Posts Tagged ‘Doom’

Human Worth – 3rd June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Because being in several awesome bands simply isn’t enough for some people, various members of Lump Hammer, Lovely Wife, Penance Stare, Möbius, Plague Rider have another band, the soft-sounding Friend. They’re practically a scene unto themselves, and you can pretty much guarantee that anything noisy emerging from Newcastle will feature one or more of James Watts, Tim Croft, and Skylar Gill – to the extent that the involvement of any one of them is essentially an assurance of quality. Putting the stamp on that assurance is the fact that Friend’s debut is being released by Human Worth, the London label that has, in a very short time, racked up an outstanding roster of new and established acts, all of a noisy persuasion, without a single weak release in their rapidly-expanding catalogue. And Friend’s Champion is a worthy addition.

It’s a proper gnarly take on the classic power trio format with driving riffs dominating from the opening bars. ‘International Top Bloke’ crunches in and batters away hard with a simple, cyclical riff reminiscent of Blacklisters; Tim’s guitar is so dense and dirty it sounds like guitar and bass all in one, while Gil’s drumming is megalith-solid, pounding away, nothing fancy, just all the heavy. And there, low in the mix, Watts gargles and gurgles tormentedly, sounding as if he’s being throttled by Satan’s very own flaming hands. As guttural growlers go, he is exceptional when it comes to channelling all shades of anguish by means of throat alone. But for all that, there’s a flicker of joy – or, perhaps more accurately, a cathartic release – which emanates from Champion.

The pitch is that they’re ‘pulling from influences ranging from Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins and Failure to Old Man Gloom, Floor and The Abominable Iron Sloth’ and while on paper it may seem an incongruous combination, in practise, it not only makes sense, but absolutely works.

‘The Beast’ is appropriately titled, for it is, indeed, an absolute beast. It begins with unexpected delicacy, a brittle, chorus-tinged guitar picked is as much The Cure as it is ‘Black Hole Sun’, but then the drums and distortion pile in and it’s a huge, throbbing surge of overloading sound that threatens to damage the speakers.

Whatever Geoffrey’s done, it must be pretty bad, as they rear through five minutes of bludgeoning brutality. There are some gritty, cyclical riffs reminiscent of Bleach-era Nirvana beneath it all, but the production is so dark and dirty the end result is wonderfully nasty sludge metal, then there’s ‘Dungeon Master’ that sounds like… well, it sounds like downtuned grinding hell. Not so much Sunn O))) as a total eclipse. Watts’ vocals aren’t the focal point: they’re another instrument (of torture) in the band’s arsenal or aural abrasion. If ‘Wellness’ seems to offer some light, some respite, it’s a pale, sick sense of hope that glimmers as Watts sounds like he’s writing through his last moments of torturous, gut-ripping pain.

The last two tracks – the eight-minute ‘Uncle Tommy’ and ten-minute ‘A Reminder’ combine to deliver a devastating finale. They’re so much more than heavy noise, too, with texture, tone, gradual builds and even moments that feel truly uplifting – even if they are blown away by bulldozing distortion. The former is a surprising blues / glam stomp, while the latter feels like an album’s worth of riffs of heavy metal thunder packed into a single track. It’s not only intense, but finds Watt’s deliver some audible lyrics, albeit briefly.

The word ‘friend’ may connote comfort, company, companionship, even cuddliness, and while the band offer none of these things, Champion does offer a kind of awkward solace through monster riffery and outpourings of angst. An album worthy of its title: proper champion.

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Cruel Nature Records – 27th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Aidan Baker – classically-trained multi-instrumentalist from Toronto (now resident in Berlin), who specialises in electric guitar works – using treated and otherwise non-conventional playing methods – is an artist who I seemingly can’t escape from. His ever-shifting styles and labels may be as difficult to keep pace with as his ever-expanding catalogue, but it seems that whoever’s releasing his work, I’m on their mailing list. This is very much a good thing, as Baker is one of those artists who, despite – or perhaps because – of being impossible to pigeonhole, never disappoints.

Baker’s second release on Cruel Nature, following 2021’s Stimmt, marks something of a shift, from what the accompanying notes ‘was big on atmospherics and abstraction’ to a sound that ‘shoots a bullet straight into the heart of the riff and explodes it, in all its scorching white-out fuzzed-up glory’.

On listening to the album’s grunt and growl guitar assault, the specific meaning of the album’s title remains unclear: ‘tenebrous’ is either obscure, or murky, or otherwise causing gloom, while ‘tenebrism’ refers to ‘a style of painting especially associated with the Italian painter Caravaggio and his followers in which most of the figures are engulfed in shadow but some are dramatically illuminated by a beam of light usually from an identifiable source’. ‘Tenebrist’ seems to lack a specific definition. So is Baker casting himself in the role of an artist whose musical compositions follow in the shadow-casting tradition of Caravaggio, or is this a nod to obscurity, darkness, gloom?

It’s perhaps an amalgamation of all of the aforementioned meanings. The title track, which comes in two parts, lifts the curtain, with a heavy overloading trudge of massive distortion, the guitar too loud of the mics recording, while the drums plod, half-buried but strangely crisp and clear, down in the mix. Unexpectedly, I’m reminded of the production and mix of Moby’s Animal Rights, although the guitar here is much less trebly, angled instead toward the mid and lower ranges, with ‘Tenebrist II’ really plunging deep into psychedelic sludge. The speakers positive crackle with the thick distortion, wrapped in swathes of feedback.

‘Turgid’ is a crackling, buzzing, math-rock explosion: it’s busy and blistering, and somewhere towards the end, the sound thickens, become denser, darker, more abrasive, culminating in a spark-flying meltdown.

The blurb describes Tenebrist as ‘low-down and heavy, and serving up ‘swathes of grunge, pummelling the senses and scattering rhythms through its maximalist energy’, but this is an understatement that only goes so far in conveying the massive sonic impact. ‘Violet Contrast’ is missing an ‘n’: driven by thumping, thunderous drums in a mist of low, slow, smoggy synth drones, it builds gradually to a monumental, percussion-driven climax over the course of a sustained crescendo of drums on drums.

‘Dramatic Illumination’ – in two parts – seems to cast a nod to Caravaggio, and this thirteen-minute suite cuts a dark sonic furrow, as clattering percussion and drones of low, low frequency feedback moan in an avant-jazz mess of calamitous noise, whereby the entire song sounds like the slow wind-down at the end of a set. You wonder when and where it will end… but it doesn’t. Finally, on ‘Dramatic Illumination II,’ the guitar glides in, but it still feels like the end.

The eight-and-a-half-minute closer ‘Chiasroscurious’ is a culmination of the album’s journey; a shuddering, juddering, wall of noise that makes you momentarily think your stereo’s fucked and your speakers are knackered with it’s massively overloading distortion that’s absolutely ruinous, swelling to a sonic tsunami that redefines devastation.

Tenebrist hurts. It’s immense and devastating on every level. The volume hurts. It’s a beast, and exactly the exercise in punishment we all need.

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Electric Valley Records – 24th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

In my recent review of the new album from St Michael front, I commented on German humour – in a positive way, I should add. So it was with a certain relief that I noted that BongBongBeerWizards hail from Dortmund. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a shit name for a band irrespective of where they’re from. I genuinely thought that Doom/Drone/Sludge Metal had run its course in terms of daft names and gone over the border some time ago, and that Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (now MWWB, presumably because they realised the name was daft rather than that they believed it was an obstacle to commercial success) had had the final word in name-generator style absurdity. And they ought to have. But then these buggers turn up with an even stupider name. But at least we can reasonably assume they know it’s a fucking stupid name and are pissing themselves over it.

BBBW may well be hampering their potential audience reach – I’ll admit, I did think twice about bothering to listen – but that would have very much been my loss, because Amprire is an instant classic as a storming example of the genre. With just three tracks and a running time of almost fifty minutes, it’s Sunn O))), it’s Earth, it’s Sleep and it’s Bong in a tectonic collision – more of a slow melt than anything likely to cause earthquakes and mudslides. That said, there are tempo changes galore on the twenty-three minute ‘Choirs & Masses’, a megalithic beast that’s got the lot: heavily reverbed vocals and choral ceremonials that echo from cavernous depths of despair while the guitars churn and growl all around, thick with dripping distortion. At times it’s a raging thrust of riffery, at others it’s a gut-churning crawl, or an ominous organ note that hovers indefinitely, and there are many changes to hold the attention over its epic duration.

‘Unison’ raises an even denser, thicker guitar-driven tempest that’s so thick and sludgy it’s suffocating, and when the vocals are absent, churns into full-on Sunn O))) territory with the gnarly guitar obliteration.

It’s hard to really say that there’s a real arc or progression on an album like this: it may be more of a case of will or projection, but I suppose whether it’s real or an illusion, the end result is the same from a listening perspective, and the perception is that things become more focused and ultimately heavier and denser over the duration of the album. And as an album, Ampire is a beast: epic, ambitious, and for the most part, the changes are well-timed if not always smooth – some of the transitions feel a little bit like stopping one riff and starting another – but it hangs together overall, and it maintains and even increases the weight right to the crushing end. Overall, it’s an admirably solid album. Still an awful band name, though.

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Neurot Recordings – 6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s something about Neurot: as a label, it certainly has a distinct ‘house style’, and if it does seem to be predominantly in the vein of Neurosis, then Ufomammut’s latest offering, Fenice,  is simultaneously definitive and a departure, in that it’s clearly metal in persuasion, and given to long, slow, and expansive workouts, with the majority of the album’s six pieces running (well) past the seven-minute mark. It’s delicately-paced, too: it’s not all a crawl, but the crescendos land a fair way apart and the build-ups are long and deliberate.

Opener ‘Duat’ is an absolute monster, clocking in past ten and a half minutes, and beginning with ominous dark ambience and slow to a crawl electronics, before a surging techno bass grind cuts through and pulses away. It’s three and a half minutes before the guitars pile in, and when they do, everything comes together to forge a piledriving industrial blast: for a moment, I’m reminded of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘March of the Pigs’, but then things switch again with a tempo change, slowing to a lumbering thud. It builds from there, and the final minute hits that sweet spot of pulverizing riffery that is pure joy. Ufomammut may be a ‘doom’ band by designation, but this is some of the most dynamic progressive metal you’ll hear.

Having set the bar so high so early, the challenge is, can they sustain it? ‘Kepherer’ is a dank, semi-ambient interlude that provides some much-needed breathing space. ‘Psychostasia’ starts off gently, but again, builds into a really slugger, the riff hard and repetitive, the vocals half-buried amidst overdrive and reverb, and it’s so, so exhilarating.

It takes an eternity of a slow, nagging cyclical motif, rich in chorus and reverb, before ‘Metamprphoenix’ breaks, and segues immediately into the throbbing behemoth that is ‘Pyramind’, where things do, finally, hit all-out doom grind with the heaviest, most crushing power chords. The bass goes so low that it practically burrows underground, while the guitars soar skyward. Closer ‘Empyros’ is the album’s shortest track, and it’s three minutes of punishing guitars that pick up precisely where ‘Pyramind’ leaves off and just drives and drives and drives, churning, hard, heavy.

If you’re seeking instant gratification, Fenice isn’t the album you want, but that doesn’t mean that it by any means feels drawn-out or like there’s much waiting involved: despite the lengthy songs, and the slow-builds, the textures and atmospheres are remarkable. I have a friend who loves his slow-burning metal and math-rock, but hates Amenra because he finds them insufferably tedious. Personally, I’m a fan, but I get the impatience, and it is largely around this kind of slow, earthy metal where time stalls and aeons pass between events, and the builds take several lifetimes to come to any kind of fruition – but this most certainly isn’t an issue for Ufomammut on Fenice. The compositions twist and turn and continue to not only hold the attention but to tug at the senses, keeping the listener on edge, poised, tense, expectant. And they always deliver on those expectations.

There is a clear and definitely trajectory here, too, building over the last three pieces to a point where the riffs are dominant – megalithic grinds that hit hard. Fenice makes you feel a broad range of things: boredom or disappointment aren’t among them. It does require some work, but it’s amply rewarded.

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Southern Lord – 23rd April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Covering multiple works in a single review feels like a major short-changing exercise, and I feel I should apologise to the artists involved in advance. It kind of depersonalises and maybe even cheapens the coverage, and I remember how I felt when the book version of my PhD thesis finally received a review, only to find that it was in an article alongside three other books. It may have been a paragraph of praise, but nevertheless, it was a solitary paragraph in a long article. Nine years of work, 90,000 words and 300 printed pages given a one-paragraph thumbs up… meh. But still, better than a thumbs-down or no paragraph.

A decade on, it’s still not settled with me, and I always try to do better. But sometimes, bundling makes sense and feels justified and this is one of those times.

Having spent many a virtual column inch in recent years bemoaning how Record Store day has made a deep descent from being an event that served to raise awareness of independent record shops to another cash-in for major labels cranking out shitty reissues on limited colour vinyl to wring yet more funds from completists while at the same time driving some of the most shameful scalping activity anywhere on line, it’s a relief to find something positive about RSD 2022.

That something comes of course from an independent label in the form of Southern Lord, who, as a sidenote, had commendably stuck to producing outstanding vinyl releases regardless of trends, fashions, popularity, or Record Store Day, and, admirably have continued to release whatever the hell they please, with a catalogue that’s an equal balance of cult hardcore punk re-releases and cutting-edge works of crushing weight that perpetually push the parameters of metal, with recent releases from Neon Christ and Big | Brave highlighting the polarities of the label’s interests.

This pair of RSD releases exemplify this span to perfection, and while admittedly one is a reissue, the other very much is not – and as such, they represent the label’s standard release scheduling. As the press releases outline, ‘The Catatonics were one of NYC and Syracuse’s pioneering hardcore punk bands…While the band’s seminal Hunted Down EP has remained one of the most highly sought-after releases of the genre, the heightening collector’s price made this 7” inaccessible to most people. Southern Lord has now elected to re-release this EP as a 12”, with bonus tracks.” And, meanwhile, Forest Nocturne is ‘the first full length solo venture of Greg Anderson, under the moniker of The Lord. Inspired by the great horror film composers of the 70s and 80s, Anderson turns his back on the riff worship of Goatsnake or SUNN O))) and instead creates a truly unsettling atmosphere heavy with tension, offset by 90s Scandinavian death metal’.

The Catatonics release certainly gives value for money: the original 1984 7” released on Anorexic Nympho Records featured five tracks: this reissue features a whopping eighteen. Following the bonus intro cut if ‘Descending in E’, the original EP accounts for tracks two to six, while the rest is an almost exhaustive gathering of compilation tracks, early demos and live recordings, all remastered from original tapes. Only two of the eighteen songs run beyond three minutes, with most clocking in under two, and this is rough and ready, ball-busting full-throttle, relentless fury, nonstop-pounding hardcore at its rawest and most furious, and the live cuts are particularly raw and brutal, making this a unique and comprehensive document of another underground band’s short but high-impact career.

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The Lord’s debut is a very different proposition: it’s clearly contemporary for a start, although it’s steeped in vintage metal stylings, and driven by an understated and simple but gut-churning bass that digs tunnels beneath your ordinary lives. Forest Nocturne is an album that twists and turns, and more significantly, gnaws like rodents, and like woodworm, at the smooth, flat planes of sonic normal. I say ‘normal’, as if that’s a thing – but The Lord conjure vast aural expanses, broad vistas that invite the listener to bask in the rich density, before tearing it to pieces.

A slow, swelling church organ droned doomily on ‘Church of Hermann’, a piece which is truly awe-inspiring. This is an instrumental album that definitely marks a departure for Anderson and feels more like early Earth than Sunn O))). Then again, it’s doesn’t really sound or feel like either.

Thick swells of strings that build into brooding, megalithic waves, define the power of this instrumental work. ‘Forest Wake’ starts with the wail of a siren, and brings bulldozing bass and power chords wrapped in gut-punching clouds of distortion. Those clouds dissipate for a time, and the atmosphere looms large and heavy as things unfurl, but take a moment to breathe and there’s nothing to see here other than smoke and that absence… It grinds, and it absolutely fucking kills, going full Sunn O))) drone doom on ‘Old Growth’. Forest Nocturne is hard and harrowing, immense, epic, beautiful, and yet at the same time devastating. The last track, ‘Triumph of the Oak’ is a new shade of heavy, an angering mess of thrashing chords that crashes down so, so hard.

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Finally, thanks to Southern Lord, there are releases that are actually worth getting up and queuing for at the weekend.

DARKHER are now premiering the bitter-sweet video single ‘Love’s Sudden Death’ taken from the beloved Northern English doom act’s sophomore album The Buried Storm, which has been chalked-up for release on April 15.

The black and white clip ‘Love’s Sudden Death’ was filmed on location at Long Dike Moor, which lies between Hebden Bridge and Haworth in West Yorkshire – and is also very close to Top Withens, the moorland that inspired the Brontë Sisters’ novels and poetry.

Watch the video here:

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Photo: Catherine Pogue

Eight Bells have revealed the dark melancholic video single ‘The Well’ taken from their forthcoming new album Legacy of Ruin, which is scheduled for release on February 25, 2022.

The avant-garde doom project from Portland, Oregon conceived by guitarist and singer Melynda Jackson has previously revealed cover art, tracklist, and further details of their new full-length. Watch the video here:

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“This song’s story is particularly personal for me”, explains singer and guitarist Melynda Jackson. “It explores the emotions and fears of pastoral ‘salt of the earth types’ looking over the land that no longer yields a good harvest as a metaphor describing their lives. Mourning the bountiful past and coming to realize that they themselves are responsible for a bleak future. Melynda Amann, who was a member during the writing of this track, is also singing with us, while  Andrea Morgan adds haunting ambience with his violin.”

With their third album, the Portland metal experimentalists have sharpened their songwriting approach to create a soundtrack for the end of the world. Legacy of Ruin again features the trio’s trademark haunting vocal harmonies along with sometimes blistering, and sometimes impressionistic guitar riffing to create heady atmospheres of dark and light. 

The result of Eight Bells’ musical exploration is an emotional and insistent odyssey that transcends genre and imbues contemporary metal with 19th-century Victorian ghostliness, cinematic soundscapes in combination with female and male vocal harmonies perfectly fitting the album’s lyrical story. "Legacy of Ruin" focuses on themes of the human condition, natural destruction, death, regret, loss, malice, and retribution.

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Pic: Cody Keto

Darkness treads light as a feather. The voice of despair gently wafts through the air. Delicate pain wrapped in radiant beauty pierces the heart slowly yet without hesitation. The sinister yet beguiling images that DARKHER aka Jayn Maiven paints with her ethereal vocals, guitars, and added strings conjure iridescent cinematic scenes in which it becomes hard to tell whether there lies beauty in darkness or if it is the other way around.

With her sophomore full-length "The Buried Storm", the guitarist, composer, lyricist, and producer has clearly succeeded to even improve the beloved alchemic musical formula that was firmly established on DARKHER’s debut album "Realms" in 2016. Her mostly eerie and at times even outright sinister sonic storytelling comes refined on every level and with sharpened contrasts that reflect the ongoing learning-process of their creator. 

DARKHER were conceived as the sole brainchild and solo-project of Northern English singer and guitarist Jayn Maiven in 2012. The dark and melancholic yet also massively heavy sound on the self-titled debut EP "Darkher" (2013) combined with the distinct vocals of the shy pre-Raphaelite beauty caused an audible buzz – particularly in the doom scene and brought DARKHER a quick record deal, which led to the following EP "The Kingdom Field" (2014) appearing via Prophecy Productions.

Despite not even having an album out, DARKHER were invited to prestigious festivals such as Roadburn in Tilburg, The Netherlands and Prophecy Fest in the Cave of Balve, where the English delivered widely celebrated performances. In 2016, the highly anticipated debut full-length "Realms" was finally released to much praise from critics and fans alike. Press compared DARKHER’s music with a wide range of highly individual acts such as CHELSEA WOLFE, ESBEN AND THE WITCH, SÓLSTAFIR, LOREENA MCKENNITT, and PORTISHEAD.

In the meantime, Jayn’s long-time drummer Christopher Smith, who already contributed to earlier releases, live shows, and again on "The Buried Storm" has been added as permanent member to the line-up of DARKHER.

"The Buried Storm" gives shape to the darkness lurking at the edge of consciousness, hidden from plain sight but patiently biding its time to strike out at the heart. DARKHER have delivered another frightening masterpiece that easily transcends musical boundaries with its broad appeal to friends of dark sounds regardless of genre. "The Buried Storm" captivates its listeners with deceptive sweetness – only to bind them tightly within a thorn-spiked nocturnal beauty forevermore.

Watch ‘Lowly Weep’ here:

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Image: Kathryn Pogue

4th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s fitting that a doom / sludge metal act should take their time over things – and Sheffield trio Kurokuma have really taken their time over things in order to deliver their debut album. Having formed late 2013, they’re one band whose progress can’t have been said to have been hampered by the pandemic: instead, they’ve been evolving their sound over the course of a number of single and EP releases, notably the Advorsus EP in 2016 and 2018’s ‘Dope Rider’ single. This means that the arrival of Born of Obsidian feels like an event, a monumental summit in the band’s career. And if five tracks, in the face of it, does‘t look like much by way of a definitive statement that represents the apogee of some eight years of work, the fact that all bar one are over eight minutes long and each one packs the density of a black hole gives some necessary context.

‘Smoking Mirror’ lands things perfectly; there’s a definite groove, even a hint of funk – not in the Chili Peppers’ funk metal sense, but in a twisted, fucked-up psychedelic sense – to the bassline that bounces along before the crushing power chords crash in. The vocals snarl and scraw and everything comes together to deliver optimum weight. It may be a cliché to sat it needs to be played loud, and playing any metal not loud is a mistake, but having been recorded in London with Sanford Parker (YOB, Eyehategod, Indian), volume really increases the appreciation of the quality production. There’s not only great separation between the instruments, but each brings something more to the overall mix. On ‘Smoking Mirror’, your attention is likely to be on the churning guitar, but the drums are outstanding in the way they kick through the dense, treacle-like distortion.

They promise an album that’s ‘equal parts primitive brutality and mind-bending psychedelia’, and it’s all there in the pulverising repetitions of ‘Sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli’. For its brevity, it packs in a neatly-constructed structure, with intro, verses, chorus, mid-section – which brings an explosive change of tempo – and megalithic, gut-churning riffing that rages hard and heavy. It demonstrates that there’s a lot going on with these guys, and that they’re not just lug-headed chord-thudders, but possess a level of musical articulateness that separates them from many of their peers.

Single cut ‘Jaguar’ is, it turns out, entirely representative, a roaring beast of a tune that has a rare swing to it – and a lot of cowbell. It warps and lurches with remarkable dexterity for something of such colossal weight. The repetitive riffery of ‘Ololiuqui’ batters and bludgeons relentlessly, maintaining its form and instead varying the tone and depth of the distortion, and stepping up the volume incrementally, before the nine minute ‘Under the Fifth Sun’ delivers a decimating conclusion.

With bulldozing, unyielding mass and density, Born of Obsidian is high-impact: Kurokuma have mastered the power of hard volume and brutal force – as is in keeping with the genre. But where Kurokuma stand apart – and above – is in the detail, the nuance, the deviation from the blueprint, which shows a unique flair, and surely Born of Obsidian is destined for cult status.

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Southern Lord – 26th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Long after the heyday of the legendary Peel Sessions, BBC sessions remain something to be revered and something special. Even back in the 80s and 90s, when Joh Peel’s show was the place to gain exposure as an underground band, and a Peel session the pinnacle of prestige for any act outside the mainstream, the likes of David ‘Kid’ Jensen and Janice Long were also notable DJs who invited bands to record live / studio sessions, and while R1 has since become the domain if wall-to-wall major label slop without a single window for anything remotely alternative (that died with Zane Lowe’s departure in 2015, and while his sycophantic arselicking was nauseating, he did at least provide a platform in an otherwise mainstream space), 6Music, recently salvaged from decommission continues to uphold the tradition, thanks to Mark Riley (formerly of all-time Peel faves The Fall) and Mary Anne Hobbs. Hobbs(who quit R1 in 2010 to mentor students at The University of Sheffield and stepped into 6Music a couple of years later) in many ways represents the last bastion of the old-school, in a good way: the veteran DJ is more attuned to less obvious music than many DJs a fair bit younger, as her offering a slot to Sunn O))) indicates.

The beauty of BBC sessions is that they offer acts studio time to use as they please. Many crank out versions of tracks off their latest album, but others explore new territory, either with works in progress, random covers, or something else entirely. Sunn O))) elected to record a whole new album. And so it is that the follow up to Pyroclasts is an extension of the work from that previous album (plus one from its predecessor, Life Metal (2019)) – of which Pyroclasts was in turn an extension of sorts, having been recorded during the same sessions. They certainly know how to stretch a concept: the thing with Sunn O)) is that for all of their impenetrable wall of seriousness, which corresponds with their impenetrable wall of sound, there is a sense of wryness, a sense that they’re more than self-aware of their mythmaking and stylisation, and that delivering it all with not even straight faces, but faces obscured by cowls, isn’t entirely serous. By this, I mean high art and humour aren’t mutually exclusive. Sunn O))) make serious music in a serious fashion, and are even serious about it, but maintaining character throughout is integral tom the wheeze. And so in keeping with maintaining both the style and the form, they grind out longform pieces that drone interminably and gnaw away at the intestines in an uneasy tonal probing.

Having toured with the band as a support on the UK leg of their tour, Anna Von Hausswolf joined the band in the legendary Maida Vale studio and lent vocals, adding an ethereal quality to the low-end drone that continues for all eternity.

Immediately, we’re dragged into Sunn O)) time. Most radio sessions comprise three or four songs, with a duration of maybe fifteen minutes or so in total. Because most radio shows last maybe three hours, and a feature slot of fifteen to twenty minutes is proportionate. But with Sunn O))), most tracks are half a show in duration, and the first track on here, ‘Pyroclasts F’, an excerpt of which was revealed in November, is comparatively gentle, drifting semi-ambient work, combining heavy guitar drone and feedback, and of course it’s never-ending. Well, fifteen minutes in duration, to be more precise, as its counterpart Pyroclasts C#.

It’s not until ‘Troubled Air’ starts and that the truly intense, gut-shredding sensation hits. It’s five ambient minutes until the monstrous power chords strike the knell of dark doom, and we’re in classic Sunn O))) territory. Growling for an uncomfortable eleven minutes on Life Metal, this performance extends the piece for over half an hour, with downturned chords struck at An impossibly slow rate. The earth turns between chords, the sustain extending light years. The ominous organ notes trill and quaver like mist creeping in a horror movie, while the doomy chords torture the bowels and lower intestine and blossom into blooming cathedrals of chthonic darkness. It’s a sonic black hole from which there is no escape, and it grinds and billows and the listener is slowly sucked under by the relentless swirling currents.

Metta, Benevolence captures Sunn O))) at their minimal best, conjuring enormous, sweeping soundscapes of the densest, darkest, most relentlessly dark drone.

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