Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

August 31, 2012

Sunn O))) ~ Monoliths & Dimensions

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: experimental, drone metal, black metal, doom metal
Label: Southern Lord Records
Year: 2009
Home: Seattle

Members: Greg Anderson ~ guitar
Stephen O'Malley ~ guitar

Guests: Oren Ambarchi ~ bass/cymbals/gong/guitar/oscillator/keyboards
Dylan Carlson ~ bass/guitar
Attila Csihar ~ keyboards/vocals
Keith Lowe ~ double bass
Stuart Dempster ~ conch shell/dung chen/trombone
Steve Moore ~ conch shell/dung chen/trombone/keyboards
Julian Priester ~ conch shell/trombone
Mell Dettmer ~ hydrophone/tubular bells
Brad Mowen ~ percussion/b. vocals
Rex Ritter, Eric Walton ~ keyboards
Hans Teuber ~ clarinet/flute
Josiah Boothby ~ French horn
Taina Karr ~ English horn/oboe
Cuong Vu ~ trumpet
Timb Harris ~ violin
Eyvind Kang ~ viola
Melissa Walsh ~ harp
Daniel Menche, Jessika Kenney, Joe Preston ~ b. vocals

Sunn 0))) is a tough band to get the ears around & they surely won't deny that. Their drone metal creation is for those that want to break from traditional musical templates & move into something more hypnotic, non-melody oriented & outer-worldly. It's not for everyone. But, I've found a secret to moving one's appreciation, understanding & enjoyment of the duo up a notch - high volume. I wouldn't normally recommend such a cliche, & I don't think I ever have before, but it's absolutely true & this, what I consider their best album outside of their Altar collaboration with Boris, is an album for audiophiles who like nuance. It's also shows the band at what I consider their most creative & most breath-taking. As their most guest spangled album it's more than just a long droning chunk of guitar & bass distortion, but different instruments slide between each other like Phillip Glass or John Adams in a way that will be completely missed at low volume. I say this from listening to this album to write this review. At first I heard a bunch of guitar distortion with some male & female vocals. It sounded like every other Sunn 0))) album I've heard, which is about half of them. I like lots of shimmering sounds & vocals popping up, which is why I like Altar. This is not that different I realized, but you have to go to it instead of it coming to you. The key was that I looked up the list of players & was startled to see trombones, conch shells, percussion, keyboards, horns, strings & tubular bells in the roster. I couldn't recall hearing any of this. So, having already heard a hiss of distortion under the guitars, perhaps deliberate or perhaps not, I decided to turn up the volume a bit. I wanted to hear the sounds lower in the mix. Suddenly I heard horns lines I previously thought were guitar bits. I suddenly amazed by the subtle changes going on behind the vocals, how one sound melted into another, let alone how I couldn't distinctly recognize some of the instruments. What I thought was a long drone was made up of a lot of pieces & instruments. It's truly symphonic. This is what makes Sunn 0))) distinct from other drone metal bands. It's more than just bleeding distortion or music taken to the extreme end of a listener's patience. It's a wall of sound but its not a solid wall but full of windows & doors that just aren't apparent on first or casual listen. The irony is that I do my own share of ambiant music & wonder if listeners get all the little nuances I either accidently or deliberately create. Probably not, as I myself now give witness to. I have to say I'm often lost on exactly how Sunn O))) create their music. How much of it is live & how much studio effects & cutting & pasting? The album gets the award for longest song title - "Big Church (Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért)" -that means far more than the English translation gives. You don't even want to hear this pronounced. It's Hungarian, if you don't know, a language few are probably going to recognize written & its grammar rules do indeed create a word this monsterous. The common joke among foreigners is that it sounds like Klingon. It looks like that. It's a language I used to speak as I lived there, so I'm not showing off my linguistical arrogance here. The other songs are more vocally manageable: "Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)," "Alice" & "Aghatha". This album is often the one many recommend for Sunn O))) at their creative peak. I would concur. Though, I didn't think it was particularly dark, or as dark as earlier releases. Or maybe, I've heard too much dark music to rate this of the same feeling anymore.

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