Ulver - _Shadows of the Sun_
(Jester Records, 2007)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (
Perhaps expecting the unexpected has become expectable with regards to Ulver, so it should come as no surprise that their latest release in the guise of _Shadows of the Sun_ is rather different from its predecessors. This time around, Ulver have opted for a mellow, introspective and, one might say, rather unexperimental sound. This is a collection of dark and low-key songs, without the extravagance or craziness the band has gotten us used to.As an album, it is much more coherent and focused than its predecessor, with much greater emphasis on the vocals, and songs that almost melt into one another. Kristoffer Rygg sings using a very melancholic voice, doing without the falsettos or baritone hues of late. The music is rather textured than emphasised by the vocals, and this creates an almost background music effect that the listener can tune in and out of at will.Once more Ulver pay subtle homage to what is probably their favourite influence, Coil -- perhaps this time round a bit more than usual. Trumpet, cello and theremin all make frequent appearances to great effect, enhancing the music just enough with new layers; but they never seem out of place, like the trumpet theme in "All the Love", further elaborated by the organic drumming. The fact of the matter with this album is, even though it does feel unimpressive to begin with and perhaps a down-to-basics affair, not only does it grow on the listener, but it also slowly reveals and opens up with successive listens.The album's strongest points are the openers "Eos" and "All the Love", together with a magnificent rendition of Black Sabbath's "Solitude". In fact, the cover song stands out from the rest of the tracks. Perhaps it is Rygg's hauntingly beautiful voice, or the repetitive calm guitar and piano loop, or the trumpet carrying the song. The title track is also very atmospheric, and brings elements from their more electronic releases of recent years.At just under forty minutes, the album does not drag, but it would have been nice if the last couple of tracks were more interesting rather than just mood setters. Perhaps this is the record's main flaw: it just lacks that element of angst that sets Ulver apart from the pack. All in all, _Shadows of the Sun_ is a very good atmospheric album, worthy of Ulver's legacy; just not their best. Having said that, it is certainly the most cohesive and easy to get into they have done for a long time. So if _Blood Inside_ still has you scratching your head, then _Shadows of the Sun_ should be much more palatable.
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