In my collection of Extreme Metal albums, I found, what I thought was an EP, called Things Viral by a band I had never heard about before – Khanate. I thought the four tracks would be over in 20 minutes and I would move on. But what came through the headphones was the evilest sounds ever put on tape, I had heard, for the next one hour. Hence I was introduced to the mighty Drone Metal. On further research, I found that Khanate was a side project of the best known Drone Metal band in the world, called Sunn O))). Further surprise awaited me when I found out that the ‘O)))’ section of the band name is actually silent, and the band is simply pronounced as ‘Sun’.
Sunn O))) are a drone metal band from USA, formed around 1997-98. Basically they are just two members- Greg Anderson (Bass) and Stephen O’ Malley (Guitar), and they often include guest artists on their tracks. This genre and this band are the avante-garde section of the Heavy Metal spectrum. Their music are made of low and highly distorted drones from their instruments. They often have other sounds, some natural, some simulated, and some pre-recorded, whirling across the stereo field. They have had many guest artists like legendary vocalist Atilla Csihar (from the notorious black metal band Mayhem), Julian Cope, and even the father of noise music and probably the most avante-garde musician ever- Merzbow. The most important thing (that would probably bore out a lot of mainstream listeners), is that their music is excruciatingly slow. Candlemass are gonna sound like Thrash Metal after listening to Sunn O))). It is that slow. Very often, they don’t even seem to have a fixed tempo, and seem to just be ripping droning notes from their instruments at random, long, but synchronized time intervals. It amazes me how they manage to play the bass and guitar at the same time, despite the seemingly randomness of their music.
Me, I have always had a taste of weird, avant-garde, out-of-the-box, music that redefines (or even undefines) the boundaries of music. There is no point in discussing what is good and bad avante-garde music, as any discussion would be rendered baseless in such a genre. However the music of Sunn O))) has managed to secure a special place in my heart. They are not only avante-garde, but they seem to take you on a journey. The journey is dark, soul crushing, through narrow tunnels across ancient monolithic caves. There is very little words (sometimes only the title) to hold on to, and hence latching meanings on to, are mostly upon the listener. The journey can only be described in adjectives (that never do full justice to the feeling), and never in nouns. However at the end of the journey, we come out stronger, and fuller, and a more experienced human being.
I have listened to about five full length albums by Sunn O))), along with two bonus albums, and a Demo. I have to tell you, none of it is disappointing. Each track in each album totally crushes you. One might complain that the tracks sound way too similar, but I as a fan am telling you, if you like this kinda music, you wouldn’t care much for variety. And of course, the presence of special guests on the tracks, and the special guests’ touch on the track brings in the variety if you want it.
- The Grimmrobe Demos (1999)
- ØØ Void (2000)
- Flight Of The Behemoth (2002- featuring Merzbow)
- The Iron Soul Of Nothing (2011- featuring Nursen With Wound)
- Defeating: Earth’s Gravity (1999- The Grimmrobe Demos)
- Richard (2000- ØØ Void)
- O))) Bow 1, O))) Bow 2, F.W.T.B.T. [Metallica cover- For Whom The Bell Tolls] (2002- Flight Of The Behemoth)
- My Wall (2003- White1)
- Ash On The Trees (2011- The Iron Soul Of Nothing)
Other bands/artists to check out:
Earth, Khanate, Goatsnake, Teeth Of The Lions Rule The Divine, Boris, Merzbow, Philip Glass, Miles Davis (late 60s & early 70s era), Brian Eno
I do not own the copyrights to the image used. Got it straight from google. Since I am not commercializing this article (at least not yet), I’m guessing no one will want to sue me.