If you already know what this band is about, here’s the short version of the review: You will be surprised, you will be transported, you will be lifted and you will not be disappointed. For those of you still uninitiated (or those of the initiated who still aren’t sure what to expect), read on.
First off, this album still has the churning, heavy, droning, all-encompassing bass violence we’ve come to expect from Sunn O))). The downtuned chords still drone ad infinitum. Maximum volume still yields maximum results. But what we get here is an even greater expanded sense of dynamic contrast that was alluded to on their most recent live effort, Dømkirke. Guest vocalist (and frequent Sunn O))) collaborator) Attila Csihar’s monologues come off like a Hungarian Vincent Price at his most dark and unsettling.
Some of the most remarkable moments on this album though come not from O’Malley and Anderson or their core collaborators, but from the arrangements by composer Eyvind Kang. The band expressed early on prior to the release that the goal was to allude to “the timbre of feedback,” and Kang’s arrangements capture this perfectly. The line is often blurred between real feedback coming from the Guitars and Basses and the illusory feedback provided by the strings, horns and women’s chamber choir. Of course, this expanded instrumentation does more than just that. The orchestral arrangements can be breathtaking, particularly in the album’s closing piece, “Alice,” where the chamber group and legendary trombonist Julian Priester swirl around one another to dazzling effect. It brings to mind what might happen if Aaron Copland’s “prairie nationalism” were slowed down to a crawl and successfully combined with American Free Jazz.
This album is a masterpiece of experimental composition and a testament to the beauty that is possible in the “drone metal” genre. Get this, crank it up and lose yourself.