SUNNO))) – MONOLITHS AND DIMENSIONS (SOUTHERN LORD, 2009)

This summer has been watershed year for cross-over metal acts putting out super solid albums, June saw Wolves in the Throne Room, Isis, and Human Quenna Orchestra laying down some thick slabs of pure heavy-ness winning over tons of new fans in the process. While I have been eager to jump on those releases, SunnO))) has always given me pause. Not because I don’t think they are amazing low-end bass rumbling pioneers but because I never feel like I can do their music justice. I mean how do you describe two robed guitar slayers playing chest rumbling downtuned guitar riffs incredibly loud and extremely slow. Black Sabbath on a dangerous level of Morphine? Anyway, a SunnO))) album is to be taken in, very loudly, preferably with some high level speakers poised all around you. In fact you may want to listen to this album the way SunnO))) preform, in a dimly lit room surrounded by burning wax candles and amps from here to the ceiling. One way for any band to seem like a gimmick after slavishly perfecting your craft out of the critical limelight is to put out album after album of variations on a single theme. With Monoliths and Dimensions, the robed ones mind this fact and expand their musical direction into a place that seems only natural. The world of classical music. The album features contributions from composer Eyvind Kang, noted trombonists Julian Priester and Stuart Dempster, and fellow drone guitar slayer Dylan Carlson of the pioneering Drone Metal band Earth. Attilla Csihar’s Death-Metal Growl meets Buddhist monk chant are present throughout the entire album. The super slow, downtuned guitar and bass riffs are still present sounding as ominous and death-rattlingly amazing as ever, however, I will use the track “Alice” as a template to describe their virtuosity. The track opens like any other SunnO))) track, with some rumbling bass feedback punctuated with an occasional clean guitar strum. Then out of nowhere comes blast of trambones come riding in like they have been hidden in the track the whole time, at this point Stephen O’Malley’s guitar riffs become much more deeper and ominous while a simple slap of Greg Anderson’s bass guitar leave a bone crushing rumbling that has probably woken up my neighbors. Then as you are getting used the Philip Glass like punctuation of horns, high pitched strings come creeping up behind the brass section. We are about 10 minutes into it and the strings are pulsing and the brass section is rivaling the low-end bass frequency for being the songs driving agent. French Horns and Harps are added into the mix and the song seems lightyears from where it started. The guitars gently fade out and we are left with an incredible little piece of classical music complete with string swells, french horn counterpoits and a buzzing oscillator underneath the entire soundscape. Well, folks it is FINALLY the 21st century.

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