Friday, May 3, 2019

Album Review: Sunn O))) - Life Metal

Sunn O))) has always tried the limits of the listener's endurance. Even if you are the type of person that listens to Metal Machine Music recreationally (and I have been guilty of that), a Sunn O))) project can test your patience like no other. And there is no payoff at the end. The reward is in the journey.

This is another exercise in textural abstractions and tangible vibrations. Thick waves of palpable sound washing over the listener and engulfing them in a maelstrom of distortion and feedback that you can almost feel. Of course, this is a highly experimental and atmospheric affair: this doom metal isn't based on songs but on dark aural frequencies reaching your temporal gyrus and wreaking havoc on your brain and body.

Between Sleipnir's Breaths, the opening track, features the sickly Druidic incantations of  Hildur Guðnadóttir. It's a long, droning psychotronic experience where you can almost taste the sound of metal.

Troubled Air uses unusual harmonies and chiming percussions to bring Light out of the Darkness created by the overpowering frequencies.

Aurora is a rather generic (by Sunn O)))'s standards) and rather dispensable track: it treads familiar waters and doesn't add anything to the band's canon.

But the long album closer Novae is one of the best pieces of their entire repertoire. It encompasses all of the different approaches of the band and summarises their whole raison d'être into one long atmospheric suite, sometimes almost ethereal then crushingly cacophonous.

The Sunn O))) experience requires undivided attention from the listener and clocking in at almost 70 minutes, Life Metal is a bit hard to digest. Losing the redundant Aurora could have made this LP a leaner, tighter package. But something this experimental is always going to prove divisive. Because despite the title and despite the dirty, grimy doom contained within these grooves, this isn't metal. This isn't commercial music. This isn't popular music. It's Art.

Genre: Drone Metal
Release Date: April 26th, 2019
Label: Southern Lord
Rating: 6/10

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