Monday night’s Sunn O))) concert was unlike any I have ever attended before. Fifteen minutes before the band took the stage fog machines pumped a steady stream of fog into the audience, stopping only once the lack of visibility made it impossible to tell you were in a concert hall. The band has only three members. Two guitarists and a vocalist took the eerily backlit stage wearing hooded robes and never appearing as more than a silhouette.
The songs were devoid of any semblance of melody or beat, consisting of only a rumbling ultra low drone played at a pace of approximately one new note per 10 seconds. I actually timed it at a few points. The gaps between notes consisted of the roaring linger of the previous note. Vocalist Attila Csihar, formerly of history’s most debaucherous black metal band Mayhem, growled demonic incantations into the microphone which sounded very authentic. By authentic I mean if there actually were demons which could be conjured by spells, Csihar’s performance probably could have conjured them. His deep, operatic growl is perhaps the most haunting to emerge from an entire genre of music devoted to creating haunting growls. It was powerful and chilling.
I am not familiar enough with Sunn O))) to know if they played more than one song, but to the uninitiated the performance was essentially one 80 minute long song which never increased pace beyond the slowest of crawls yet never paused as though they were changing songs. At one point Csihar did change costume into a creepy suit of mirrors with a pointed crown. It looked something like a satanic Statue of Liberty.
The volume was tremendous. It was the loudest band I have ever heard. Not even Motorhead or AC/DC comes close. You could feel the soundwaves pushing against you and rattling the room like an earthquake. I read online there is something of a challenge among the band’s fans to see if they can “beat the band” by withstanding the entire show sans earplugs, without passing out or vomiting.
I saw no one there stepping up to this challenge, as every person in the audience, myself included, appeared to have been informed enough to bring earplugs. As much of an extreme metal fan as I am, I cannot legitimately claim this jet engine drone as music, as much as it was ambient noise, performance art and a test of endurance.
The audience barely moved throughout the show, but cheered wildly at the conclusion. I cheered too, for the glorious spirit of metal represented on stage, and for the experience of having witnessed something truly unique. In its own way, it was wonderful. I did not buy any of their albums at the merchandise booth (which was a struggle to find through the fog), however I did buy a T-shirt.
|Stephen O'Malley, Attila Csihar and Greg Anderson of SUNN O)))|