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Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson have come a long way up to this point. From being straight-up Earth worship to experimenting with poets and other weird ideas, what better way to advance than to make a record darker than any other? Black metal was what they chose to incorporate into their sound this time around, luckily without sacrificing any of their signature dronage, and the result is one of the darkest records I've ever had the pleasure of setting my ears upon.
This record is basically a monument to black metal. Featuring two guest vocalists from well-known one man black metal acts, Mayhem lyrics, and loose covers from Immortal and Bathory, it definitely lives up to be a dedication to the genre. Even the second song 'It Took The Night To Believe', under it's heavy, murky bass, has a very sinister, tremolo picked riff that wouldn't be too foreign on any Norwegian black metal act's early works. The preceding track 'Sin Nanna' is named after the mastermind behind Striborg. The pure drone tracks, such as 'Orthodox Caveman' conjure darkness as well as any band of the genre could.
The vocals brought forth by the guest acts Wrest and Malefic (of Leviathan and Xasthur) are in their traditional, raspy scream, as seen from Wrest on 'It Took The Night..." and from Malefic on 'Cursed Realms'. There's an exceptional performance that is much different from these and this is perhaps the most unique way of recording vocals I've ever heard, as the claustrophobic Malefic was locked inside of a casket to record the vocals for 'Báthory Erzsébet'. Real darkness and fear was captured with this song, instead of conjuring a feeling of darkness in an interpretive fashion. Even while being locked inside, Malefic delivers the best performance I've heard from him (beating even his Xasthur performances), powerful, gut-wrenching and disheartening, especially with the lyrics being delivered.
Instrument-wise, the bass-heavy drone is delivered at a clear, somewhat steady pace, albeit extremely slow as is the norm for drone (which is kind of the point). Unlike some Sunn O))) songs in the past, the entire album is filled with memorable riffs, underneath the ambience, heavy distortion and vocals. With the help of production, if listened to at loud volumes (and using the right speakers), sub-bass adds to the meditative effect of the riffs, can cause your entire body to vibrate all throughout the album (which happens with most drone albums anyways). Maximum volume yields maximum results.
All the small nuances within the tracks help to stay attentive to the music if you're looking for substance rather than just background noise. Whether you're listening for the keyboards floating on top of the riffs, or the occasional percussion of which its structure seems chaotic, they're all worthy of some attention, and help the atmosphere to a certain degree. How the tracks are arranged is worthy of attention as well, some building up at glacial paces, and some going straight for the throat from the start. The lyrics themselves as mentioned before are disheartening, depressing (Báthory Erzsébet) and cryptic (It Took The Night...).
"Here. Decompose forever, aware and unholy, encased in marble
and honey from the swarm, a thin coat of eternal whispering
that bleaches from within, a darkness that defiles thought"
Overall, while it's easily the darkest record they've ever recorded and probably ever will record, I don't think this is the best place to start for Sunn O))) for newcomers to the band. They would be better off starting with "ØØ Void" or "Monoliths and Dimensions", which showcase their signature sound the best. Regardless, this is the peak (or deepest point if you want to be dark about it) of their discography in my humble opinion and it serves both drone and black metal a fine service.
When talking about Sunn O))), one is most likely talking about The Black One. Sunn O))) are famous amongst drone fans and amongst metal fans, because when it comes to being dark, aggressive, heavy and slow, The Black One does a perfect job. So yes, this is Sunn O)))'s most popular album so far, even though they released a few full-length albums before and after this one.
The fact that they used lyrics written by Dead is just great. It's kind of sad that Dead didn't get to record anything in studio with Mayhem before his death. Having great musicians like Sunn O))) using these vocals for their album is just fantastic. And I didn't even mention Bathory and Immortal. This is definitely an homage to Black Metal, but in a drone doom form. They really did manage to capture the Black Metal atmosphere though. This is in part why The Black One is the darkest and heaviest Sunn O))) album.
This album is not just about heavy and slow riffs, but also about heavy distortion, loud and powerful amps, and awesome song-writing. It may not sound like it, but it takes quite a lot of talent to choose the best chords to play to really build up such awesome ambiances throughout the whole album. When you pick this one album, you have to know you are not going to listen to your usual Metal record though. It's not going to make you sing, scream, start a mosh pit or headbang. But rather take you on a trip through the dark abysses of drone doom. Sunn O)))'s music is about the experience and the numbing effect it as on your brain. I must also admit, that this is one of the very few album that has a depressing effect on me. I like it, but it's so dark and disturbing, it will effect you in one way or another.
One more thing that just blows my mind about this record, is how unique each track is. With such slow and repetitive riffs, you would expect this kind of "music" to get boring after just a few tracks, but this is definitely not the case with The Black One. Each track brings drone doom to another level and the listener to another world.
This is definitely a drone masterpiece.
I don't delve into the likes of drone/doom often, but it's always a pleasant experience. The first drone album I ever heard was Earth's Hibernaculum, and I've been fascinated with the genre since then, always appreciating the unique atmosphere it creates. Only recently did I decide to listen to the genre's right-hand man Sunn O))), and I am very impressed with what they have to offer.
Now I'll get this out of the way first and foremost: if you're using this album to get into drone/doom as a whole, keep in mind that it's not a genre you enjoy in the contemporary sense of enjoyment. Black One is not an album you listen to and think "Oh, this is really nice. I thought that part right there was cool." No, it's far too slow for picking out parts and enjoying them; this album taps into your primal emotions - fear and happiness, specifically - and manipulates them. It's not something you should find enjoyable - or listenable, for that matter - but somehow it all fits together into one jumbled-together, psychotic album, that is at the same time beautiful. Mind you, during the daytime, this album usually has little to no worth. It's just a bunch of pseudo-creepy non-sense, like a bad horror movie during the daytime. But, as one of the album tracks themselves says, "It Took the Night To Believe", and that's entirely true. Wait until midnight. Cut the lights in your house. Take a slow traipse through the most claustrophobic places of your house in nothing but gloomy darkness, let the music overcome you, and you will see the most enjoyment Sunn O)))'s music can bring. And if you're high while you listen to it in this manner, all the better.
As one would expect from a drone album, the guitar is tuned to some of the lowest tunings possible; I believe the majority of this album was played in drop A. There are no drums, which would give the impression that the album is rather weak, flimsy and unguided; but no, the guitars and the thick, rich bass do a fine job giving the music enough substance to keep it from feeling incomplete, and besides, the music is so slow that using drums to keep rhythm is unnecesscary (in fact, there are some parts on this album where a tempo cannot even be found; places where the music borders on noise). The vocals range from baritone chants to falsetto wails to black metal screams (and as if to drive that last point home, Malefic from Xasthur performs vocals for the last track, "Báthory Erzsébet"), and never get stale from track to track. Aside from the blisteringly masochistic guitars, there are many parts of this album that simply serve an ambient purpose, like the first few minutes of the longer songs like "Cry for the Weeper" and "Báthory Erzsébet". This album's greatest asset lies in the absolute grungy heaviness of the guitar tone. With each droning strum, the tone reverberates itself wildly, crackling and breaking up like a bad reception on a radio. But at the same time, production is perfect - everything comes through crystal-clear, so the guitars are intentionally muddied to add to the paranoia-inspiring atmosphere.
However, the album does fall short in a few places. The first part is that there are some parts of the music that are simply annoying. Not scary and not masochistically enjoyable, but plain irritable, such as the sudden switch to high notes in the repeated riff at the end of "Cry of the Weeper". And, shared with other bands who decide to play this genre is the flaw of making some parts too long and not evenly spacing the album. The best example is the last track "Báthory Erzsébet". Although the song in its entirety is sixteen minutes long, seven of these are simply spent hitting a cult bell every twenty seconds. Two minutes of this I might have been able to stand, but really, Sunn O)))? Seven minutes of virtually nothing? What a waste. Finally, there is the track "Cursed Realms (Of the Winterdemons)", which goes for a more noise/ambient approach in its presentation but doesn't exactly perform it right. The track is too industrial to instill a sense of fear as the rest of the material on this album does, and at the same time it's too ambient to create a noise track. There's no real rhythm or tempo, and it's sometimes easy to forget the guitar even exists in this song, which isn't a good thing when your guitar is the best element of your music.
Still, this album has some genuinely epic moments. "It Took the Night To Believe", despite being less than six minutes long, is absolutely perfect in its presentation, staying instrumental for just long enough to make an atmosphere before introducing the vocals to amplify the experience. It has a perfectly-thought out riff, which it develops with ambient noises throughout the song. "Orthodox Caveman" also has a very excellent main riff, which isn't developed at all throughout the track but it still serves the purpose of a good ambient song. The instrument in the beginning of "CandleGoat", whatever it is, is very beautiful, which is a quality not often seen on this album. And finally, the track "Báthory Erzsébet", excluding the seven minute bell solo, is another perfect song. With all the shrill pitches of the guitar in between the droning sludge, mixed with the screams of Malefic inside a coffin, it's probably the song on the album most likely to make you do double takes behind you while you listen to it.
As it seems to be with any drone album, Black One is not a perfect album. But it serves its purpose well, and when you look past its flaws, you will find a very worthwhile album to shit your pants to, mentally scar your punk-listening neighbors, or just tap deep into your own psyche. It's a very good entry-level drone album, and if you've ever wanted to dig into the more demented side of music, this would be a good album to start with.
I listen to all genres of metal, but this is one I, and most others, criminally overlook. Some people label this as "noise", or "monotonous", but the way I see it, these people don't understand what the music is about. It's not about headbanging or moshing, it's about building an atmosphere. I understand this kind of music is definatly an aquired taste, and some people may not find it very appealing, but me, well, I find it very interesting, and as proof metal is FAR from dead.
This album is massive, no doubt. It's also creepy as fuck, as one can easily tell by the album art, which appears to be...well, I can't really tell. I think it's a horned woman facing away from you, wearing tattered cloths and staring into a forest made of roots with eyes. All I know is, it fits the music very well.
The opening song "Sin Nanna", will send shivers down the spine of any metalhead who approaches it. Although short (at 2:20), it's just as creepy as the 10-16 minute songs. It is very hard to tell what exactly it consists of, as it sounds like a bunch of noises one might hear coming from the basement at night mixed with noises one might hear outside at night, and creepy as fuck whispered vocals. It seems to consist of percussion instruments and a digeridoo (hope I spelled that right) and backwords vocals, for instance, a woman screaming.
The following track is "It Took the Night To Believe", which is a more straight forward track, containing a memorable riff behind creepy black metal vocals and Attila (of Mayhem) influenced singing, both by Leviathan's Wrest. It does a great job at building an atmosphere that it can hold, without collapsing in on itself. There are no changes in structure for the songs entire length (5:59), giving it alot of time to build up.
"Cursed Realms (of the Winterdemons)", the third track, appears to be black metal vocals over odd guitar distortion and the occassional power chord, but the noises in the background continue building and building, getting louder and louder, as Malefic (Xasthur) keeps shreiking his head, the words being from the Immortal track of the same name. The creepy background sounds eventually become static, with seemingly random sounds such as female screaming and UFO-esque sounds escalating and escalating, as if waiting to explode. And boy, DO THEY EVER. The ending of this song is likely to blow out your speakers. At this point I am asking myself, "how can they possibly get creepier than this"?
"Orthodox Caveman" is the fourth track, opening with a metal riff which eventually changes to a Neurosis-esque chug-chug riff. It's a very good riff, and the lack of drums is made up for by creepy guitar distortion. Eventually, this riff disappears behind a wall of sound, and then the first riff returns, although this time it's a collosal entity standing in front of you, blocking out the sun. This riff goes on for awhile alone, then the song ends. Definatly not the album's best track, despite being fairly good.
"Candlegoat" starts with creepy 30's horror movie music, then switches to traditional drone/doom, with occassional vocals shreiking a verse or two every now and then. This track is among the album's most boring, as almost nothing happens the entire 8 minutes in length. It isn't bad, just very uneventful and lacks any riffs. Stephen O'Malley does the vocals in this track.
"Cry For The Weeper" begins with an ambient noise slowly growing in volume, then falling, then rising, then falling, until the noise randomly becomes constant and an odd growling type sound appears and disappears. Finally, a creepy as fuck organ piece begins to play, sounding somewhat muffled, as if, playing in the basement of a church at midnight. This song is esentially the answer to "Cursed Realms (of the Winter Demons)". Eventually, guitars appear and begin to play in the band's typical riffless style for a few measures, before switching it up for a measure and playing a riff that sounds completly different. In the background are what appears to be ambulances, or some similar sound. Here it becomes obvious that there is in fact a pattern to these seemingly random chord progressions (or at least it did to me). I don't know. Anyway, the song drags on forever, and it eventually becomes apparant that the aforementioned section with the actual pattern is the track's chorus. The last minute or so of this song is the creepiest section on the whole album.
The 16 minute closing track, Báthory Erzsébet, begins with deep ambient sounds that last a very long time, before repeating shortly after. This goes on for 7 minutes straight, before the guitars finally enter. We are now treated to a creepy guitar riff with mumbled vocals in the background, before Malefic begins to shreik from beyond the grave (the only vocals for a VERY VERY long time it seems). His vocals were actually recorded in a casket on this song, contributing to the creepy atmosphere. Behind the guitar work and vocals are ambient sounds and guitar distortion, blocking the only exit to this burning building. This song is even scarier than the last one was, and while boring to listen to for the first 7 minutes, the latter 9 are far more eventful and make this one of the album's most worthwhile tracks.
In conclusion, while unorthodox, this album is very enjoyable if you're in the right mood. I don't really have a favourite track, but "It Took the Night to Believe" is the album's most easily digestable track, so I suggest that one if you aren't sure about purchasing it.
8.5/10 Very good but tends to drag on for a very long time without doing anything memorable.
The idea of drone metal, from my understanding, is to distort the guitars, turn the volume and bass up then strum the strings on their guitars. Allowing the notes to 'drone' on and on somehow puts people in some kind of zen state of mind. Unfortunately, the only trance I'm put into is one where I want to turn this shit off.
Greg Anderson & Steven O'Malley are widely considered top class musicians. Not because of their technical prowess, but their ability to captivate and mesmerize listeners. While there is ZERO technicality on this album, I won't score it because there's a goal behind this music, but it doesn't click for me. This album comes across as an hour long guitar strum-fest with some black metal vocals (which I hate) thrown underneath the blanket for added effect. I've slowly, painstakingly glided along with this album multiple times waiting for this trance to hit me. I've dimmed the lights, I've closed my door and I've turned the volume up. I've drawn focus to other things to let it surprise me as well. Yet, it does nothing. The only thing I'm left with is a headache from the persistent, buzzing sound waves. The songs are absolutely directionless. It's like telling a blind kid to pin the tail on the donkey.
The vocals are the only way to differentiate, but sadly, they're all black metal which are already monotonous in itself. The only song I can remember is Báthory Erzsébet (the "stick-the-vocalist-in-a-casket" concept is pretty cool, I'll give it that), but memorable doesn't make it good. It's definitely the darkest song on here, though.
There's no flow to this album which puzzles me greatly. No overall flow yet each individual track is terrible. Even the songs have zero flow. You'd think that with the style of music the transitions would be fluid, but they're the exact opposite. Think of it like an endless staircase. The strum is the drop and the drone is the actual stair. I notice each strum which further prevents me from reaching this zen trance.
The production isn't too bad on Black One, but honestly, what is there to produce? There's no drums (which cause clipping and other nasty sounds if they're produced poorly) and the guitars are distorted beyond production repair.
Ultimately, I'm not impressed. They've been doing this for 10 years and they're still going. Maybe there's some subtle difference in each song that I can't hear, but every song in their discography sounds alike. They all go way past their mark. The album may be atmospheric and dark, but the goal of the music doesn't work for me which is why it gets a 0. If it doesn't do its job, it doesn't deserve anything higher than a 0. If this album was half its length I would probably give it some points, but the songs wander way too far and for way too long. It's an auditory mess in my ears.
I honestly cannot find a better soundtrack to my own worst nightmares and terrifying imaginings than Sunn 0))) have created with this album. While the majority of people seem to think that heaviness is achieved through speed and aggression, Sunn know that crushingly slow riffs, buzzing feedback and eerie shrieks, screams, and cries are the way to strike true fear into the hearts of its listeners. Sunn 0))) has transcended the limitations of a band; they are a purely evil wall of sound. Be warned; the compositions found on this album are certainly not for the weak of heart.
Following White1 and White2, Sunn have created their heaviest work, if not their best. "Sin Nanna" starts as an adequate introduction, its ambient clanging and buzzing set the tone for the rest of the album. "It Took the Night to Believe" is an interesting composition. When I first heard it, I was very surprised by the creepy tremolo-picked riff that compliments the droning bass behind it. It seems to me that the bands black metal influence shines through the most on this album. My theory is supported by the bands cover of Immortal's "Cursed Realms (Of the winterdemons). I am not familiar with the original song, seeing as I am not much of an Immortal fan, but the cover stands on its own.
"Orthodox Caveman" is the most straight-forward drone track on the album, with the repetitious, pummeling riffs that we've grown to expect from Sunn 0))). "Candlegoat" is very similar in style to the previous song (as expected), but the addition of some sparingly used vocals change it up. "Cry for the Weeper" and "Bathory Erzebet" are fine conclusions to this incredibly dark, creepy, and overpowering album.
Black One is a very unique album, even by Sunn 0)))'s standards. The tracks are not all as long as the majority of their songs, with several songs under the ten-minute mark, and one hitting 10:00 exactly. This album is a good start for anyone interested in Sunn's work, although I cannot think of any bad way to start listening to this great band.
The fifth full-length “Black One” is a one-way ticket straight into the abyss from drone/doom masters Sunn O))). Incorporating slow and typical yet haunting riffs with help from usbm legends Wrest(Leviathan) and Malefic(Xasthur) there is not a doubt in my mind “Black One” is Sunn O)))’s most unrestricted and accomplished album to date.
Kicking it off is a different approach from Sunn O))) with the short intro “Sin Nanna” which sets the mood. The following “It Took the Night to Believe” also adds new incorporations blasting off immediately with a black metal-esque tremolo riff ensued by Wrest’s sinister vocals which are a match made in hell. In fact, I could even expect this song as an intro or closer to a Leviathan album. Black metal fans are sure to love this one. The entire song is captivating and only creates more anticipation for the forthcoming songs.
“Cursed Realms (Of The Winterdemons)” is technically a Immortal cover song of the same name, with different music. The blizzard noise effects that start it off and continue throughout along with the atmospheric parts and Malefic’s shrieking vocals also fit well. This is one storm I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be caught in! As much as I like this song, I think it would have fit better more towards the middle or latter part of the album.
Next up, my favorite track of the whole, is "Orthodox Caveman". An onslaught of low end from start to end, the more well-known parts of Sunn O))) start here with lack of vocals. The riffs are fantastic and flow with the drone parts so well, that I would enjoy a nice smoke to this during the wee hours of the morning. It is followed immediately by a Xasthur-type intro in “Candlegoat” which draws the listener even deeper into the abyss. The stage is set yet again for my second favorite “Cry For The Weeper”. It is definitely the most eerie and doom styled track of the bunch, with even more entrancing riffs.
The closer “Báthory Erzsébet” is the best choice for the end of an intense trip. The beginning is a very subtle interlude which flows into the drone guitar half-way through the song. Clearly showing very emotional riffs and also more subtle screams by Malefic, this closer is one to remember. The fading drone at the end marks the finale to the fifth opus by the cloaked legends Sunn O)))!
Included in one version of “Black One” is an additional CD with two live tracks “Wine & Fog” and “Vlad Tepes” with vocal performances by Attila Csihar of Mayhem and Tormenter. Look into getting these songs.
I have only recently gotten into more diverse music genres, a stray from the norm for me considering I usually listen to black, death and thrash metal. Those in the same situation, looking to get into drone and doom, with this album, look no further.
By welcome coincidence this is the drone-doom duo's best full-length recording and one of their more accessbile works for Metal listeners. Previous recordings may have promised much but left many listeners unsatisfied due to the improvised and repetitive nature of a lot of songs which can sometimes seem like extended intros to as-yet unwritten songs. On "Black One" the tracks now sound more full-bodied and developed, and they now plumb depths as dark and sinister as those to be found in Black Metal proper, and this is due in large part to contributions from US West Coast BM kings Leviathan and Xasthur, the reliable Mathias Schneeburger and two musicians from the electro-art-noise and improv scenes respectively, John Wiese aka Bastard Noise and Oren Ambarchi.
After a short formless drone piece by Ambarchi called "Sin Nanna" (after the main man of Australian BM act Striborg), we get down to serious BM doom business with "It Took The Night To Believe" which combines BM-style trembling blizzard guitar with almost-rollercoaster droning bass riffs while Leviathan lord Wrest lends his ominous echoing vocal presence and his creepy atmosphere to give the music a drama and depth not encountered on a Sunn0))) studio album this side of Attila Csihar. It's a pity Wrest only guests on one track as his contribution takes the song almost into a completely different dimension. But along comes another sterling piece, the reworked version of Norwegian BM band Immortal's "Cursed Realms (Of The Winterdemons)" in which severe bass drones and quavering guitar tones are joined by blizzard white noise glitch from John Wiese's laptop and various atmospheric effects by Schneeburger. Xasthur's Malefic takes over the phantom vocal duties in sonic weather conditions sever enough to bring down commercial jets into deep Andes Mountain-level whiteness.
The next three tracks are more typically Sunn and less BM. "Orthodox Caveman" is mostly drone guitar riffing with tribal percussion pounding from an energetic Ambarchi (who was originally a drummer before he took up guitar) coming in towards the end. "CandleGoat", featuring lyrics by original Mayhem vocalist Dead sung by the multi-monickered MK Ultra Blizzard aka Droneslut aka SOMA aka Mr Anne Kugler (that last one isn't in the cd sleeve credits!) is a much more bludgeoning drone axe affair softened slightly and given depth by John Wiese's casketronix. "Cry for the Weeper" is a bass-heavy drone mood piece full of dread where keyboard-generated effects and gravelly guitars perform a grim death dance duet. Together these pieces are strong and powerful, and yet they are overshadowed by the earlier BM-influenced pieces and the last track.
Ah yes ... this is "Bathory Erzsebet" a tribute both to the Blood Countess herself and to Quorthon (RIP) of the Swedish band Bathory: it is a long sprawling bass riff monster in which Malefic literally gives the vocal performance of his life, screaming and almost hyperventilating into his microphone while stuck in a pine coffin in a Cadillac hearse. Not surprisingly he sounds extrenely rattled and terrified and his voice is dry and hoarse at the thought of being buried alive without having any of the, er, necessary "Kill Bill Vol 2" kung fu skills to get himself out of the ground. Ambarchi supplies moody tones and treated percussion sounds to enliven the track.
The bonus cd "Solstitium Fulminate: Live at Roskilde 0705" features two recordings made during Sunn0)))'s 2005 European tour: both were mixed and edited by Ambarchi who together with Attila Csihar and Tos Nieuwenhuizen accompanied the two black-burqa'ed blokes. The entire cd is very different from anything Sunn0))) have done before and since, and is outstanding for Csihar's vocal gymnastics: he screams, groans, mewls like a kitten and gabbles in long-forgotten ancient languages. On "Wine & Fog", the guitars heave like untuned bagpipes while the sonic universe collapses in on itself and is reborn with Csihar enacting the birth pains. In "Vlad Tepes" (don't you just love these double tributes to historical figures and the bands named after them?), Csihar conducts a kind of secret shamanist ritual and falls into a trance while the music falls into a pulsing rhythm in tune with that of the cosmos. You expect the climax to be shattering in some way but it actually passes quickly and then you realise the ritual and the trip were more important than the goal.
I like the bonus cd better than the studio cd (though it was only available with the first 200 copies of the album) but nevertheless "Black One" proper is darkly beautiful and powerful: the Sunn ones are truly inspired here and their playing is majestic and full of conviction and passion. I cannot say for some of the collaborators here but Oren Ambarchi's career as a guitarist seems to have improved as a result of meeting Mystik Kliff and MK Ultra Blizzard so the benefits are mutual.
There was a hilarious rumour going around that Oren Ambarchi and Sin Nanna of Striborg were one and the same person but the terrible truth is that they are not; probably the confusion arose because neither of the two happens to be a very pretty sight.
If at this point, you have not already heard Sunn, a group that are likely the most revolutionary band in metal today, this is the best place to start. “Black One” exhibits more focus than the pair of “White” albums and that focus is primarily tuned into the manifestation of deeply chilling sounds of bitter darkness. The relevancy of this album arriving around the autumn time makes its ambience ring as being all the more spooky, with the bleak sounds herein being more frightening when initially experienced during the Halloween time of the year than if they had been revealed during any other season. Anderson and O’ Malley are intent on spinning quite the dismal sonic web, with tracks like “It Took The Night To Believe” and “Cursed Realms (Of The Winterdemons)” resounding blacker than the Sunn has ever shone before. Wrest (Leviathan) lends his bleak imperial majesty to the affair, and it is during his performances that you will notice the most icy cold moments, the type that chill you to the bone with their espousal of unadulterated evil.
“Orthodox Caveman” is perhaps the most familiar sounding of the tracks, but although it treads along the same path as the band’s previous buzzing, bassed-out, compositions, the drone here is more of a thunder that overtakes the listener from a distance. In what must be one of the “fastest” Sunn songs yet, “CandleGoat” takes the drone devotee from eerie organ music to distinctly sub-harmonic depths. This is the type of music that should be played at Bohemian Grove. One of the greatest aspects of Sunn’s sonic explorations is the amount of room they leave for the imagination to wander. It’s not as easily interpreted as more prevalent forms of sonic communication, but the cavernous soundscapes the band articulates ends up as being best for slipping away into a near-coma transcendental state of wickedness.
Assuredly, the highlight of the record is the sixteen minute foray into the abyss called “Bathory Erzsbet.” It is with this track that Sunn reveal what may be the most intensely occult piece of music ever recorded. Low sounding bells and otherworldly manipulations of tone. The sound of Xasthur’s Malefic being trapped inside of a closed casket in the business end of a Cadillac Hearse is more than disturbing, yet brilliantly representative of the vibe of the track. Product being, one of the most wicked aural summonings that you have heard in your life. Sunn are more austere than ever on “Black One”, it’s grim buzzing substantial enough to satisfy any fan of iniquitous music. This low-tone subterfuge is taking evil in a whole new direction.
Continually experimenting with the already non-duplicable efforts of Earth, Sunn0))) progress effortlessly through four full-length albums before rerouting themselves from the conditioning of White1 and White2, and presenting us with Black One. This presentation of Black Metal fused with Drone Doom is by no means the first documented attempt at such an unholy union, but rather, another development brought about by continually mutating their Drone Doom sound with taste, artistic acceleration, and even pushing the sub-genre’s growth as a whole. Covered once again in murky, thick cobwebs of atmosphere, this one is another treasure from the swamps….
This album covers many spectrums of Sunn0)))’s work, particularly their minimalist, noise-utilized, and atonal works. I’d say this album takes some snippets from The Grimmrobe Demos, White2, and Flight of the Behemoth. The particular soundscapes present, then, are of a wholesome variety. It’s the novel composition that makes this album flow especially well.
Considering the comparisons of past Sunn0))) albums, the tone and form are more murky and sinister in intent. The guitars are immensely thick (as expected), and there are a myriad number of other sounds, noises, and vibrations I have yet to identify. Formulaically, the rich sounds in combination with droning guitar and bass immediately marry into a construction of things eerie, macabre, ghoulish, and even at times mystical/spiritual. I think that here, a deeper importance of atmosphere is understood, where in previous efforts, there was not enough audial “space” allowed to prevail. The inherent subtleties with vocal work done by O’Malley in “CandleGoat” and the exceptional vocal work of Malefic in the disturbing, chilling “Bathory Erzébet” (he reportedly recorded in a casket within a hearse) are some examples of how that blackness flourishes on the album. Hell, even the lyrical content of “CandleGoat” is an excerpt from Mayhem’s “Freezing Moon.” The grimness here is so thick it could be cut into slices and served.
I take it that the whole album should not be overlooked in any way. Black One is not entirely a fusion of Drone Doom and Black Metal, but a further evolution, experimentation, and blackly-influenced work. “It Took the Night to Believe” is a resoundingly grim, haunting, and notable track. The main parts consist of a rhythmic drone, led by a tremolo riff that plays a funeral procession for the entire universe. Wrest’s chthonic tone gives an extra interesting layer to the track, but does not command any extraneous attention. The simplicity of this track, as well as the sludgy, prehistorical “Orthodox Caveman” is the primitive simplicity of Sunn0))) that is mesmerizing, as well as enjoyable. And as grandiose as many Sunn0))) songs are, the ones presented here are nothing less of paradigm shifts in the sands of Drone Doom. “Cursed Realms (of the Winterdemons),” a cover of Immortal’s song from the album “Battles in the North” is a track noteworthy of Drone experimentation. Amidst Malefic’s ghastly shrieks, the song has no significant structure for part of the song; the verses here are laid against a frozen landscape created by harsh, howling feedback, which gives way to a trumpet-blowing drone, a herald of an icy tomb. The song builds in its urgency, raising feedback, until the bow breaks in a blizzard of encrusted feedback, accompanied by atonal echoes. The resonance of the final notes sounds a grave and final resolution fitting to the track. I think the song fails in its need to actually “cover” the Immortal material, whereas this is more of an interpretation. Nonetheless, I think that it is admirable that it wasn’t some sludgy copy-and-paste, but rather, a literal interpretation of the material.
The usage of collaborating artists on Sunn0)))’s albums has very much worked in their favor. Upon initial listening, I would’ve thought that such a collaboration with previously guest starring artists, along with the work of Wrest (Leviathan) and Malefic (Xasthur) would have an overshadowing effect on the overall effort, due to their popularity with the Black Metal underground. However, the work does not exploit excessive use of their flair, successful in evading imperfections that both artists face.
Because Sunn0))) is so prolific within the Drone Doom scene, I can only say that this album is a landmark in Drone’s development not because of invention, but it is the mark of Sunn0)))’s juggernaut influence on drone and their work with other artists that will have future Drone enthusiasts claiming this one to be a classic. Let’s see in the next ten years….until then, you can both suffer and marvel in this album’s epic drones.
Sunn O))) certainly have a history. Stemming from bands such as Burning Witch, Khanate, Thorr's Hammer, and Goatsnake, it's obvious that these guys know exactly what, and how to do these doomy genres of music. Not only do these men know what they are doing, but the people who collaborated on this album also come from very creative backgrounds, and im sure contributed great things to this record.
The album starts out with a very short, atmospheric, bass-pounding "intro", shall we say, entitled "Sin Nanna". Being composed by premier Australian experimental artist Oren Ambarchi, this song has a very uneasy, and frightening vibe to it. This track is cut short at about 2 minutes, which I feel is perfect because then, the album truly begins.
Next comes the droned out black metal masterpiece "It Took The Night To Believe". This track begins with a background of droned out guitar/bass/moog and tremolo picked black metal riff. Fun fact about this song, is that if you own the LP, put it on and crank it up to 45 RPM. It basically sounds like a black metal song. Back to the review. This song, unlike most of the others has Wrest of Leviathan on vocals. He does an incredible job with the vocals and basically speaks to you in a voice you'd hear in a nightmare. One of my favorite tracks for sure.
After this, a brief sound of wind gusting past a mic can be heard. Malefic then kicks in, and is screaming the vocals to "Cursed Realms of the Winterdemons". It truly feels as if you are on an icecapped mountain with the man being screamed at in a cave. When the drone kicks in, it is especially powerful, and the vocals are relentless. These vocals sound a bit different then those on past Xasthur releases. Perhaps the production, and the direction that they wanted. Sounds great regardless.
The next 2 tracks are drone, in very straightforward form. I feel that they should have been held back, due to the darker nature of this album, but hey, im not in Sunn O))). They are great drone tracks, however, and do add a bit of a "break" on this album.
"Cry For The Weeper" is another drone epic, which I feel is incredible, out of all of their droning songs. My personal favorite drone track, and one of my favorites on the album.
Last, but surely not least, comes Bathory Erzsebet. This is, in my opinion, the best Sunn O))) song EVER written. From start to finish, lyrically, musically, it is pure genious. The beginning, which is the sounding of a large, church sounding bell, adds such feeling to this song. Besides the fact that these vocals were recorded inside a coffin which was later placed in a hearse, this is truly the most evil song ever created.
I'd like to close off however by saying that Sunn O))) is not for everyone. A friend of mine loved there live show but just cannot listen to them on CD. Sunn O))) is quite an acquired taste, just as most genres of music. So hear me wisely, and don't expect anything you've EVER heard before, because this album was quite a break from the ordinary.
Congratulations Sunn O))), you created an album that gives me nightmares. This is real deal everyone, experimental droning that crushes you under buzzing bass and guitars. This is a long album, but from start to finish this collaboration of musicians creates very interesting sonic landscapes.
The first track "Sin Nanna", is the shortest song on the whole album, but it is defiantly not the least. It has powerful bass, and an eerie wind sound that brings up feelings of paranoia. A lone timpani tinkers in the background.
Track two is "It Took the Night to Believe". Right from the start the guitars are in your face, an off-time riff begins to bash your ears in, while a tremolo riff follows over top. There is no feeling of urgency here, you are about to suffer a slow death at the hands of these drone demons. Not a second to late, Wrest of Leviathan bursts from the veil of sound, howling like no other. His eerie speech is difficult to hear, but he is obviously proclaiming your doom. The song ends with the tremolo, and is drowned in silence and the pounding of your heart.
"Cursed Realms (of the Winterdemons)" was a song originally done by black metal pioneers Immortal. The howling winds open this track, and they sear the ears with frost and atmosphere. Malefic of Xasthur is the vocalist on this track, and he does an amazing job of growling his way through four minutes of wind sounds before those droning guitars return again. You can actually feel the temperature dropping around you as the guitars disappear into static and Malefic once again is screaming out of the abyss, calling you down to be smothered by the icy wind. You should be glad he is there however, if there was no vocals, you would feel alone. This track is so different from the original I had trouble believing it was the same song, but I guess that isn't something you lie about. Amazingly original cover song!
Track four, the "Orthodox Caveman", is my favorite song on the album. The buzz-saw guitars are back with an absolutely crushing riff that threatens to make the walls crumble. They repeat, and trade offs occur between the guitars. One plays the part of static and drone, creating the "wall of sound" ideal. The other guitar, plays the riff, a heavy "melody" if you will, until they have both have enough. Static. Drone. Then suddenly the first riff is back, all of the instruments only desiring to smash every standing structure outside of the speakers. Without even changing pace or sound, Sunn O))) creates a building tension. At first it sounds like rain, but closer listening reveals a rolling snare drum, pelting the ground with the remains of the standing structure. The guitars leave their riffing, and the drummer goes crazy in the distance. And than it ends. Brilliant.
A very Xasthur styled riff opens "Candlegoat". Clean, dissonant guitar melodies off in the distance are smothered by the crushing guitars early on in the song. There is a sense of mourning here. There is no rush or tension, only the scraping of the funeral march. You can feel yourself being pushed downward by the weight of this sound. Appearing under it all, is a distant synthesizer, announcing MK Ultra Blizzardâ€™s vocal entrance. As I listen, only the word â€œeternityâ€ stands out of his raspy speech. The darkness begins to wrap around you like a casket, and then leaves just as quicklyâ€¦
â€œCry for the Weeperâ€ begins with some (barely) pleasant bass harmonics, that slip away into a creaking sound from some demon made distortion. A lone bell breaks the silence, and the powerful bass returns. It is very distant this time, as if you were looking up into the roof of an abandoned church, and heard its deep echoes. Without warning, a squeal of static ushers in the drone. The distant riff is back, and it carries the mood with it. The creative melody, my favorite riff on the album, gives a lot of variety to this track. It stops, but the crushing guitars are now accompanied by the distant crying of spirits. That unhealthy feeling of paranoia returns. This song creates the feeling that you are being watchedâ€¦ You are in the wrong place at the wrong time and you are never getting out. The spirits stop, and the mournful melody from before returns, draining life from the room. The ever present buzz-saws finish this song, but not before a sound from the netherworld screeches out a few notes of its song. It is hard to believe such terror could be invoked from a song that has no vocals.
The final opus, â€œBathory Erzsebetâ€, has the tolling of a bell to announce the beginning of the end. Bass slides and reverb from an amplifier are heard distantly. There is a sure feeling of loneliness that haunts the intro to this song, there is no dominating sound here, only that empty feeling in your stomach when you know something very wrong is about to happen. From the depths, with an evil hiss, come the guitars. Their loud static paralyzes the very air. Then the sound of Maleficâ€™s voice is heard. There isnâ€™t anything human about his voice. In fact, if I didnâ€™t know any better I would have thought he was possessed; he uses a whisper in one speaker, and a shriek/howl/growl in the other. In the background the screaming soul wind is back, no doubt lamenting their demise at the hands of such a demonic presence. There is urgency here. They want you to run through a labyrinth of sound and dark caves to find them. The only respite is when the guitars stop their riffing and some static fills the void, but Malefic is ever present, his demons know no bounds. With a final plummet into the void, the song fades away.
This album is amazing. There is no question. You just have to listen to it yourself. But be warned; it is not for everyone. It is really the most terrifying thing I have ever heard. The reason it does not get 100% is because I have trouble sleeping if I listen to it as I lay in bed.
A lot of people will say that Sunn O))) is dark, has an evil vibe, etc. When I bought White2 though, it didn't really seem that evil.. The last track was, but the first two weren't that bad at all. This album, however, is very very dark and evil. It almost challenges Khanate in the un-easy listening category, which is no mean feat.
The album starts on a fairly easy note though. Sin Nanny is just a brief, 2 minute ambient intro, and while it's fairly creepy, it's not that terrible. But that's where the easy listening ends. It took the NIght to Believe has super creepy vocals, a tremelo picked guitar line floating behind the mix, with droning guitars in the foreground. I'm not a huge BM fan, so maybe there is more evil stuff out there, but I haven't heard anything anywhere near this evil.
This evil vibe gets increased a huge amount in the next song. It's an Immortal cover, and while I haven't heard the original, I doubt it's quite this evil. The songs is basically filtered through static, the vocals heavily FX treated, and there's some very good use of screaming samples and the like. The droning guitars kick in later in the song, and they actually give you a bit of a relief. Still, by the end of this song you are screwed. There's such an unrelenting evil vibe to it.
The rest of the songs are all fairly evil too, though with less of a BM influence. More like usual Sunn O))), basically. Cry for the Weeper has some cool (and fairly normal sounding) synths that add a pretty cool sound. The last song is pretty damn cool too. I'm assuming it's a tribute to Bathory. It starts off really, really quiet for ages, and around the 7 minute mark, the droning guitars kick in, with some more screamed vocals. It's a pretty awesome track, definetly the best song on the album.
So.. If all these songs are good.. why am I only giving it 68%? Because while it's very well put together, I would be hard pressed to think of a time when I'll actually play this album. It's a very depressing album, and I don't like listening to ultimately depressing music. Still, if that's the kind of stuff you dig, or if you are a huge BM fan, or a huge drone fan, you should get this album, I guess. Sunn O))) N00bs would be better off start with White2 in my opinion.
Sunn O))) paved a road for themselves that has been lined with intelligence, intuition, and luck. One may argue that one creates their own luck, and I would be hard pressed to disagree. The duo of O'Malley and Anderson have taken a concept and pushed it to the limits of sanity/insanity, without cheapening the overall experience or destroying the mystery.
Such a group may over time fall prey to repeating old ideas or grow bored with established themes. Here though, the Sunn O))) camp seems very content with staying the course of primeval drone.
With "Black One" on the other hand, there is a new sense of intrigue, with the group embracing the dark side with open arms; a dark side that has been touched upon and dabbled with in the past, but not explored in the way it is on this album.
The curious thing about Sunn O)))'s music to begin with is the "why's" to it's appeal. Is the human psyche programmed to become disturbed or heightened to an extreme sense of urgency when hearing loud, thundering, pulsating sound waves? Is it a born instinct to be cautious of such sound? At the same time, the overall vibration of low frequencies can be either soothing/calming, or a provocation of nausea and headaches. One is to assume that the comfort/sickness battle could go either way depending on the circumstance.
So, as we curious humans dive into a listening excursion like this, one has to be ready for anything. It may relax a person to sleep, or cause a vomiting panic attack. The "fun" thing about it is, one day it may cause one and the next cause another, depending on frame of mind when listening.
"Black One" as a title fits this release to the tilt; Sunn O))) takes their already present tendency for darkness and drowns themselves in the bleaker aspects of reality. Recruiting U.S. black metalers Wrest and Malefic to add their own disturbances cause this recording to take the concept of "black" and throw it into the abyss with intention of destroying any resemblance of light or hope.
To many, the most impressive track may be "Báthory Erzsébet", which starts off with a several minute interlude that sets up an emotionally distraught guitar riff that sets up an even more distraught wailings of Malefic; who many by now know was in a casket placed in a hearse for the recording. The effect works; the screams are desperate and hoarse, pleading for the agony to either release him or destroy him.
Every track though has it's own characteristics that bring out the deepest dread and suppressed fears that each human has. This experiment in sound has taken a left hand turn leading Sunn O))) into hell. Lucky for us, we all can experience the trauma without actually descending into the pit.
Yeah, I'm sure you're stumped and don't know what the hell I mean. It's a joke folks, I'm only saying this because, for the first time in Sunn O))) studio album history, they have recorded songs that are under the 10 minute mark. That is amazing in and of itself. This recording has the mostly standard Sunn O))) fare that makes this band what they are: layered bass guitars with monolithic...nay pentatonic (Earth reference) riffing that moves about as fast as a fat kid to a treadmill, and wickedly cool drone and synth noises that add ambience to the music. Except there is one thing that is different...
And that is that Sunn O))) has placed vocals in the album, courtesy of Xasthur. Now, the vocals are also the standard black metal variety, but with a twist. Xasthur's harsh vocals are processed so they sound a bit fuzzy, they have that "white-noise" effect and sound distant, fuzzy, and really really grim. This album borrowed heavily from the aesthetics of black metal, and it's not a big suprise really, since both Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley are known fans of black metal, which they deem as interesting music (and have worked with the legendary Attila Csihar).
The songs themselves have a more somber mood. No longer is it the same "feel" of Sunn O))), where minimalism meets the strange, this time around, Greg and Stephen have crossed into the threshold of blackened drone, and thus the sounds of the album are very different. For example, the intro to the last track, Erzebeth Bathory, has a faint bell sound while a low frequency noise can be heard in the background (like a faint boom) and drones make their presence known slightly. It's pretty creepy in the right situation, and it goes to show the lengths Sunn O))) has gone to create what is probably the best drone out there right now.
The songs are very short for this band's standards, so this album might actually be the most accessible Sunn O))) album to date. They even made it a bit more accessible by rearranging an Immortal song to be more drone-ish and recording it for this album, which is Cursed Realms (Of the Winterdemons). The song comes off brilliantly, with most of the cold and grim aesthetic of old Immortal still intact, but with the added sense of drone mixed in pretty well. This added with the vocals of Xasthur and you have a winner. Enjoy it Sunn O))) fans, this may be their best release to date.