Sunn O))) at SWG3, 16/7/17

Considering the J. Jonah Jameson of Rave Child called one of the previous reviews “pure geekery”, it is only fit that the next review by yours truly is a band named after brand of amplifier and known for their use of Travis Bean guitars as well as the amps of their namesake.

Genre pioneers of over fifteen years, starting out as two doom lords Sunn O))) touches on elements of ambient/drone, stoner and protometal genres; if metal had instead of developing faster became slower, darker, more isolationist, yet with the artistic crossovers and collaborations they are very much an international affair.

Sunn O))) is part exhibition performance part gig, for the drone/doom heavy weights there is nothing resembling structured music that can be repeated.

Instead tonight’s five-piece band improvises on themes and these interpretations are given further individual identity from the venue with its acoustics.

Curiosity of the methodology was one of the main draws for me personally tonight, it’s hard to see anything due to the thick smoke machine that fills the hall like the Scotch mist from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, but from listening and watching the glacial pace it can be heard that the band work within boundaries and blue prints, with freedom.

I’ll avoid saying the word “endurance” or “endurance test” as that seems to be printed a lot in relation to Sunn O))) live, at this particular gig there is nothing too painful to sit through; no screaming high frequencies, instead a steady wave of hi mid guitars and reoccurring waves of bass that have a physical effect on the body, varying in pulses.

It surprises me that the crowd don’t cheer at these points, here waves of air deserve reactions like greatest hits would.

The reduction of a theme to its minimum is what they really take away from the show, reducing music to its most brutal and bare: frequency vibrations in the air.

How different pulses affect different parts of the body really is an experience, from the bass in the chest to a strange hollow feeling in your arms.

Frequencies normally associated with dance music being pumped through a massive P.A., but we aren’t here for a good time.

The body, and it is almost like a physical body, of the set is Stephen O’Malley and co. restraining their impulses, and taking their time before ambient stretches of sound climax.

Throughout the set the guitar feedback comes and goes, replaced by other instrumentation, from a trombone solo tooting out a melody to the descending synth lines directing the sub frequencies into a modulating state.

Theatrics are provided by former Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar, from his chants and his evolution from druid to ice king during the course of the performance, on one hand is slightly hoaky, Obi wan Kenobi growling at you, on the other, it is meant to highlight the cult priest like idea.

And when you note the crowd, branded in Sunn O))) t-shirts, hoodies and patches the band could be seen as part cult/brand/band; well dedicated – you have to be to listen to this.

Words: Paul Choi


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