Shadows of the Sun
"The sun is far away", Krystopher "Garm" Rygg first whispers on "Shadows of the Sun", Ulver's latest opus (circa 2007), sets the tone for the somber spiritual journey ahead.
Reviewing "Shadows of the Sun is not an easy task. Ulver is regarded as one of the most 'genre defying' bands to come out of the music scene in the last decades. Starting as a kind of somber experiment stretching the borders of what came to be known as "black metal", the band evolved its experiments towards folk, electronica, jazz, rock and other soundscapes, but always retained a dark unsettling atmosphere. Ulver's songs usually evokes images and brooding spirits, it creates an atmosphere and it invites you on a journey towards a side of your soul you probably know very well, but ignores on a daily basis, in exchange for peace of mind.
A journey is exactly what Shadows of the Sun is all about. The whole album explores a well known side of Ulver, the evocation of atmosphere. This is an album made to be heard in the absolute dark and silence. While it asks of you to leave the waking world outside your room, it invites you to bring your burdens in. I often compare the effect this album causes to me to the journey partaken by Dante and Virgil to the Inferno. From its very first moments to the last it feels like you're threading a lonesome path on a barren wasteland of sorrow and grief. The path it leads you can't be avoided once you start threading it, but by the end of the road there's always a promise of transformation. The flow of the album presents more than just good minimalistic, dark songs. It is a spiritual experience of transmutation, although there are no promises about the outcome of these inner changes.
The whole album resembles a night of dreaming, there are calm and unsettling moments alike, and the songs often stretches themselves or invade each other's spaces. The album has a great flow of moments and rewards the listener who sits through it all. To skip the songs, although possible (for each of the tracks are great and stand on their own), sacrifices the cohesion of the experience, which is more than half of the fun.
There are no best moments for me on this one, I'd only suggest a closer attention on "All the love" and "Solitude". The first one is perhaps the song that hits me the hardest on an individual level, the second one is a cover of a "black sabbath" song from their third album "master of reality", it was regarded as a very different sabbath song back then and even today for its atmosphere and it is made even better and stronger, although quieter by ulver.
In the end, there is little doubt about what this album represents. It is a key, it is a road, it is a mirror, it is all of these at the same time. On today's world it is symptomatic that people often try to escape their lives and petty existences through many paths, but what Ulver manages through it's music is to point you towards a frightening journey inwards. It may be the darkest journey of your life, but it is also the closer you'll ever get to your own truth.
Bio on Last.fm: Ulver