Sunn O))) – Kannon

Posted: 5 December 2015 in Albums

Southern Lord – 4th December 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

Sunn O))). The band who have essentially launched doom / drone into a whole new domain and transformed a microniche into something that’s as immense as the sound they create. It’s utterly perverse. There should be about fifteen people digging this band, not because they’re not unspeakably intense and remarkable in every way, but because, well, they’re simply not accessible. But these are dark times, in every respect. Musically, lamecore rap / r’n’b continue to dominate the mainstream, while an endless procession of limp-dicked tattoo-sporting clones rules the world of the ‘alternative’ and ‘rock’ scenes. Outside music, art and literature has been diluted to the lowest common denominator, and in the realms beyond that, the world is at war and the rich get richer while the poor slowly sink. None of this feels like progress. This is the hour for a band like Sunn O))), and so it is that they are the chosen band to lead the way through the darkness of the modern world, and back to the caves which offer a safe haven in the woods from the inanity of the 21st century.

Sunn O))) evoke deep, primal sensations while simultaneously conjuring reflections of the shadows which currently cover the earth. But what of their progress? There’s no question that Monoliths and Dimensions was something of a watershed, and marked a huge leap in their evolution – something akin to shedding gills having developed lungs. It’s hard to credit that Monoliths was a full six years ago now, although the band and their members have hardy been resting on their laurels, what with their multitudinous other projects. And then of course, there was Soused, their collaboration with Scott Walker, an album that encapsulated the growling, low-end doom drone sound that’s synonymous with Sunn O))), while also demonstrating a remarkable degree of subtlety and restraint.

Casting reflections back to the last Sunn O))) album proper, Monoliths and Dimensions, an album consisting of but four tracks, felt like a leviathan work at the time. That still stands, and their latest offering certainly doesn’t undermine any of their previous work. And nor does it deviate too drastically from it. It’s certainly no criticism to observe that the band’s output is centred around variations on a sonic theme. Would anyone really want Sunn O))) to release an alum of rap covers, or to diversify into punk pop? Yes, that is a rhetorical question. Sunn O))) are undeniably the leading exponents of heavy, droning doom, and in the field they’ve laid out for themselves to harvest at will, Kannon excels.

Kannon contains only three tracks, simply numbered I, II, and III. Its running time is a little over half an hour. All things considered, it’s pretty concise, and while the band’s eternal debt to early Earth (in particular the pivotal Earth 2) is abundantly evident once again, the album’s comparative brevity is indicative of a band with a shifting focus and a determination to evolve, albeit at a craw.

‘Kannon I’ is a deliberate, trudging piece that builds through wraiths of sculpted feedback. Through the sonic fog, guttural snarls, wordless and inchoate, and resembling the growls of the zombies in The Walking Dead cough and splutter. Rising from the lung-shaking drone are layers of sound, soaring textures that straddle ambience and shoegaze. To dismiss Sunn O))) as merely priveyors of grinding, bottom end dirges is quite simply wrong.

‘Kannon II’ slows the pace to less than a crawl: the harmonics which emanate from the alternating low-end powerchords and whorls of feedback stream from the speakers at barely a single beat per minute. Monastic chants rise ominously as if we’re party to an occult ceremony celebrating the end of days. For all I know, we perhaps are. It culminates in a deep, rumbling explosion, which quite conceivably sounds the way a distant planetary body collapsing in space as captured by an orbital probe may sound. And my terror deepens.

‘Kannon III’, clocking in at just over eleven minutes, is the most overtly doom-metal. The monastic vocals give way to an anguished howl of ruined vocal chords, a black metal burial. Yet, at the same time, it soars, conjuring ideas of a new, bright future arising from the wreckage strewn by the obliterative maelstrom of downtuned guitars. Simultaneously ruinous and redemptive, the vocals rise from the abyss… but to where?

Kannon is no lazy rehash of all Sunn O))) have done before. Of course it’s a brutal, dark celebration of the dark side, dominated by shredding power chords of tectonic force. And of course it’s theatrical, preposterous in its scale. It’s a Sunn O))) album, after all, and anything less than megalithic would be an immense disappointment. Kannon doesn’t disappoint on any level. Its scale is practically unfathomable, its scope and ambition virtually unparalleled. Quite simply, it’s a monster, just as anyone familiar with the band knew it would be. Utterly magnificent.

Sunn - Kannon

  1. […] and then maximum gain applied. And the effect is transcendental. And whereas its predecessor, Kannon was comparatively concise, with its three tracks clocking in around the half-hour mark, Life Metal […]

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