Monday, March 16, 2009

Sunn O)))

I'm reading: Sunn O)))Tweet this!
Death Metal has passed from being liked ironically to almost mainstream, with the advent of Metalocalypse and its band DethKlok, which actually tours. Not my cup of tea- I prefer Viking metal, Doom metal, and whatever ManoWar is classified as. Probably just... "metal." Like much music today, metal has so many subclassifications that mixing them up causes the bile to rise in the bellies of fans and hipsters eager to correct you. One of my favorite bands is in the subgenre of Doom Metal called drone metal, and they are Sunn O))). I liked the little unpronounced O))) part of their name, so I gave them a listen, and while their dark, droning tones are completely different from the artists I usually like, I found it deeply infectious.
I tried getting into Ambient for a long time; I listened to Aphex Twin and μZiq, and lots of Psychic TV. I found I preferred Stereolab. But Sunn O))) with its super-low ambient bass groans and riffs that stretch like mists out open the dreary moors is what finally captured me. They wear monk's hoods, which while sort of pretentious, I find fucking hilarious. The band consists of of Stephen O'Malley (also of Khanate and Burning Witch) and Greg Anderson (of Goatsnake). Now why didn't I know there was a band called Goatsnake?

Sunn O))) performing live in Berlin, 2006

They are one of those bands you either love or hate. They are minimalist to a great degree, but have collaborated with Boris, from Japan, to add drums and vocals. Their Domkirke live album, performed at a church in, includes chants and vocals, and a huge pipe organ for a unique experience. I'm collecting their albums on Vinyl, which is difficult because some of their earlier stuff like Black One and the White albums are out of print and had limited runs. Their songs tend to be long, sometimes the entire side of a record, so they are suited to vinyl. And they scare the shit out of my cat. Most of the time he sits next to me and stares at the speaker, other times he creeps around the apartment, trying to locate where the background noises are coming from. So Sunn is doubly entertaining for pet owners.

Their major influence was the drone band Earth, but very early Black Sabbath is why I like them most. Black Sabbath's self-titled album is still one of my all-time favorites, when they resembled King Crimson in some ways. And while Sunn O))) goes far beyond the dark and dreary tones that Sabbath helped popularize, they are true to those roots. I challenge you to listen for 5 minutes to either video- the first few will sound monotonous, but think of these in symphonic terms. The mood must be set before the music really begins, and subtlety can come even from guitarists in hooded robes whose bass drones might one day locate the infamous Brown Note.


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