• Sunn O))) – Pyroclasts (Southern Lord Records) Album Review

    Released by: Southern Lord
    Released on: October 25th, 2019.
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    The promotional material that came with the review copy of Sunn O)))’s Pyroclasts states the following:

    “The Pyroclasts album is the result of a daily practice which was regularly performed each morning, or evening during the two week Life Metal sessions at Electrical Audio during July 2018, when all of the days musical participants would gather and work through a twelve-minute improvised modal drone at the start and or end of the day’s work. The piece performed was timed with a stopwatch and tracked to two-inch tape, it was an exercise and a chance to dig into a deep opening or closing of the day’s session in a deep musical way with all of the participants. To connect/reconnect, liberate the creative mind a bit and greet each other and the space through the practice of sound immersion. The players across the four pieces of Pyroclasts are Tim Midyett, Tos Nieuwenhuizen, Hildur Guðnadóttir, and as always, SUNN O)) founders Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson.”

    I don’t normally like to quote promo material in a review but in this case, it’s prudent to understand how and why this recording came to be. Each of the four tracks on the album, which are all within seconds of the eleven-minute mark, and it is, in many ways, a continuation of the work that was done for the Life Metal album. Steve Albini produced that material and this material, the same gear was used, the same studio was used and the musicians were all very much in the same head space. It’s also just as good, and just as engrossing a listen.

    Frost opens things up with a heavy, extended riff that just doesn’t seem to stop – it’s Sunn O)))’s trademark drone sound right from the start, but it is, when it opens at least, a soothing and calmer sond than you might expect it to be. It’s dense and heavy, but not completely dark, and as it comes to a close it washes over you in the way that the group’s best output does, taking you to a higher plane of existence if you’re in the right state of mind when you listen to it.

    Kingdoms is the perfect track to follow Frost. The use of distortion here is kinder and gentler but no less intense. It builds very slowly, even by the slowly building standards that are a hallmark of their recordings, exploring experimental places as it gets louder and heavier – and it does get louder and heavier. The reverb used in this track is powerful enough to shake every bone in your body and the layers of sound era intricate and distinct while still somehow managing to create a cohesive whole.

    Ampliphædies starts off far more aggressively than anything else on the record, a clicking static noise noticeable in the opening few seconds that quickly subsides and lets loose a barrage of feedback and extended riffage. As the track evolves, the feedback morphs and twists, the low end of the track rumbling in the distance. It is, in its own way, a surprisingly peaceful piece of music, trance inducing in its way.

    The fourth and final track, Ascension, follows suit. Like the others, it builds slowly but quite deliberately, the guitars feeding back and following their own unorthodox path, droning and wailing in a constant state of elevation throughout.

    This isn’t an album that will win over those who don’t already appreciate Sunn O)))’s unique brand of transcendental metal, but if you do dig on their sound, it’s pretty much a sure thing that you’ll enjoy these four tracks – particularly if you were taken with the Life Metal album released earlier this year. This material, as the intro states, really does build off of what the band accomplished with that recording and this material is quite literally an extension of that record. It’s one of those albums best enjoyed with a good sound system or a good pair of headphones so that you’re able to appreciate how layered and frequently very intricate this music is. Great stuff, especially if you allow yourself to be taken away by it all.