maximum volume yields maximum results

SUNN 0))) garb up like druids before they get onstage. There are black cowls, concealing faces. There are black robes, billowing with the promise of eldritch mysteries. And black guitars. These guitars are eldritch too.

When I saw them play last month, the venue was too small for their amps. Too many amps for safety. I stopped counting at twenty, due to feelings of extreme trepidation. Big, square, looming amps, spilling onto the concert floor. Amps like doorways. Banged-up, aged, dark, individually customized, meticulously arranged. A Golgotha of amps, and stacked two or three feet higher than the members of this band, although SUNN 0))) stand damn tall.

These amps, ultimately, are the instruments here. The vibrating strings are only source material, and the litany of effect pedals aren't there to alter the tones so much as purify them. What SUNN 0))) bring into this world is closer to sculpture than music -- an amorphous, bleak, rolling visitation that shudders every part of you. The sort of nightmare earmarked for the deaf Beethoven, or maybe the more nihilistic ancient Buddhists, if they're not ready for the proof of their teachings to reverberate their own bowels.

It's not their craft that makes memories of this show so clear, although the craft was ample -- they shape their warped, droning lines with a precision and focus that's uncanny for a band with such loose structures. It's not the tinnitus, either, which has almost started to go away. (I've seen dozens of shows, and SUNN 0))) were the first band to convince me of the necessity for good earplugs.)

What blew my mind was simply the force of it -- sound is vibration, we know this, but this fucking airquake was what gave me a visceral understanding. A SUNN 0))) concert exceeds the safe operational capacity of flesh. It is hard to breathe, because your lungs are moving at right angles away from in and out. It is hard to be calm, because you can feel your eardrums fluttering. It is the feeling of being filled. You can scream, and not hear anything of it, but that's not even the good part. It's that you can't even tell you are screaming by the feeling in your throat. Your throat is moving regardless.

maximum volume yields maximum results

SUNN 0))), or rather the human incarnation of this elemental clusterfuck, consists of the guitarists Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley. The band is on Southern Lord Records (founded by the two musicians themselves), although they have released albums on Hydra Head and Rise Above Records.

Their name, simply pronounced Sun, originates with the logo on their favored brand of Sunn amps. The red SUNN is coupled with a stark red depiction of a circular sun emanating three waves of radiation; the 0))) is simply this picture brought into text.

They have collaborated with numerous artists; most notably, Japanese noise-magus Masami Akita contributed electronic textures to a pair of tracks on Flight Of The Behemoth, and Julan Cope performed epic poetry on a track for White1. The black-metal vocalist known as Malefic (of Xasthur) contributed vocals for Black One while sealed within a coffin in the back of a hearse. You may be aware of something cooler than this. I fucking well am not.

Although the band is primarily instrumental (when vocals enter the songs, they are typically drawn-out and unintelligible), SUNN 0))) provide copious liner notes in lieu of actual lyric sheets. Notably, The Grimm Robe Demos featured eight dense pages of Lovecraftian poetry inspired by the album. Their graphic design is a rewarding artistic experience even when separated from the band's music; frequently the intricate, mesmeric visuals are drawn by guitarist Stephen O'Malley. Especially considering that MP3 encoding can't do justice to this band's immense bottom-end, these are albums you need to own.

maximum volume yields maximum results

When the band was formed in the middle nineties, their main artistic direction was tribute to the seminal -- and, at the time, almost anomalous -- drone-doom band Earth. In the five years since their first official release, they have been a primary guiding force in the tiny genre, helping it attain an unforeseen legitimacy among both music critics and the sometimes-xenophobic metal underground. As well as solidifying the style -- their influence on drone-doom is comparable to Sabbath's on metal as a whole -- their many albums have consistently expanded its boundaries, demonstrating a marked experimental tendency and restless spirit.

At the time of their first recording, 1998's Grimm Robe Demos (only released in 2000), SUNN 0))) were a queasily slow doom-metal band; their songwriting, although drumless, was recognizably based around distorted guitar riffs. Understanding this style of contemplative, repetitive metal had been done dozens of times, they decided to drift off into space instead. With their next recording, 00 Void, they began to explore the possibilities of doom as an ambient form -- but with such walled distortion behind the music, it's ambience impossible to ignore. By the time they recorded Flight Of The Behemoth, they were riding on nothing but solar wind, but they brought a unique immediacy -- that dark horsepower which belongs to metal alone -- to a style previously marked by frigid abstractions.

It might be apt to compare their influence to Napalm Death, the first grindcore band, whose genius was in distending metal's structure to a grotesque, near-unlistenable conclusion. SUNN 0))), however, demonstrate that the essence of metal can be separated from any structure whatsoever. And where Napalm Death released one seminal album before imitators overtook them, SUNN 0))) have consistently helped lead their genre. Keep in mind that Napalm Death's repercussions are still echoing through metal, nearly twenty years on -- and Napalm Death were never as loud as this.

LPs

2000 studio, demo -- The Grimm Robe Demos
2000 studio -- 00 Void
2002 studio -- Flight Of The Behemoth
2003 studio -- White1
2004 studio -- White2
2004 live -- Live White
2004 live -- The Libations Of Samhain
2005 studio -- Black One

EPs

2003 -- remix -- Veils It White
2004 -- live -- Live Action Sampler
2004 -- remix -- Cro-Monolithic Remixes For An Iron Age
2005 -- studio -- Candlewolf Of The Golden Chalice



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