Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions: Part I - The Grimmrobe Demos

Written by Craig Hayes.

Self-proclaimed 'power ambient' duo Sunn O))) was formed by guitarist Stephen O’Malley and bassist Greg Anderson in the mid 90s, and since then, the band have explored the possibilities of sonic and emotional reward via thundering and increasingly more adventurous drones. Recently, Sunn O))) put their entire catalogue up on Bandcamp, and over the next few months I'm going to look at every release. Call it my 'Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions' project, or call it a fan biting off far more than he can chew. Whatever the case, here we go... unto the breach my friends; I hope to see you on the other side.


Not too many Sunn O))) fans would cite 1999's The Grimmrobe Demos as their favorite release from the band, but it’s an underrated pool of mind-bending noise to wallow in. Originally released in a minuscule run by label Hydra Head Records, The Grimmrobe Demos is more an exploration of Earth's droning keystone Earth 2: Special Low-Frequency Version than an investigation into the wider possibilities of sound that Sunn O))) would subsequently scrutinize. However, its lava-like momentum, cavernous frequencies, and sub-sonic and intestine-churning electromagnetics still make for a superlative odyssey into the abyss.

Photo by Anna Tomie.

The work of Earth's founding guitarist, Dylan Carlson, was, of course, the initial source of inspiration for Sunn O)))--and The Grimmrobe Demos contains a song called "Dylan Carlson" should anyone be in any doubt about his influence. Accordingly, the release is a raw, smashed-spine slither over tectonic soundscapes à la Earth, albeit cut with the darker themes and the slow-baked metallic pulse from O’Malley’s and Anderson’s backgrounds. "Black Wedding", "Defeating: Earth's Gravity" and "Dylan Carlson" are über-low-end drones. Sluggish, sludgy and hypnotic, the songs unleash the band's maximal minimalism, providing consummate introductory texts in the art of abrasive communication.

Photo by Anna Tomie.

There are multiple versions of The Grimmrobe Demos to seek out, and Sunn O)))'s Bandcamp page includes The Grimmrobe Demos // Extended version as well, providing "Grimm & Bear It", the sub-harmonic horrors of "Bremerton" (which is worth the purchase alone) and "Live at Gabah" too. The Grimmrobe Demos is bound tight by doom--albeit stripped down to its fundamental aural accoutrements--but the release hints at the pitch-black orchestral soundscapes, jazz, free-noise and myriad avant-garde sounds that would follow in its wake.

The Grimmrobe Demos is, of all Sunn O)))'s releases, the most spartan and direct. However, in its pared-back, fundamental creep, the band’s essential essence is writ large. It brings with it an amplification of density and aesthetic, and of course demands untold volume, and those elements have remained at the heart of Sunn O)))'s work, no matter how far the band has tread creatively since.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


The Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions series.

Tagged with 1999, Craig Hayes, doom metal, drone, Sunn O)))
2 comments:
  1. Got to see this album played in it's entirety for the 10th anniversary of the album. First, and unfortunately, only time I have seen them live. Blew me away, and the opener was a new band at time called Eagle Twin. They almost stole the show. They have a tape only release of the show. It too is on bandcamp.
    http://sunn.bandcamp.com/album/grimmrobes-live-101008

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  2. Aaron, I am unbelievably jealous (and I'd love to see Eagle Twin too). Sunn O))) were due to tour my neck of the wood this year, but alas, some promoter 'issues' saw the tour fall apart. One day, man. One day. I'll be covering all the extra releases too, so I'll get to the Grimmrobes live soon. Thanks for reading!

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