Sixteen years. That’s how long riff mangling marauders Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson have been steering Sunn O))) into the crushing depths of tonal terror. Sixteen years of mammoth weight. Sixteen years of maximum reverb. Sixteen years of feedback, VOLUME, and pressure.
Over that time, Sunn O))) have accomplished many things. They've skirted the realms of accessibility, with albums like Monoliths and Dimensions. They've bewildered and battered, with stunning releases like ØØVOID and Black One. And they’ve have crafted massive suites, often from the most minimal of elements, with all those compositions being, well, crushing.
And they snuck an album by me.
It’s true. I made it my aim to review every Sunn O))) release, but I have to put my hand up. I missed this one early in the year.
In January this year, Sunn O))) released LA REH 012, which seems, on the face of it, to be a continuation of exploratory themes marked out by their previous demo release, Rehearsal Demo Nov 11 2011. Recorded in Los Angeles in 2012, mixed in Paris 2013, mastered by Brad Boatright, and originally issued on limited edition vinyl, LA REH 012 features somewhat of a return to Sunn O)))’s roots.
LA REH 012 features two titanic songs, “Last One / Valentine's Day” and “Invisible / Sleeper”; both making for 40-minutes of molten chords and bone-rattling frequencies. There’s nothing romantic about “Last One / Valentine's Day”, unless your idea of ardour features a love-in soundtracked by ominous organ-liquefying drone. If that’s the case, then you’re in luck, because “Last One / Valentine's Day” brings glacial movements of feedbacking strums the netherworld reverberations that reach back to the uber-slow days of Flight of the Behemoth and The Grimmrobe Demos.
“Last One / Valentine's Day” features guitar and bass, and nothing else. However, as usual, that set-up brings everything. Volume + physicality = sonic intimidation, and that’s all brought to bear on the track. As with all of Sunn O)))’s ultra-minimalist works, it’s the overall weight that counts most, and while “Last One / Valentine's Day” might be repetitive and rudimentary in structure, it hammers home the heavy tones, with monumental waves of guitar.
“Invisible / Sleeper” offers more in the mix. Anguished howls and the mutterings of the damned start the track, before an ascendent riff arises, and the squalling and crawling begins. A little synth creeps in to add some underlying colour, and for the next 20-minutes, it’s all churning journeying. Sunn O)))’s familiar atmosphere of audio asphyxiation rumbles across rhythmless terrain, and there’s no light glimpsed, and definitely no sleeping brows soothed here.
LA REH 012 is, like all Sunn O)))’s releases, a lengthy sojourn where dense sounds simultaneously raise the tension and liberate the spirit. Of course, to make the most of those ingredients, the usual mantra applies; “maximum volume yields maximum results”. Whether LA REH 012 hints at a return to darker, thundering skies for Sunn O))) in the future is yet to be seen, but whether that happens or not, this album is certainly another glorious gateway to oblivion.
(Right, I’m all caught up. That’s every Sunn O))) release reviewed, for now. Now best you go and buy ‘em. I didn’t go to all this effort for nothing.)
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The Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions series.