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  • [ Album Review : Ulver - Shadows of The Sun ]

    14. Apr. 2009, 6:07


    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
  • [ Album Review : Antimatter - Leaving Eden ]

    18. Feb. 2009, 17:59




    Leaving Eden, Antimatter's 4th studio album, presents a huge leap from its predecessors. This album marks the departure of bassist and composer Duncan Patterson (Anathema, Íon),by then much assosciated as the strong link of the brooding duo, also composed by singer and guitarist Mick Moss. The album wasn't much hyped or advertised, it came as a surprise and hit the music scene with a smashing impact unlike any of its predecessors.

    Antimatter's history is a tricky one to trace, it all began in the early 90's with Anathema, a band formed by some youngsters from Liverpool. Anathema was one of the first bands to be assosciated with the "doom metal" label, a kind of metal genre defined by a slow, brooding and heavy sound, permeated by a melancholic, bleak atmosphere and romantic lyrics.

    Anathema's sound was, in great part, a result of the joint efforts of guitarist Daniel Cavanagh and bassist Duncan Patterson. Daniel would contribute with the mellower lyrics and guitar works, and Patterson would imbue the songs with his disjointed existentialist spirit, which turned them into abstract statements on the nature of being, eternity and frailty, also reflected on his lyrics. As the band members started to drift away due to personal problems in each of their lives, the chasm between their compositions and personal touches became ever more apparent. By this time, Duncan claims in some interviews to have composed by himself most of the band's famous albums and songs, leaving the band soon after the release of his most personal work and hailed album "Alternative 4". The departure of Duncan would lead to a major change on the band's sound and direction.

    Duncan's return to the world of music came some years later, along with childhood friend Mick Moss, in the form of Antimatter. Duncan produced the albums independently, avoiding the headaches with the music labels he had on the past, and that still haunted Anathema. The band always counted with a roster of special guests, such as singer Michelle Richtfield (Dominion, Sear), that lent her voice to the trippy downtempo compositions, which came to be assosciated by the press and some fans as similar to Portishead and Massive Attack.

    Despite the positive feedback of some older die-hard Anathema fans, and some of the press, the albums didn't manage to hold the attention of their casual listeners, perhaps because of the excessive moodiness of the songs, or the open ended style of the compositions (not radio friendly). Antimatter's sounds were always more of a companion to the lyrical reflection of the duo than songs that worked by themselves, a kind of retreat to an internal dialogue with the soul. It was necessary to understand this to really dig their albums.

    Then came 2007, and along with it a promise for a new album, this time without Duncan. The fans rejoiced, but their expectations were not high. Antimatter had carved its place on the music scene thanks to Patterson's name, and many people doubted that Mick would be able to deliver a great album by himself. The truth is that Mick wasn't alone, he joined other great musicians on the task of delivering his final statement, one of these were Anathema's Daniel Cavanagh, which lent the album its powerful guitar solos, that added a larger than life voice to the inner ghosts that linger on the songs reflections.

    Leaving Eden is an excellent dark rock album, with great guitar works, powerful vocals, dense atmosphere and deep lyrics. It is an often overlooked album, even though it received rave reviews in every media it figured. The album was classified by many fans of the genre as the best or one of the best albums of 2007, and surely figured as one of the most impressive and unexpected comebacks by any band. The album alternates powerful moments (redemption, leaving eden) with some quieter, though never relaxing ones (ghosts, fighting for a lost cause).

    The album's first song, Redemption, is by far the best one on the entire cd. When Mick sings "looks like it's going to be/ another one of those rainy days again", you know the journey you're about to partake will lead towards the center of our tormented, cracked souls. Towards the ever escaping search of meaning and truth.


    bio on last.fm: Antimatter
  • Underrated Artists [ Ist part: Coil ; Joe Volk ]

    19. Feb. 2008, 10:44

    The internet evolved a great deal the last decade, music sharing survived the corporate legal inquisition of the late 90s and managed to find its place under the sun on the new millenium. The development of internet communities such as myspace, lastfm, orkut, facebook etcetera spreaded the sharing revolution around the globe in a way that even some kid in his basement could hope to achieve a cult following in iceland..

    Yet, some artists are still pretty well unknown, even for the indie audiences. The aim of this column is to talk briefly about some of the great artists I stumbled across my life. It's not by any way a complete bio on them, but more a way of spreading the word on some cool music you may not be aware of:

    Coil:


    Coil is one of those bands that influenced a lot of artists, but that are remembered only by them. They're like that "aristocrats" joke, the dirtiest joke ever created that was like a secret handshake among comedians.

    Coil dwells on the field of experimental music, their earlier albuns are regarded as industrial classics. You can even spot trent reznor wearing a shirt depicting the "scatology" cd cross on that underground documentary thing "closure" NIN released when they were the most popular band in the milky way.

    These earlier records of Coil are like a minimalistic version of skinny puppy, you can see the influences oozing from here towards the future of music (and I dont need to speculate much about which version of tainted love made marilyn manson want to give his own rendition). Songs like "Aqua Regis" from "Scatology" would point towards coil's future releases into more experimental fields, resembling Nurse With Wound stuff, but less Dada and more atmospheric. Coil would eventually influence one of the most cult bands in the experimental field nowadays (Ulver).

    This underrated band came to an end with John Balance's death after he, while drunk, fell from the stairs of his home, which marked the end of the downward spiral (pun intended) of his life.

    bio on last fm:Coil

    Joe Volk


    Joe Volk is the singer of the post rock/alternative band "Crippled Black Phoenix", which features musicians from mogwai and electric wizard. Their debut album was released last year and produced by Barrow Geoff(Portishead).

    Joe has a folk solo career, much different from CBP's experimentalims (also a lot smaller in terms of fanbase), and one cd release (Derwent Waters Saint). His whispering voice almost makes you feel the words are slipping away and vanishing in the thin air as they come out, which blends perfectly with the minimalist guitar work. His music is delicate, it soothes your soul and takes you to a place of rest. The dissonance on some tracks is really well thought off and brings an eerie feel to the calmness behind them, the soundscape is that off a train station at 3am just before it starts to rain lightly. It gives you chills, but in a good way.

    There is not a great deal of people listening to Volk out there, which is one of those mysteries the world throws at you when we're talking about such a promising artist. Be sure to check out Derwent Waters Saint

    bio on last.fm:Joe Volk