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Man, do I love drone. Nothing is more suited for soothing a numb mind on a bus trip home after a long day, just lying motionless on the bed staring into a lamp for half an hour with a fuzzy trance permeating the head, or simply just acting as something to listen to when neither music nor silence feel tempting, than a good, skull-crushing, cargo ship-sinking drone juggernaut of a track. I was pretty much hooked the first time Black One ever hit my speakers; I was in a period of getting heavily into ambient, noise, minimalism and the likes, and seeing as my penchant for heavy and brutal music stood its ground, I was destined to get into this music sooner or later.
Usually, I'm a drone purist. I'm far from a drone connoisseur, having only Sunn and Earth albums in my playlist, but I'm a purist nevertheless. By that, I mean that I like my drone clean, unspoilt and devoid of nonsense. Black tsunami waves of relentless, distorted seismic chords, evoked by means of strings, that's what I'm after. I'm talking The Grimmrobe Demos or Earth 2. I sneer at the ridiculous, pretentious LaVey-clone who keeps rambling throughout My Wall, I laugh at the thought of a suit-clad hearse driver munching on french fries at a highway joint while horrified bypassers glance at the manically screaming car on the parking lot outside, and I sigh in exasperation when Merzbow starts banging his head against the piano keyboard in the O)))Bow songs. That's what I mean by purist: I want my drone to be drone, and nothing more. There are, of course, exceptions, certain drone songs mixed with vocals and/or other elements that still had an awesome outcome. Examples are: It Took The Night To Believe, Decay2 (NIHIL'S MAW), and most recently, the Dømkirke album.
I don't think anybody can deny the fact that this is the perfect environment for Sunn O))). As hinted by the Norwegian title of the album, this opus is recorded live in a cathedral. The lineup features O'Malley and Anderson on strings & amps, their good ol' pal Attila Csihar(of Mayhem fame) on vocals, and some guy on the organ, probably Jon Lord. The album consists of 4 tracks, clocking in on roughly 14-15 minutes each. The first track could probably be seen as an intro, with endless, droning organ notes, eventually accompanied by surprisingly forceful and well-pitched Gregorian chant from Attila(clearly, here's one who's had his share of progress since the dying cow imitations of the De Mysteriis title track). However, sometimes the organ and his voice hit separate notes only to correct it immediately, perhaps suggesting that at least the first track is improvised.
The following three tracks are largely pure drone battleships, sparsely decorated with organs, feedback noise, chanting, hissing and whispering, often creating a quite chaotic, eerie and downright twisted atmosphere quite similar to White2. The guitar walls are, in the usual sense, ENO)))RMOUS. Let me get one thing straight: Sunn O))) don't do chord progressions, they do seismic movements. During the 3 or 4 times during a song that they switch chord from drop Y to drop Z, all sorts of images come to your mind; huge continents colliding, Russian oil tankers blowing up, a Bagger 288 shifting gears, or John Goodman dropping out of a plane onto a grand piano. In other words: as good as always.
The thing is; I do generally prefer my drone without complements, but when I picture these two guys in their black cloaks, lifting their roaring guitars towards the high roof of the mighty cathedral, accompanied by the forceful, medieval chanting and organs, conveying naught but death, darkness, plague and hell in a handbasket; it all just makes perfect sense.