It’s hard to avoid the lingering spectacle of black metal that haunts the careers of these two much respected artists. Ulver began life as a folk/black metal act who released arguably the finest raw black metal album ever in “Nattens Madrigal” before shedding their fangs and evolving into the dreamlike ambient act of today. Meanwhile drone behemoths Sunn 0))) have always lurked in the shadows, culminating in 2005’s “Black One”, a nightmarish cacophony of blackened symphonies that featured collaborations with leading black metal alumni such as Malefic of Xasthur and the most tortuous Immortal cover you will ever endure.
So it would be reasonable to assume that this new collaboration between the two giants of the underground would show an appreciation for the darkness that has served them so well in the past? Not so, as “Terrestrials”, a three track, thirty-six minute EP demonstrates with languid ease. First track ‘Let There Be Light’ slowly sprawls from your speakers like the breaking of a new dawn above some barren alien landscape with the gradually building tension exacerbated by some far off piping akin to the bizarre noises that H.P. Lovecraft described in his depictions of alien vistas. Some ominous and expectant percussion finally scatters the roiling clouds and heralds the way for the subtle menace of ‘Western Horn’ which employs lower keys and gradually shifting tones to invoke a scene of utter desolation, yet tinged with a fear that there are still eyes out there watching.
‘Eternal Return’ harks back to the sounds captured on Ulver’s 2007 masterpiece “Shadows of the Sun” with its strangulated melodies which slowly drift and fade in and out of focus in the air around you. A vaguely baroque feel lends proceedings an air of subtle sophistication until the second half of the track when the melodies quicken, some hauntingly soothing vocals emerge and the feeling that we are witnessing some ethereal lounge act whilst in the grip of a fever dream intensifies. But it is a good dream nonetheless.
Those hoping for the gut-wrenching drones of previous Sunn 0))) or the harshness of early Ulver will be left wanting, but for those interested in the musical progress of two of our most enduring underground acts will find “Terrestrials” a joy to tune in and drop out to. This is not metal by any stretch of the imagination but two natural bedfellows bumping uglies and producing something rather wondrous, and a testament to the benefits of subtlety. Well recommended.