by Ian Simmons
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I get vexed by bands which give themselves unpronounceable symbol-based names: Eighties Icelandic popsters Freur were represented by a squiggle, and who can forget The Artist Formerly Known as Prince? Another such is Sunn0))). I mean, are they 'Sun', 'Sun-Oh', or are some as yet unimagined linguistic gymnastics required just to pronounce their name? Judging by the announcements at a live show, they are probably just 'Sun', but sunny is exactly what they are not – their press release talks about “obsessing over making the overall ambience of this as bleak cinematic; crushing and devoid of light as only they possibly could”, which might be grammatically suspect, but gives the general picture. They wear cowled robes too.
However, I have been rather enjoying this. Essentially, they produce monolithic guitar drone, ably assisted here by guest Oren Ambarchi, who has an excellent track record when it comes to giving good drone. Tracks like 'Cursed realms (of the winterdemons)' and 'Bathory Erzsebet' rumble on with impressive intent, with great sliding planes of roaring noise sliding past each other, intersecting and occasionally colliding.
Their mesmerising presence is only slightly undermined when they turn their guest vocalists loose. The delightfully-handled Wrest (of Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice and Twilight) and Malefic (from Xastur) hiss, growl and moan across a number of the tracks in fine menacing form, but come over as, well, a bit silly, when compared to the sonic effectiveness of the guitar wall. Apparently, in order to get this effect, they went to the trouble of finding a Cadillac hearse and a coffin, they then locked Malefic in the coffin, put it in the hearse (not forgetting a microphone) and recorded his vocal from in there. Not that you’d know from the result. I would have been more impressed and interested if they’d buried him for a day or two, then done the vocal; as it is, just leaving him in the truck seems a cop-out.
For a band that is so successful at creating impressive experimental dronescapes, the black metal posturing is unnecessary; it only detracts from their achievement. It might up their sales among the disenfranchised 14-year-old goth/Columbine-wannabe market, but it does nothing for their position as musical innovators. Next time, up the guitar-roar and dump the occult camping - cowls are so 1983. Nonetheless, I have been playing this a lot and thoroughly enjoying it, and will certainly be hunting down some more Sunn0))), however it is pronounced.