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ln lieu of a review: SUNN O)))’s Monoliths & Dimensions

May 17, 2009

sunncover

Given New York magazine’s profile of SUNN O))) upon the occasion of their Monoliths & Dimensions release, it’s fair to say that Doom, a formerly peripheral metal subgenre, has mainstreamed. A slight discomfort arose in this, and not just in recognizing myself in the predictable demographic slot of SUNN fans (musically omnivorous, mid-thirties, not seemingly a very metal dude). It’s the overprotective feeling fans get when their objects of devotion get that dreaded syndrome known as “exposure.” They’re going to get it all wrong, the avaricious part of the brain says. They may listen, but they won’t really hear.

I had the pleasure of previewing this album in a recording studio in DUMBO a few weeks ago. My professional interest in SUNN currently revolves around a piece I’m writing for Print magazine about contemporary heavy metal design, which will feature the graphic work of SUNN cofounder Stephen O’Malley, Isis and Hydra Head records frontman Aaron Turner, and designer/illustrator (and much more) Seldon Hunt. And though I no longer review music or profile bands, it was a music journalist preview, and old habits die hard. In lieu of an actual review, here are some impressionistic notes I took there as the multivalent and very loud currents of sound emanated from the well-calibrated studio monitors. The album’s nearly hour-long duration collapsed, and I entered an ambiguously deranged headspace. References below include: SOMA = Stephen O’Malley, Attila = Attila Csihar, former Mayhem vocalist and SUNN collaborator, and references to old-school industrial bands Coil, Laibach, and Skinny Puppy (surprising associations which SUNN fans may not appreciate). The notes below are numbered one through four corresponding to the album’s four tracks: Aghartha, Big Church [megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért], Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia), Alice—yes I just cut and paste those titles:

8 dudes and one girl waiting for doom.
Richard Serra as front over art. SOMA really going for the art
1. —midchord eruption like a lawnmower engine
chord progression actually faster than usual
Attila vocals from outer space. I think he said “Satan.” What other background chaos can come up against the guttural wall than the squealy-mouse running pick on guitar string effect?
-Laibach-
It’s turning into Scatology-era Coil, even Skinny Puppy atmospheres (“Reclamation”). Industrial undertones-noise
The horns, what are the horns?
-panicky @ that point
2. choral! Then the chord eruption-
two punctuated silences with bell. Abrupt end, just falls off a cliff.
3. like lo-fi SUNN coming over bad reception until-
horns very Fairlight–Coil, textures like “Cathedral in Flames”
* coming together on this one *
4. Modern classical tradition–horns dissolve, harp, plucked strings

Maybe that comprises a review after all. For more go check out interview transcripts from the world’s best music magazine, The Wire.

Earlier: The look of metal today

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