Album Review: Sunn O))) – Monoliths And Dimensions

July 13, 2009

O)))

Concept: Two years in the making, the metal band’s latest effort cooperates with a gigantic cast of instruments and composer Eyvind Kang. The result is four works intended to create auditory illusions through experimentation with timbre.

Sound: The first four and a half minutes of track one, I wasn’t feeling anything. It’s a fat old guitar chord fuzzing and rotting, changing every twenty seconds or so, not so much noise as the slowest metal song ever. With twelve minutes left, I had to wonder where everything was: the multiple double basses, the conch shells, the hydrophone, the viola, the clarinet, the english horn. Five minutes and sixteen seconds in the guitar chord cuts out briefly, and there’s something in the background. I take the band’s recommendation. I grab the noise-cancelling headphones, plug them in, and turn the volume up as loud as it will go. Holy cats. The album cover is by minimalist artist Richard Serra. Is it a planet? Is it an eye staring into the sea? There is a vast depth of tones in this album, and over time it becomes difficult to determine what key the pieces are really in and whether some of its sounds are being made by instruments, feedback, or the power of suggestion, opening an absorbing delirium akin to Merhige’s Begotten, an exquisite psychological pressure.

Lyrics: Something Hungarian. I didn’t really notice.

Quick And Dirty: It’s hard to imagine drone or noise music producing anything better than this. That is to say, even if you think noise music is a bunch of bunk, this is far and away as good as it gets. (♦♦♦♦♦)

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