There’s nothing wrong with being a critic and being a fan of the bands you cover. It’s foolish to think this is something that doesn’t happen all the time anyway, but I feel like there’s this separation some people think takes place when you write about music that you can’t equally express fandom and have your favorites.
But that doesn’t mean that critical senses don’t kick in even in the cases when one of your favorite bands puts out a release. I usually tend to overthink those because I want to be fair and say how I really feel about the music instead of letting my devotion to the band take over. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that at this site. So we’re in doubly strange territory today because I’m bringing to you not one, but two bands that I follow and whose music I collect. Needless to say, it’s been an interesting past few weeks I’ve spent with today’s record, and reading other people’s reaction to said collection has been as interesting as the time I’ve spent with it.
I’d be lying if I said chills didn’t go directly down my spine when I read that drone kings Sunn 0))) and black-metal-pioneers-turned-cinematic-dreamers Ulver were combining for a joint effort, collaborating together on a new album “Terrestrials.” Immediately, my mind started to wander, imaging what these two creative forces would do together, as one unit, and if it would meet my own personal expectations?
Honestly, it took some time to understand the album and to filter out my preconceived notions of the thing, but the more I visit, the more it takes me over. I’ve subsequently used the music for helping me in situations of meditation and even when I need to even out for writing or other creative endeavors, so it has had value for me beyond just being a record matching up two bands I admire greatly. So this record was richer for me that I expected. Some of that could mean I accept the record more because I admire and deeply understand each band, but the heart also will tell you if what you’re hearing isn’t reaching you. And mine has done nothing but pump blood forcefully every moment I devote to this record.
Turns out the seeds were planted for “Terrestrials” several years ago, after Sunn 0)))–Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley–played their 200th show in Olso, Norway, when they teamed up with Ulver in Crystal Canyon studio and created an improvisational piece that ended up being the first track on the album “Let There Be Light,” a song that feels like the first strains of morning opening up and spilling across the land. Noises rise up, horns greet them, guitars simmer under the surface, and sounds squeal, setting up a cloud of drone. Later in the track, drums kick in, setting in motion the final sequence that brings all of the song’s elements back together, letting ominous strains bleed into the setting and take the song to its conclusion.
While “Let There Be Light” feels more like an Ulver-influenced song sonically, “Western Horn” is decidedly darker and more of the Sunn 0)))-style low-end doom and drone spill in and blacken the surroundings. There is heavy static and buzzing, the bass feels like a demon gaining power and getting ready for strangulation, and guitars rise up and match the noises that are ringing out and preparing to deafen you. Strange rattling erupts, and the song’s final moments are eerie and haunting, with a clean, psychedelic washout. The finale “Eternal Return,” a musically palindromic cut, does a nice job melding both bands’ influence, with shimmery noise, foggy smoke emerging from the ground, thick string sections adding texture and beauty, and dark interplay between the two bands. Organs cause bone chills, keys zap around like lasers, and Ulver vocalist Kristoffer Rygg offers the only singing on the record, conjuring ancient Greece, Egypt, and other Biblical lands, giving the cut a warm David Gilmour (vocally) feel to the composition. It’s a dream-inducing, spiritually transcendent cut that puts the perfect cloudy finish on this amazing collaboration.
This is not bound to be a record that pleases all of the fans of both bands, particularly those of Sunn 0))) because it’s not a thick, devastating piece their listeners have come to expect. But look beyond that, branch out, and allow your mind to wander with these two incredible forces. They have conjured something magical that goes beyondpast each bands’ headspaces and explores new universes. It might take a while for it to make sense with you or align with your emotions, but if you put in the time and really let this wash over you, chances are good you also will find a record that’s more than just 35 minutes of music, but instead of a companion for your own intellectual, personal journey you take in your mind.
For more on Sunn 0))), go here: http://sunn.southernlord.com/
For more on Ulver, go here: http://www.jester-records.com/ulver/ulver.html
To buy the album, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/store
For more on the label, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/