Album Reviews

Album Review: Sunn O))) – Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord)

By | Published on Monday 18 May 2009

Sunn O)))

Sitting in Southern Records’ Fortress Studios I was among a select few allowed to hear Sunn O)))’s new album, the fantastically named ‘Monoliths & Dimensions’, ahead of its release in May. A work much in the same vein as their previous albums, there’s no shape-shifting turn to techno or similar; it’s yet more sloth-paced drone metal, but with an expanded team of instrumentalists and vocalists, most notably a Viennese women’s choir. Never for the faint-hearted or fans of traditional pop structuralism, if you didn’t like Sunn O))) before this is unlikely to radically change your opinion. In fact, the monolith of its title could be taken as an extended metaphor for their music – a mountainous block that often takes a few blows to crack. The opening track, ‘Aghartha’, certainly feels that way, with the monotony of droning guitars that welcomes the listener acting as a warning beacon to newcomers and non-believers. But if you can make it past that initial barrier there’s a wondrous array of sounds – creaking wood, running streams, feral guitar sounds – behind gloomy spoken lyrics. Track two, ‘Big Church’, a vast soundscape that sounds like it was recorded in a cavernous cathedral, is perhaps the most musically fascinating, featuring that Viennese choir on an oddly soothing, hymnal track that includes tubular bells and viola amongst its instrumentation, and sounds utterly perfect. The third segment, ‘Hunting & Gathering’, meanwhile, is a more electronic-sounding experiment, like a John Carpenter soundtrack played backwards at times. It’s percussively exciting too, with the resonance of a booming concert bass drum sticking out after the first two pieces. By final track, ‘Alice’, I’d become sufficiently engaged to forsake note-taking or actually remember much about it at all, but a lingering memory recalls the liquefied, elongated siren of the English Horn looping throughout, and sonorously ending the album. OS

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