Sunn has always been more than just the drone of their guitars. Their early works might have represented just those simple elements in their purest form, however, it’s clear to me they’ve had higher artistic aspiration with every release of theirs. From working with Japanese noise legend Merzbow, recording abstracted covers of black metal standards and incorporating spoken word passages, what I find remarkable about the band is their ability to grab your attention with the ideas they employ within the stark framework of their compositions. 2005’s “Black One” took their progression a couple steps further, with less emphasis on guitars and more on constructing a bleak atmosphere out of minimalist electronics and wind effects. The result was, in my opinion, their best work.
Until now. My first reaction was more invitational than off-putting. Not that this is alienating music by any right but there was a newfound warmth and vibrancy to the sounds here. The band themselves have stated that this album isn’t just “Sunn with strings” and they couldn’t be more right. The first piece has to be heard to be believed. It doesn’t get more visceral than that. I just started imagining ancient buildings, dilapidation, stinging cold and malicious men in dark robes. The second piece (I hesitate calling these “songs” in any traditional sense) hit me right in the gut. Sprawling chords fused with the most haunting of minor key vocal choirs makes its ten minute run-time feel too brief. By this time I’m convinced this is their finest work to date and by the time the album is over when the guitars have faded into a lulling sonic sphere of brass, bells and even a harp and it’s the most serene moment to be found on just about anything I’ve heard in the last few years I just have to say, this is amazing. It takes a certain measure of talent to fill you with dread one moment and peace the next. Sunn O ))) have this talent. I need to see them live!