Thursday, November 03, 2005

SunnO))) "Black One" review

as published in the November issue of the Ann Arbor Paper

Remember that old Cheech & Chong bit about the guy who played Black Sabbath at 78 speed and saw god? Have you ever wondered what would happen if that idea was reversed, and you played Sabbath at 16 speed? Instead of a stairway to heaven, are you subjected to a glimpse into the underworld? Guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson of SunnO))) have been seeking an answer to that question since 1998 when armed with their guitars, stacks of vintage Sunn amps, head to toe black hooded cloaks, and a bong they recorded The Grimmrobe Demos. Since then they have been modern day prophets of doom, unleashing album after album of droning, skull-crushing, low-end riffs, usually augmented with guest vocalists and musicians. As their website states, “The powers that be contracted the heaviest low end destructors SunnO))) to create the most subharmonic drone recording ever put to tape. A test impossible for most mortals. Prepare your sound system!” Aptly titled “Black One”, their sixth album on Southern Lord records is also the darkest so far. This release is denser and more focused than their previous two albums (White 1 and White 2) which explored more ambient territory with keyboards and percussion. “Black One” is a return to bleak,atmospheric droning and gargantuan guitar chords that plumb the bottom of the spectrum of audible sound.

“It Took The Night To Believe” features a decelerated Norwegian black metal riff atop a steadily droning rhythm joined with an impossibly deep vocal track that sounds like it’s issuing from a crack leading to the earth’s molten core.
As on their past albums, guest “vokillists” (this time Wrest and Malefic of Lurker of Chalice and Xasthur, respectively) articulate the lyrics. The vocals range from deep, demonic, unintelligible invocations on “It Took The Night To Believe” to shrill banshee wails on “CandleGoat”. At times the vocals can be a bit over the top, blurring the line between comically absurd and geniunely frightening. Malefic goes so far as to be sealed in a coffin and placed in a hearse while recording the vocals to closing track “Bathory Erzsebet”, his claustrophobia adding a palpable sense of terror to his screaming.
SunnO))) is quite a departure from your average heavy metal band. In a field flooded with unoriginal and just plain untalented acts, they have won over a few anti-metal friends of mine with their willingness to experiment and not be imprisoned by the boundaries of any genre. “Black One” is an excellent accompanitment to the days getting shorter, the falling leaves, and the jack-o-lanterns rotting on your porch. Play this album as a fond farewell to the last vestiges of warm weather and prepare for a long dark winter.

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