Ulver is a band from Norway playing a black-metal influenced blend of symphonic, electronic and experimental music. Sun O))) is from Seattle, America and they too fall on the dark side of metal, theirs being a sound more doom- and ambient-metal inspired. The two groups first performed together on stage some six years ago, forming an intra-connected super-group in much the same way as the Fantomas-Melvins Big Band, or other Melvins-related one-offs, like the Lustmord pairing and the interpolation of Big Business.
This three-track album has been in the making since that first meeting – borne of late-night/early-hours after-gig jamming, the three long pieces here are open-ended, comprising passages of creepy, creeping ambient swirls and dark, possibly evil tonalities. It plays then to the strengths of both bands while settling somewhere in the middle – a new found sound that is both a hybrid of the two groups and yet presents as something else altogether.
The meat of the sandwich is Western Horn, just under ten minutes of slowly building anguish. It begins with a beautiful drone that moves up through doom rattling and sawed, possibly gnawed-at loops and lopes of sound. It very slowly spirals, it crawls toward static, it feels like one of those riotous Velvet Underground all-hell-breaking-loose guitar wig-outs but in the style of one of the too-popular 800% slower rebuilds. Voices weave in and out and around the sounds, ghosts within the song. It’s perfect – so perfectly unsettling. Gloriously so.
On either side of this track sits 11-minute opener, Let There Be Light and the concluding piece, Eternal Return – the nearly quarter-hour closer. Let There Be Light slowly razors up the tension with processed trumpets giving a glimmer of the Miles Davis of In A Silent Way if cut up and slowed, stretched by Lustmord or The Haxan Cloak. It’s here, within the first few minutes, that we realise that as much as this sounds like bits of Ulver and pieces from Sunn O))) there’s been a commitment to incorporate new sounds, new textures, new treatments.
Just as this builds into Western Horn, so it is that Eternal Return seems to splinter off from it, yes – all three pieces can be excerpted, extracted from the whole but they make more sense working together as movements within a piece, it’s best to think of Terrestrials as one piece of music split into three sections. So Eternal Return slowly saws away with some strains of violin sneaking in and around the purposeful doom – it could almost be a Philip Glass rework. And then we get to the voice of Ulver’s Kristoffer Rygg. Suddenly we have a moody post-punk song sitting inside the rubble that’s been carved off this sound-mountain – the lurch of music leading up to it making it all the more fitting, fulfilling when it finally comes, when the judgment day within this music arrives.
It’s sublime – and you could frighten the shit out of yourself up late at night with this as your only friend in the house. What’s more, that experience is so good you might just want to loop this album and listen to almost nothing else until the next instalment. Fingers crossed.