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Black One

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  • DISCLAIMER: This review may not be helpful in determining whether to purchase this particular Sunn album.

    I saw Sunn live last night in Vancouver touring on this album and it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

    Not so much a “rock” or even music show… the closest I could come to accurately describing it is “performance art” and even that’s way off the mark. Last night my body did things at Sunn’s behest I never knew it could. By far these guys are the LOUDEST live band I have ever seen… no idle statement. Instead of buying one of their albums, I decided to go see their show since I found out about it just weeks after discovering this band.

    5 figures emerging cloaked in black, and the DROOOOOONE starts as those beautiful Sunn tube amps begin to hummmmmmmmmmmmm… Before you know it the first (possibly only) note of the show unfurls over the audience like a steamroller. It’s like watching the Melvins (sans Dale Crover) at 1/4 speed, as one of the guitarists’ hands arches up to the ceiling as a frame of reference for the rest of the band to keep the “beat” (as if 5 or 6 BPM constitutes a beat)… then comes crashing down in unison.

    I kid you not, they played some notes last night that made it very difficult to breathe. Thankfully the tension was relieved 15 seconds or so later when the note changed and my chest was pounded slightly less intensely. One fun and interesting phenomenon I noticed was that whenever I exhaled my lips would vibrate against each other no matter how hard I tried to stop it.

    It’s not clear to me if the low-frequency chords or the sequence thereof signifies something esoteric, but one gets the sense that there is a method to what this band does. Picture the deafening sound of silence in the void of space, ever pulsing, stretching and dilating until it threatens to pull you apart… somehow it is as warm and soothing as it is visceral and frightening. This ain’t your father’s progressive metal.

    I will say this: NEVER before have I seen members of the audience place their heads against the amps at a show. It was not an isolated incident either, at first I thought it was one joker with no regard for his own hearing, but then it happened again… and AGAIN. As loud as Sunn are, when it was all over and I walked out of the venue, there was no painful ringing in my ears, no shrill whine of damaged hearing. Kind of ironic that the band who put on the LOUDEST show of my life also barely registered on the permanent hearing damage scale.

    Are they a real band or a promo/demo “act” for Sunn amps? It’s hard to tell when your skull is shaking so violently. Two things are for sure:

    1) I WILL see them again next time they roll through town.

    2) I MUST have all their albums.

    Posted on January 12, 2010