Ulver
Shadows of the Sun


4.5
superb

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
December 9th, 2015 | 32 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Ulver's bleakest record... and among their best.

The album cover for Shadows of the Sun might have come from a picture in Natural History Magazine, but I can't think of a more fitting image to represent such a melancholic piece of art. Since abandoning their black metal roots, Ulver have created a great deal of forward-thinking electronic and ambient music that completely contradicts the first phase of their career (sans Kveldssenger) by abandoning metal altogether. However, one thing has never changed: Ulver's music is fucking dark. No matter what genre they attempt with each passing release, the bleak atmosphere of their work is always something that sticks out, much like Agalloch or Corrupted. However, Shadows of the Sun managed to go the extra mile, particularly by stripping down their sound from the bombast and general loudness that pervaded much of Blood Inside. In fact, this was the first record by the band since Kveldssenger to be so low-key and somber... and it worked beautifully.

One of Ulver's greatest strengths is that they truly know how to create a musical setting and mood, and Shadows of the Sun may be the best example of this. A bevy of instruments come together to enhance the album's variety, such as a trumpet, theremin, cellos, violins/violas, and various guitars; however, it all comes together with the powerful vocals of frontman Garm. It's hard to believe that this guy once performed primarily with black metal shrieks (mainly with Nattens Madrigal), because his somber vocal work here is simply incredible to experience. The way his performances lift songs such as the title track and the Black Sabbath cover "Solitude" is worth the price of admission alone, but the highlights of his vocals come with the layered harmonies he brings to certain tracks. "Eos," which is already a superb song because of its subtle variation and use of minimalism, features some of the best vocal harmonies in modern music. Garm said he was influenced by the harmonies of The Beach Boys for much of his singing on the record, and it's interesting to hear him create such dark soundscapes from the aspects of an often cheery band.

Beyond this, what I love about Shadows of the Sun is how scaled back everything is. It seems as though the members were incredibly selective about the instruments used here, especially regarding the limited percussion. In fact, songs such as "Eos" and "Like Music" have no drumming or electronic beats whatsoever; they are only propelled by piano, strings, synthesizers, and such. The songs that do have percussion, like the title track and especially "All the Love," create busy drum work around repetitive and droning rhythms to convey a lot of variety beneath the soft dynamics. The entire record truly feels like a cohesive experience, but the clean and warm production ensures that the album is best heard through headphones; in fact, despite how bleak and depressing the whole thing is, the music is surprisingly warm and comforting at the same time. Perhaps it's because of Garm's soothing vocal melodies or the uniquely tangible tone of the piano, but I feel as though the production is still the biggest reason. Every instrument feels as though it's enveloping you in each distinct atmosphere, and there's almost a vintage ambience to it all. In the end, however, what cements Shadows of the Sun as one of Ulver's best albums is its consistency. The record knows what it is at all times; there aren't many surprises or weird frills, but for a record this dark and low-key, I'd say that's a good thing. The atmosphere is consistent, the ambient instrumentation is consistent, the vocal work is consistent, and yet every track has something different to offer. Want a more instrumentally-involved piece with percussion (albeit slow percussion)? "All the Love" and the title track. Want something more droning and minimalist? "Eos" and "Funebre." Want a lot more piano work? "Like Music," "Vigil," and "Solitude." When you get down to it, Shadows of the Sun is just an amazing piece of work. It's emotional, unique, beautiful, and well-composed. If you enjoy quiet and somber music, you owe it to yourself to buy this. Now.



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user ratings (1027)
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
Trey STAFF (4)
Ulver's excellent use of subtle melodies and restraint results in their best non-metal album of thei...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2015


21425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It's been a while since I've reviewed something, but I've been revisiting this a lot lately and decided to do a write-up :]

JS19
December 9th 2015


7777 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yes.

KingdomOfTyrant
December 9th 2015


801 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

masterpiece indeed

Gyromania
December 9th 2015


37226 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

masterpiece

Artuma
December 9th 2015


32779 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

pure garbage

TalonsOfFire
Emeritus
December 9th 2015


20970 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Pos'd

Essence
December 9th 2015


6701 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

probably by favorite ulver after svidd neger

Ocean of Noise
December 9th 2015


10970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice write-up Soccer. This is a beautiful record.

JS19
December 9th 2015


7777 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Why would anyone's favourite Ulver be Svidd Neger wtf

Ocean of Noise
December 9th 2015


10970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

[2]

Artuma
December 9th 2015


32779 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

svidd neger is really great though

JS19
December 9th 2015


7777 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Every Ulver release is at least good : )

Artuma
December 9th 2015


32779 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

that's true

Essence
December 9th 2015


6701 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

because i like it a lot. so what?

Atari
Staff Reviewer
December 10th 2015


27993 Comments


nice review Brendan, still haven't heard this one

TalonsOfFire
Emeritus
December 10th 2015


20970 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

ofc you've heard Kveldssanger given what a neofolk nut you are haha, you gotta check this out though Atari it's even better.

Koris
Staff Reviewer
December 10th 2015


21425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks guys. Yeah, I still prefer this to Kveldssenger, although marginally. They're both amazing

KingdomOfTyrant
December 10th 2015


801 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Every Ulver release is at least great*

Koris
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2015


21425 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Pretty much

Atari
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2015


27993 Comments


enjoying so far, that black Sabbath cover is pretty cool



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