Welcome back to Rainbows in the Dark, our section devoted to covering all that which lies adjacent to or outside the realm of heavy metal. Today, I’m extremely excited to bring you my thoughts on an album that has been captivating me for weeks now: Ulvesang‘s The Hunt, a brilliant and moving work of dark folk music.
For those not in the know, Ulvesang are the Nova Scotian duo of Alex Boyd and Ana Dujakovic (who some may know from atmospheric black metallers Astral Path). With relatively (at least to my knowledge) fanfare, the band released a self-titled debut album in 2015 that stands to this day as an all-time favorite album of mine. A chance discovery through the font of underground music goodness that is Black Metal and Brews led me to Ulvesang shortly after its release, and from the first note I was completely under its spell. The way the songs managed to be both simple in their presentation yet wholly emotionally engrossing was, and still is, unlike anything I had ever heard before, swaying and lilting and breathing with a life of their own. Realistically, I knew that if the band recorded something that sounded exactly the same as a follow-up to that album it would have a lessened impact, but I was a little worried that tinkering with a formula that produced something so near and dear to my heart would leave me underwhelmed.
I should have had more faith; after multiple listens to The Hunt, my favorite parts of the album turned out to be the new and unexpected elements that the duo have augmented their sound with. Bodhran is used to give the songs a rhythmic backbone, glockenspiel and electric guitar harmonics play airy melodies that take Ulvesang’s compositions to new heights, and “The Truth” sees Alex Boyd sing written lyrics for the first time. Yet even through all these changes, Ulvesang still maintain the backbone of wistful and melancholic melody that keeps me completely enthralled. This album has been my constant companion through early morning walks to the train to work, and getting to dig into its many facets over time, I find something new hidden in these songs to get excited about every time.
This is a band that has outclassed themselves in every way, pushing their sound in new directions while keeping the core of what they do best intact, and in the process cementing themselves as wholly unique among their peers. The Hunt is, without a doubt, going to be my album to beat this year.