record mainly influenced by Norwegian folk, with a raging black metal offering - only in order to abandon rock music altogether for a decade immediately afterwards. Their further work was not considerably more spontaneous, which the newest output only proves.

Let us now come back to the subject, the newest album Shadows of the Sun. There is a very slight connection between this record and its predecessor, Blood Inside; in fact, the only song that could have sounded reasonable in the context of the new album is Blinded by Blood, the spiritual and calm nature of which seems to have passed over and influenced the direction for the new release.

Aside from this negligible link, Shadows of the Sun is almost the exact polar opposite of its forerunner. Unlike the disharmonic, bizarre and dissonant Blood Inside, this novelty is a completely different experience: calm, moderate and melancholic. It is, as one may have learned to expect from Ulver, a coherent and full work, as opposed to being a collection of unrelated tracks.

The album consists of nine relatively brief tracks and is just under forty minutes in length. Now, is the record's durability its strength or its weakness? The songwriting is minimalistic and moderate in terms of melody, yet lush and deep when it comes to complexity of layers and the context of various moods and themes. It is by no means an accessible work and requires both numerous listens and the listener's effort to truly sink in. When the closing track nears its end I usually feel that this is exactly the time the album should have ended and if it were to go on further I would begin to lose my attention, therefore according to my own unconscious perception (and nothing more) the durability is exactly what it should be or, to put it correctly, what I would want it to.

The songs are subtle and do not ever depend on simple verse structure. It has become a tradition since 'The Blake Album'and there is really no necessity for me to bring this obvious message to the table in this review again, but the artificial and the natural elements are blended once again, and done so impeccably. You have got electronics on the one hand and strings, brass, organ on the other. Kristoffer 'Garm' Rygg's low voice is once again a quintessential part of the sound and the main reason why you also remember specific parts of the album in addition to being able to follow the themes, having felt them through numerous times before.

The songs vary in sound, arrangements and vibes, despite sadness and melancholy being the central theme, the mood often changing in a timeline of a single song (as it can be witnessed on the third track entitled Like Music).

There is a Black Sabbath cover on the album - Solitude from Master of Reality. With a sole exception of the earlier Planet Caravan, this is the only cover of the Birmingham doom pioneers that makes sense in an album by Ulver at this point of their career (unless they would radically alter a song's structure to have it fit). There are no discrepancies between the cover and the rest of the album that my ears are able to sense and the conclusions done during the album fit the lyrics of this bleak song rather well.

As a conclusion to my review, I would like to encourage all those who have already become Ulver fans to experience their newest record without hesitations. This may very well be their most mature, coherent and flawless work to date. The album will especially appeal to fans of Perdition City, A Quick Fix of Melancholy, Silencing the Singing and the group's soundtracks.

Those who have not will find themselves in a situation when they have to choose one of the musicians' efforts to evaluate their career - an impossible task if one takes into account the vast spectre they have covered during their presence in the world of music. The sole move I can suggest is to think whether the adjectives exploited in this review evoke any interest in your feelings and make decisions accordingly to that.

Without a shadow of doubt, a 5 star album and an early contender for the title of 2007's best record!

Trickster F. | 5/5 |

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