Sunn O))) - Life Metal - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sunn O))) - Life Metal

by James Weiskittel Rating:8 Release Date:2019-04-26
Sunn O))) - Life Metal
Sunn O))) - Life Metal

For the longest time I slept on Sunn O))). I mean, how could the band’s insistence on pairing their name with three parentheses not equate to pretentiousness of the highest accord? But regardless of what I or anyone else might think, the masters of drone (silly spelling and all) have persevered. And now, four years after the release of their last LP, Kannon, Sunn O))) returns with yet another bludgeoning slab of reductive doom and gloom; the appropriately titled Life Metal.

The first of two Steve Albini-produced albums slated for release this year - and reportedly “recorded and mixed on tape, providing a creative gateway for Sunn O))) to evolve their production methods into...a more logical executive process”- Life Metal delivers everything fans have come to know and love from the Seattle-based duo.

As with most Albini-produced projects, Life Metal is virtually bereft of anything resembling gloss or polish. And, for the most part, the less-is-more production aesthetic works wonders here. The album-opening “Between Sleipnir's Breaths”, built around a brooding, mammoth riff and featuring a vocal from longtime contributor Hildur Guðnadóttir, is an appropriate reintroduction for the band.

While the two tracks that follow, the plodding “Troubled Air” and the feedback-inducing “Aurora” are both solid additions to the band’s canon, it’s the epic, 25-minute closer ‘Nova’ that really steals the show here. Unfolding like some sort of demonic, multi-part dirge, the track predictably opens with a wall of fuzz, careens into a quiet section that sounds like it was carefully built around electrical hums, and then finally resolves with one final blast of ear-splitting sludge. If the track reveals nothing else, it’s that project masterminds Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson have mastered the art of capturing the massiveness of their live performances onto tape.

Life Metal has been billed as the more aggressive half of what was a single recording session (a “more meditative” LP entitled Pyroclasts is slated to soon follow), and as such, throws little in the way of curveballs at the listener. If you are a fan, you’ll probably be all over this; but I have a feeling that the band’s most daring work to date might be just around the corner.

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