Sunn O))) and Ulver
Terrestrials


3.0
good

Review

by Jom STAFF
February 1st, 2014 | 43 replies


Release Date: 02/04/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In context, it's a nice, hypnotic little time capsule, but it's difficult to overlook the what-could-have-been.

After an August 2008 festival performance in Oslo, Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley made their way to Ulver's Crystal Canyon studio for an all-nighter with the legendary outfit. Over the next five years, the two outfits would continue to meet surreptitiously, adding supplemental layers of instruments to the mix; of note, the brass infusion and elegiac string accompaniments to the ominous bass and electric piano are most assuredly stamped by Ulver. In looking at Sunn O)))'s and Ulver's respective discographies since 2008, the surprisingly incandescent sounds from Monoliths & Dimensions make more sense, as does Ulver's reimagining of several of their early works (as heard on the sublime The Norwegian National Opera). In that same vein, Messe I.X-VI.X serves as another logical progression in Ulver's seamless transition from their black metal roots to ambient melancholy, cultivating minimalist symphonic arrangements and weaving in their trademark electronic flourishes in their collaboration with Tromsø Chamber Orchestra. All things considered, Terrestrials is very much a time capsule, and it wouldn't be unfair to predict that it would be a cinematic and ethereal affair.

In many ways, it is: album closer "Eternal Return" is equal parts disconsolate and majestic, with a shockingly catchy hook elevated by rumbling, thunderous bass. It is also the only track in the triumvirate to feature Krystoffer Rygg's vocals, which are eerily reminiscent of his cleans in Arcturus. This section separates "Eternal Return"'s mammoth apocalyptic passage from its reticent denouement: a nearly Pink Floyd/Stars of the Lid-turned-evil psychedelic atmosphere coalesces with an ominous Sunn O)))-inspired crescendo, with the movement intensifying even further alongside a haunting string accompaniment before vanishing into gloomy silence. Meanwhile, opening movement "Let There Be Light" manages to sound unquestionably icy, as if traversing through a glacial cave engulfed by arctic shadows. Layer by layer, the song moves languidly towards dawn, with omnipresent bass and guitar swells amidst macabre strings and gelid ambiance. Nearly three-quarters of the way through, dawn breaks: explosive percussion - sounding almost like a stampede, as if that frigid cavern was collapsing around you - takes hold, and the trumpets sigh in-and-out of the suffocating uproar.

Terrestrials' middle track, "Western Horn", is the most Sunn O)))-sounding song, and seems tangibly louder and more imposing than the two bookend tracks. Sporting fiercely monolithic drones and Ulver's relentlessly stalwart string enhancement, the track does well in instilling a sense of harrowing fear and dread, especially as a menacing, howling wind blares through both channels. However, the track seems undeveloped in the sense that the band's respective hallmark strengths are at odds sonically with one another. The drone-doom pacing, the imposing surges, the throbbing feedback, the orchestral component -- all of it is absolutely cacophonous and chilling, but "Western Horn" lacks memorable substance compared to "Let There Be Light" and "Eternal Return".

Given the relative inaccessibility of the drone and dark ambient genres, but knowing that Sunn O))) and Ulver are breaking every convention tied to traditional song structures with their aural onslaught, Terrestrials is a highlight in how it was constructed. It's difficult to label the record as an exercise in improvisation (although it certainly would have been intense sitting in Crystal Canyon during the pulse-altering, wall-shaking recording process) because it is impressive how Sunn O)))'s magnified low-end intonations coherently integrated with Ulver's penchant for crafting melody and harmony without being completely disruptive. Terrestrials also doesn't sound like it has been doctored too much since the initial recording in 2008; all the brass and orchestral flourishes sound well-placed and with intention, even if some aren't as remarkable as others. Further, Terrestrials is an immersive journey, chock-full of amplified bass swells, cinematic grandeur, and winding melodies to complement the howling winds and other environmental tie-ins found on the record. However, the coupling of Sunn O))) and Ulver, two juggernauts in their own right, doesn't bring anything terribly exciting to the masses. Perhaps this is revisionist in nature due to using their later works, such as Messe I.X-VI.X, Monoliths & Dimensions, and The Iron Soul of Nothing in context, but short of "Let There Be Light"'s latter half and the most brilliant passages in "Eternal Return", Terrestrials sounds relatively subdued, even compared to "CUT WOODeD" from from 2006's WHITEbox.

However, despite these objections, it's important to remember that Terrestrials' meat-and-potatoes were recorded in one night, which is an impressive accomplishment to be sure. Preserving the vociferous energy from that evening, as additional instruments and low-end tectonic swells were added to the mix, helped protect the recording's mesmeric integrity. Even with the missteps and occasional ennui, Terrestrials is a welcome merger between two insuppressible forces in the industry today, which should leave us all curious about what their next cloak-and-dagger collaboration will sound like.



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user ratings (107)
Chart.
3.3
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other reviews of this album
Alex Newton (3.5)
Though patient nearly to a fault, "Terrestrials" eventually lives up to its creators' pedigree for a...


Comments:Add a Comment 
RoundOnEndHiInMiddle
February 1st 2014


328 Comments


Guess the hiatus is over, then?

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fish.
Contributing Reviewer
February 1st 2014


22008 Comments


jom's hiatus is never over

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Gyromania
February 1st 2014


15941 Comments


great review, a little upsetting to hear though

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breakingthefragile
February 1st 2014


2961 Comments


No recommended tracks? I know the album only has 3 tracks but still.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
February 1st 2014


3448 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Interesting collaboration, but the music itself is meh. Awesome review.

Digging: Mark Lanegan - Phantom Radio

Jom
Staff Reviewer
February 1st 2014


2688 Comments


>> No recommended tracks? I know the album only has 3 tracks but still.

"Eternal Return" for sure, then "Let There Be Light", especially its latter half. "Western Horn" is fine if you want songs that could plop anywhere in the Sunn O))) discography. I was going to try comparing it to their work with Nurse With Wound and how that album just sounded like ØØ Void, v.2.0, but I decided against it.

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
February 1st 2014


6154 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Pumpin out one more review before promotions eh Jom?

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 1st 2014


10281 Comments


Lol I was seriously considering covering this earlier today

oltnabrick
February 1st 2014


31080 Comments


Boring album

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Rowan5215
February 1st 2014


27199 Comments


Garm only sings on one song?
Why even bother with it then

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Underflow
February 1st 2014


2579 Comments


Eternal Return is awesome, great track. I've yet to hear the rest, but I'm looking forward to it. Great write-up as always.

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 1st 2014


16434 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

and once again I wonder why Jom doesn't review metal more

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FiveLeavesLeft
February 2nd 2014


9838 Comments


Holy shit, a Jom review

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
February 2nd 2014


6268 Comments


Sweet, haven't seen a Jom metal review in quite a while.

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Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 2nd 2014


14726 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm liking this.

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zxlkho
February 2nd 2014


3465 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I really like this album

TheSpirit
February 2nd 2014


17927 Comments


Didn't expect this to be a Jon review. I need to hear this still

Wizard
February 3rd 2014


19513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

and once again I wonder why Jom doesn't review metal more

Took the words right out of my mouth. Wonderful review dude!

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lyzakthellama
February 4th 2014


1787 Comments


this was pretty cool, I really liked eternal return

jkr5001
February 4th 2014


23 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Cool album. "Eternal Return" is excellent. "Let There Be Light" is very nice, especially when it opens up towards the end. "Western Horn" makes me feel like I'm going to shit my pants. All of that low bass grumbling does something to my insides.



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