Sunn O)))

– Albert Hall, Manchester –

Upon entry, I walk upstairs through a building that could pass as a mental idealisation of a natural history museum; the high ceilings and dated decorum compliment the main hall which itself could easily house a selection of skeletal theropods; reinforcing my abstract visualisation. The seated area has a vague resemblance to an unfinished, budgeted reconstruction of an amphitheatre, which actually plays into the hands of the Seattle-orientated headliners; the sound and setting appear to be a near-perfect synthesis in creating an atmosphere that both performer and spectator can bask in, although I suspect the plebeians in standing would dispute this interpretation.

The obvious comparison to their style and what evidently influenced them would be fellow Seattleites, Earth; the foreboding-ambience-meets-Neo-Iommian-riffs a description about as fitting as an egg (in shell) being placed into a tray designed specifically for the aforementioned poultry-spawned consumable. One of the defining aspects of their set is the proliferation of smoke, fortunately emitted from machinery and not from hypothetical arsonists keen to push the moral boundaries of pyrotechnics; the colour changes add a sense of reflection to the present mood of the music, like a circus absent of animal maltreatment. Only a few instances in the set do I catch a slight glimpse of their physical form; it adds a mystique unusual in this mass-media climate, and also highlights their potential for live-action Scooby Doo villains in the event the day job fizzles out.

Unsurprisingly, their set consists of an extended, singular piece dominated by a guitar sound akin to an industrial, heavily oversized buzzsaw; the presence of synthesisers and other auxiliary instrumentation (do I hear a trumpet?) play a key role later on in shifting the sound into an ethereal landscape far more harmonious than the doom curdling at the beginning, the tonal transitions smooth and well-orchestrated enough that it locks the audience into practical silence. Employing surreal as an adjective is perhaps a little cliché to describe my observation of the audience; the idea that something so loud could induce the denizens gathered into a muted disposition confounded me, but I suppose the complimentary reverberation shaking the Hall would make any attempt at small-talk a fruitless endeavour.

I could persist with the situational analogies but would that not just be tedious? Are you the kind of sport that is seeking to hear/witness something conventional folk would label ‘strange’ and narrow-mindedly dismiss as ‘noise’, yet at the same time harbour a slight masochistic desire to give the muscles in your ears an unnecessary test of endurance? Well pop a wheelie and pay a visit down to whatever venue they happen to be situated in next, just remember to leave the foam padding at home!

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Angus Rolland

Recent career decisions have compelled me into the journalistic... thing; I could list my literary influences or even debate which 3rd rate beverage has the best economic value per litre (But I won’t). Oh, in addition, I write reviews for the Independents Network.