Monoliths & Dimensions by Sunn O))) is the most sophisticated album the band has released to date. In a beautiful way, the band keeps its blackness, personified on previous albums Black One, Oracle and Dommkirke, and adds many unexpected instruments that enrich their sound. For those of you who don’t know, this is a drone metal band, and was birthed in Seattle, the best city in the US for black and doom metal.
Like a seven-member soprano/alto and alto choir. Entitled “BIG CHURCH [megszentsegteleníthetetlensegeskedeseitekert],” main men Stephen O’Malley, Greg Anderson, key M&D player Oren Ambarchi and Earth mastermind, the (arguable) founder of drone metal, and the very reason Sunn O))) exists in the first place, Seattle’s very own Dylan Carlson, all play guitars. That powerhouse, along with Sunn O))) and Earth alumni Steve Moore on Trombone and organ, Cuong Vu on trumpet, Eyvind Kang (who also arranged, with Jessika Kenney, the choir, brass and string arrangements) on viola, Rex Ritter on Korg MS20 and Mell Dettmer on Tubular Bells, create a sound that is truly unique to any musical group. BC[longcrazything] is not a song, it’s a movement in time. It’s got a shape. You can almost reach out and touch it. It vibrates.
The album starts exactly as it should–with fatass fucking guitars and beefy bass. Power chords playing in a scale so minor it’s unbelievable. This is the end of all time. It’s so low, slow and distorted you feel like you’re floating. And then, slowly, with extreme subtlety, other instruments creep in.
Let’s dissect the first of four tracks, “Aghartha.” The song starts as described above, with O’Malley and Anderson on guitar and bass, respectively. It calls to mind The Grimm Robe Demos–just the two of druids, rocking out extremely slowly. They play some slow riffs, then they drone. Then suddenly the guitar cuts out and the bass keeps going. It’s subtle. It’s dark. Attila Csihar then starts chanting, extremely slowly, his voice given extra emphasis by the loss of guitar. By the time he’s through with the first stanza, the song has been going for at least six minutes. Right after he says the last word to the very cool line, “nature’s answer to the eternal question,” a piano comes in, mimicking the bass by playing low octaves. It’s so fucking cool.
At the 14:00 mark, we’ve got no guitar and no bass, but we do have two double basses plucking strings too loose to make a tone, three conch shells blowing, a violin, viola, hydrophone, english horn, clarinet, and french horn. At 17:00, we’ve got air rushing by, water splashing, and in front of the mix, Csihar chanting in Hungarian. The song ends softly, like he’s laying a body into a splashing ocean or something and intoning a prayer. You can hear the clouds, the fog. You can see castles of doom in the distance. All becomes quiet.
Then, that fucking choir on BC[longcrazything] comes in. The transition is beautiful. This is art. This is beyond rock. It’s so fucking metal that it transcends metal. My bartending co-worker kept commenting on how spooky this song is. I guess there is a fear that this band invokes; an intimidation.
I mean, who in their right mind is going to want to listen to low, butt-sounding guitars and bass that drone on, with no drums, and playing the most minor-key music possible, bringing forth themes of eternal and impossibly huge black things, without words? Only the avant garde crowd. But that’s only how this band started–after they released a few albums and the live band grew more complex, their music started featuring instrumentation complementary to the guitars, changing the band’s direction. M&D seems to be a culmination in this movement, and I would not be surprised if, for the next album, Sunn O))) either strips the sound down to solely guitars again, or goes completely in the opposite direction and scores a movie or something with grandiose movements in drone and doom that bring forth emotions no other band can. Time will tell.
At any rate, the recording quality on this album is the best I have heard this band produce, furthering the sophistication.
Track 3, “HUNTING&GATHERING (Cydonia)” is really metal: sludgy, dirty and grotesque. The boyz jam on a riff for the ages, like something emanating from a different dimension, someplace unimaginably black and mysterious. Then battle trombones come in.
Track 4, “ALICE,” is based on a major key and flirts with jazz. It’s a softer song, another first for Sunn O))).
All the tracks feature lots of instruments that all work together in dark harmony to create a totally unique, awe-inspiring sound. For all you travelers on the avant garde metal highway, this is one stop you should make. It will test your boundaries and leave you breathless, just like The Corrs.
Release: May 2009
Label: Southern Lord Records
Avantgenre: Drone Metal
Duration: 54 Minutes
Official site: None
Review online since: 12.07.2009 / 00:47:19
01 – Aghartha
02 – Big Church
03 – Hunting&Gathering (Cydonia)
04 – Alice