Do we really need to do the whole introduction to ULVER's storied history, from its black metal beginnings and the vicissitudes that followed, as well as vocalist Garm's transcendent artistry? Pick any number of reviews and you will surely start with an opening paragraph that serves as a mini-biography. The matter at hand is that ULVER defies comparison and continues to do so with "Shadows of the Sun". I know it, you know it, we all know it. Well, most of us anyway. And for those that are unaware of ULVER's latter-day works, do not expect anything even remotely metallic. "Shadows of the Sun", in particular, is the height of mellowness, which does indeed recall, if vaguely, the PINK FLOYDs and the NICK CAVEs of the world. Just don't get stuck in the "for fans of" sections of biographies and press releases, as the aforementioned acts can only be used as broad starting points. ULVER is a truly unique entity.
While the exceptional "Blood Inside" explored a range of textures and atmospherics, though remained light, breezy, and chilling, "Shadows of the Sun" begins somberly and remains so throughout, employing more subtle coloration and impeccable placement of impacting (but still low-key) rhythms. The overall effect could be likened to taking one's place in a favorite chair, closing the eyes, and drifting off into a dream-like state, more than likely induced by a temporary alteration of brain chemistry.
I do have a slight preference for the shape shifting offered by "Blood Inside". Then again, ULVER has made a name for itself by doing anything but making the same album twice. The beauty of "Shadows of the Sun" is created in large part through what may very well be Garm's most enchanting vocal work to date. A nuanced whisper, a hushed tone, a mellifluous note all have their place and the result in each case is chilling, yet stimulating.
It is the pop-based melody of "All the Love" with its light percussion and steamy saxophone, the sonic float of "EOS", and the shimmering keyboards and classy piano of the title track (also one of the more accessible tracks). It is the passion in the sparse vocals and stunning saxophone lines of "Let the Children Go" and the bubbling bass and lightly strummed guitar of the sensational cover of BLACK SABBATH's "Solitude", or the musical equivalent of a cold wind on "Funebrae". It is the magic that ULVER creates on "Shadows of the Sun" that seeps through the pores and drowns the soul in melancholic grace. It is why the act stands alone.