without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Most people who already have the live Pentemple album are likely to have the single CD version but if you were prepared to wait and spend a bit extra, a Japanese double CD version came out in August 2008 and it's this version that's being reviewed. The novelty value of Sunn0))) men Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley plus Attila Csihar and Oren Ambarchi playing a live gig with reclusive BM musician Sin Nanna of Striborg would have attracted a fair few curious fans of Sunn0))) and Striborg. Fortunately the music is not bad though I confess I do wish it had been better: Sin Nanna confines himself to playing drums and singing in that crabby reverb-drenched spaced-out voice and the Striborg presence tends to be secondary to the Sunn0))) presence (not surprising I guess), and that in a way is disappointing as Sin Nanna and Oren Ambarchi probably could have traded guitaring and drumming duties throughout the gig. Also on the first CD at least, the Sunn0))) men are much less intrusive with their droning guitars and the focus tends to be on the inter-play between Attila Csihar and Sin Nanna with respect to their vocals; the second CD though tends to be more dominated by the guitars and Csihar and Sin Nanna end up being sidelined.
On the first CD, "Pazuzu 1" starts with droning but your attention soon turns to Csihar's vocal gymnastics and Sin Nanna's horrified shrieks duelling with each other. Sin Nanna soon starts bashing away at the skins and it's his frenzied improvised drumming (I knew he was pretty good with the sticks, having heard several Striborg albums, but I didn't realise he was that good!) that drives the guitars, which are now as much BM-styled tremolo playing as droning) onward and which gives the track energy and structure. The music segues into "Pazuzu 2" with vocals from Csihar and Sin Nanna coming more to the fore and the pace set by the drums slowing down and becoming regular though still fast. The guitar drones also assert themselves but strangely in a warmer and non-threatening way. Everything becomes constant until the end where the drumming stops and the drones start to repeat themselves while Sin Nanna's voice echoes and vibrates in the background.
On CD 2, "Pazuzu 3" has a ghostly intro thanks to quiet echo effects and gentle bell-like percussion tones (Oren Ambarchi at work here) with a murky ambience floating above the sound landscape. Csihar and Sin Nanna call out like deserted mad men stumbling about in a dark and vast wasteland. Tremolo guitar and a hornet drone come to dominate the black space, blocking out everything else. At some point Sin Nanna's heavily treated screams become shimmering effects with only a very slight human presence and start to push the drones along. Later in the track the guitars start to get tedious and distract from the more interesting background activity where Csihar seems to be still active. Another guitar line, chainsaw-whiny, starts to develop along side the drones. The music continues developing in this way while effects based on Csihar and Sin Nanna's voices swoop and fly around.
The whole thing probably could have been improved or changed with the droning guitars pushed back more into the mix to allow Csihar and Sin Nanna's vocal work together to dominate as it's not likely we'll hear of these two guys performing together again for a while at least. In parts of "Pazuzu 3" there are lots of things happening in the background but they are ridden over by the juggernaut droning guitars to the extent that if you try to turn the sound up on your CD player, you hear even more of the drones instead. This album is strictly for fans of Sunn0))) and Striborg - the drumming and the ambient percussion tones are a good addition to the droning guitars which I think now need a rethink on the Sunn0))) men's part as to how the Sunn0)) concept can be refreshed and made original, apart from simply adding a changing line-up of musicians to augment the core drone sound. The atmosphere of the album is deeply unsettling with those feedback vocals and this is perhaps the best part of the whole set.
One thing you always get from the Southern Lord Alumni is a unique listening expierience, and while this one certainly fits the mold, it is even extreme by the standards of the musicians involved. I jumped when I saw this limited edition album on their website, and they certainly didn't last long. I'm sure that like myself, many other devoted Sunn O))) fans were quivering with excitement at the thought of the drone lords in a live setting, with the usual Anderson, O' Malley lineup superbly rounded out by ambient drone master Oren Ambarchi, as well as the always frightening Attilla, and (gasp) a drummer! Any one familiar with Sunn O))) will know that until this point, that while dabbling with slight percussion, real drumming is totally absent from their music. And it kinda makes sense, as drums would most likely detract from the washing drone nature of their music. So how does the interesting concept actually play out?
What we have here ends up being a totally different expierience than what you might expect from these guys. Completely opposed to the slow nature of most of Sunn's music, the drumming is for the most part, frantic and improvised soloing and blasting, accompanied by starts and stops, and on the second song, a really cool repetitive droning double bass beat, that plays out for a while while the music builds underneath it. Black metal isolationist, Sin Nanna of Striborg really stepped up for this interestingly bizarre one off concept, with not only his drumming but the addition of delayed black metal howls.
The music is for the most part improvised sounding riffs, drones, and eerie feedback. Some of the riffs and sections sound a little more grandiose than the the usual repetoire from these guys, somewhat remeniscent of the material on the Altar album. Towards the end of the album there is even this interesting feeback section that is somewhat soothing. The vocals are toally insane shrieks, cries, and some ominous chanting, that is definetly unsettling.
All in all, this is certainly not your average drone album, as the focus is more on creating an unsettling atmosphere, as opposed to a total trance vibe. It makes sense that this was released under the name of Pentemple, even though is is still within the Sunn O))) vein, the additional collaborators make for something totally different. The fact that this is an actual recording of a live show makes it even more bizarre, as it is difficult to even picture five guys playing what comes off this disc.