The Rickety Old Shack

Sunn O))) — Life Metal

album cover

Veteran doom / drone masters, Sunn O))), are back with a new full-length record. After spending the 4 years between the release of the band's last record, Kannon (review) touring and releasing a steady stream of rare recordings via their Bandcamp page (link), the new album was released with only minimal time between its initial announcement and actual release. Titled Life Metal, the album is another lengthy set of recordings from one of the music world's most intriguing, bizarre projects. As a fan of Sunn O))) since the release of ØØ Void, each new release has featured a further exploration and enhancement of the project's unconventional style.

Life Metal is probably the band's least progressive effort to date, even if it's not a bad album. The record opens with some interesting ideas in the first track, the nearly 13-minute "Between Sleipnir's Breaths," which includes some haunting chants along with the expected droning wall of guitars. But that's as adventurous as things get, with the material largely retreading well-worn ground with long, sprawling passages where droning guitar notes cascade and ring out almost endlessly. Everything moves at such a glacial pace that one can easily lose track of time. This feeling is further enhanced by the lack of distinguishing characteristics between the last 3 tracks — I honestly can't tell when one ends and the next begins, despite multiple listenings.

Nothing on Life Metal is spectacularly bad, but if you're well versed in the works of Sunn O))) then this is all going to be very familiar. There are some fleeting moments, such as the opening to "Novæ," where the tempo hits a blistering 10bpm, and the odd textural flourish of feedback and distorted instrumentation, that avoid the feeling of a phoned-in, paint-by-numbers experience. Still, in the whole of the band's discography, I still have to give Life Metal a mediocre ranking compared to such innovative efforts as Flight Of The Behemoth, Black One and Monoliths & Dimensions.

For the uninitiated, Life Metal is a good starting point; none of Sunn O)))'s material is very accessible, but this record is a very straight-forward collection of drone music without any caustic sound elements. The massive guitars and bone-rattling bass are hallmarks of the genre, and Sunn O))) continue to produce some of the thickest, most suffocating audio in the music game. Perhaps they are victims of their own high standards here, but while I enjoyed Life Metal I would have to say it underwhelmed based on my expectations of this project. It's still worth a look, but certainly won't be supplanting any of my favourites from this group.

Summary

Sunn O))) issue their 7th full-length studio album, Life Metal, and it's a decent — albeit far less innovative — effort from one of fringe metal's most lauded and unique projects. This album hews very close to the standard set forth by the band, but fails to take any risks and feels very much like a 'safe' release from the band. While still crushingly heavy and immense, Life Metal feels like a regression to the project's more stripped-down, earlier works. Diehard fans should still find themselves satisfied with Life Metal, but it won't be supplanting any of the band's defining records from earlier in their discography.

Album Information

Release date: April 26th, 2019
Record label: Southern Lord Records

Greg Anderson — guitars, bass drum
Stephen O'Malley — guitars
Hildur Guðnadóttir — vocals, electric cello, haldorophone
Tim Midyett — bass, bass crotales
Tos Nieuwenhuizen — Moog synthesizer
Anthony Pateras — pipe organ

Track Listing

  1. Between Sleipnir's Breaths
  2. Troubled Air
  3. Aurora
  4. Novæ

Link: sunn.bandcamp.com

—by Derek

Published: May 29th, 2019.