Ulver - Shadows Of The Sun
Jester Records
Ambient
9 songs (39:54)
Release year: 2007
Jester Records
Reviewed by Goat

The ninth full-length in Ulver’s fourteen years of existence, Shadows Of The Sun confounds expectations from the outset. First off, this isn’t Blood Inside part two, which will be causing as many sighs of relief as grunts of disappointment. What it actually is is harder to pinpoint, as the first listen will doubtlessly leave you with the impression that very little has happened. Unlike its predecessor, Shadows Of The Sun takes its time to make an impression, rejecting the at times overbearing electronic collage of before for a Neoclassical ambience that will likely earn the band as many fans as it loses.

Opening with the quiet hum of Eos, Kristoffer Rygg’s gentle tones and a background violin at once relax and shock the listener, as there is none of Ulver’s traditional theatricality on show; in fact, the band seems to have bared its collective soul like never before. Sounding like the far-off comfort of a monastic choir mixed with the simple yet emotional outpouring of Sigur Rós, Ulver is once again stepping forward into new territory. Following track All The Love is about as noisy as the band gets throughout the album, gentle piano mixing with background ambience and light percussion forming a ghostly yet strangely catchy piece that is one of the more memorable songs throughout.

Songs link together and follow on rather than being separate entities, time and attention both being needed for this listen. It’s difficult to choose highlights or favourites, but there are sections that will stay with you, such as the slightly jarring electronic effects that open Vigil, and the Eastern flavour of Let The Children Go’s trumpet. The average track length is around the four minute-mark and this works better than you’d imagine, songs being just long enough to start making an impression before departing.

No doubt by now you’ll have made up your mind about Shadows Of The Sun, but the most controversial element on show – the cover of Black Sabbath’s Solitude – is worth a listen for even the most ardent of Nattens Madrigal fanboys. The song, quiet to begin with, is given a gentle Jazzy sheen that could’ve been produced by some wunderkind of the modern scene, an unobtrusive trumpet gliding over some serene electronica to provide a result that is probably better than the original. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Norah Jones popped up on Ulver’s next album…

Describing any band as having ‘matured’ reeks of condescension, yet that’s exactly what’s happened here. The former Trickster G and co. have swapped the mischievous worldview of their earlier incarnation for an adult look at life, making for a restrained masterpiece that’s all the better for not being as over the top as Blood Inside - yet ever bit as enjoyable for those with the patience to appreciate it. Detractors may point out that this type of music has been kicking around the mainstream for years, and they have a point, however distasteful it may be to admit for the band’s rabid fans. If this is indeed the face of Ulver for the time being, then it’s as refreshing a musical statement as any made before and, knowing the band, will be forgotten utterly when the next album comes out with yet another new and interesting direction. Still, no-one listens to these Norwegian experimentalists who doesn’t want their musical horizons expanded, and if you’ve followed the band on its unique journey this far, you’ve nothing to lose by giving in to Shadows Of The Sun’s gentle embrace.

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The album as a whole
Goat quoted 84 / 100
Adam quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Ulver that we have reviewed:
Ulver - The Assassination of Julius Caesar reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Ulver - Messe I.X - VI.X reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Ulver - Wars Of The Roses reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Ulver - Perdition City reviewed by James and quoted 95 / 100
Ulver - Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell reviewed by James and quoted 81 / 100
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