Sunn O))) - Life Metal review

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Band: Sunn O)))
Album: Life Metal
Release date: April 2019

01. Between Sleipnir's Breaths
02. Troubled Air
03. Aurora
04. Novae

Death Metal is sooooo last year, now Life Metal is trending! Get on with the times, buckos!

Sorry for my horrible attempt at a pun. But I just had to.

Anyway, you're probably already familiar with drone titans Sunn O))) and you either think that they're boring hacks or you "get it". No, Life Metal won't change your mind. But assuming you're already a drone fan, you may have noticed that Sunn O))) had quite a weird last 10 years, ever since they've hit their absolute creative peak with the colossal Monoliths & Dimensions, after which it seemed like they were unable to make a record that wasn't a collaboration, some of which were great, some of which were harder to get into, but once they finally managed to released a solo record, Kannon, it was a big let down. So they've been silent for a while and now we're gonna get two Sunn O))) records. What gives?

One of the gripes a lot of people had with Kannon was how awful the production and mixing was by Sunn O))) standards, with a lot of layers being too buried in the mix. On the helm of the sound gathering here is Steve Albini, which has completely eradicated the issues, and if there's anyone to thank for how great Life Metal sounds compared to other records, it's him. Because even if Life Metal is a lot simpler and less layered than Monoliths & Dimensions, there are quite some additional ones other than the guitars which give the record some nuance. To my initial disappointment, there is no Attila Csihar here, but you'll find cellos and vocals by Hildur Guðnadóttir of múm, some bass and pipe organs, and moog by honorary third member TOS Nieuwenhuizen.

It obviously takes a lot of patience to appreciate how these layers interact with one another, as there are great lengths of time where it feels like nothing happens, which makes for some unimpressive listening if listened with the wrong mindset and at too low a volume. Sound itself is vibration and it goes away fast, you'll only hear it for a really short period of time, so I just see their music as turning the concept of limited sound on its head, prolonging each sound to ensure that we captured everything that we needed to capture from it (which is obviously why such a neat production is so helpful), which makes drone feels so meditative. In turn, that makes me even more excited for their next album due this year, which is supposed to be even more meditative.

But "Life Metal" is quite a funny name for an album and hard to take seriously, right? Honestly, as dark and mysterious as Sunn O)))'s music can be, sure there's some of that here as well, but Life Metal feels a lot more euphoric and celebratory. This is a band that has stayed together for more than two decades, have become poster boys for an entire sub genre, and probably considered a lot of the people they collaborated with as heroes, like Nurse With Wound and Scott Walker [R.I.P.]. So, if anything, they have some goddamn reason to be celebrating. And while it doesn't feel in any way cheesy or obvious, there's an overall noticeably lighter mood than what we are used to.

Also the horses that we hear right at the beginning made me think that I accidentally started Bathory's Blood Fire Death instead.

Sunn OwO)))


Written on 22.04.2019 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments: 5   Visited by: 167 users
23.04.2019 - 01:26
Good review man, quite the enjoyable listen indeed. I kinda wish Attila had been on this one too, but Hildur isn't a bad fit by any means. This is probably the only Sunn O))) release from this decade I've really liked, which is a bit unfortunate but at least they're closing the 2010s out on a high note, and there's still one more to come that could be pretty great too.

Anywho, probably "Biggest Surprise" of the year for me thus far.
Life was a commercial for itself, endlessly replayed.
Nothing changed, it just spread out farther and farther in the form of neon ooze.
23.04.2019 - 09:08
Cynic Metalhead
Atrocious Virgin
I'll always have a soft corner for Sunn O))) due to the eccentric sound developed since Black One and M&D dropped on my tablet. Much to your surprise, I even enjoyed Kannon concentrating lesser on technicalities than on a unique sound.

Having said that, I haven't listened to the Life Metal yet, but going by this review, it looks like I'll be drooling all over again.
23.04.2019 - 09:43
Ball Fondlers
"Also the horses that we hear right at the beginning made me think that I accidentally started Bathory's Blood Fire Death instead"
Same here! I played it from a link in the Album page and thought I was playing Bathory instead
23.04.2019 - 09:55
Ball Fondlers
Really good review... I don't think that they're boring hacks, but I certainly don't "get it" either. I can see something there and I've tried to listen to Sunn O))) before, but it's a hard listen for me, who usually listens to more traditional metal.
23.04.2019 - 12:42
i c deaf people
Written by Ball Fondlers on 23.04.2019 at 09:43

"Also the horses that we hear right at the beginning made me think that I accidentally started Bathory's Blood Fire Death instead"
Same here! I played it from a link in the Album page and thought I was playing Bathory instead

You actually did listen to Bathory - what you were hearing is a sample of 'Odens Ride Over Nordland'.
signatures = SPAM

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