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Not quite played at the speeds ‘flying’ is usually associated with, “Flight Of The Behemoth”, SunnO)))’s 2002 full length, is a brilliant exploration of extreme low end guitar minimalism (For the better part of the album).
FOTB opens with ‘Mocking Solemnity’, the six and four string axe ensemble begin their aural assault with what I describe as shifting through gears on a highly distorted down-tuned guitar. Then the boom comes, and the dynamic duo begin to strut their signature low end rumble. As always the mammoth heavy chord progressions are played at near standstill tempo, the result is just crushingly mesmerising.
‘Death Becomes You’ picks up exactly where ‘Mocking...’ left off, the only indication would be the track number display. The insane bass heavy riffs continue amid low end feedback, if you get the vibe it can be a truly wonderful audible experience. However all this goes a bit wrong, when our resident behemoth drops a tab and invites Merzbow to the party. I am a huge fan of many of Merzbow’s other projects, when he teams up with Boris it is always a musical jamboree, but ‘O)))BOW’ 1 and 2 are pure crap, the electro master delivers an array of crazy swirling electronic sounds, but none of it fits and I must say it is disappointing. The atmosphere that has been slowly building from the word go is rudely interrupted and consequently wrecked, and that my friends is why God invented the skip button.
The album finally closes with ‘F.W.T.B.T.’, and if you have read any other review of “Flight...” you will probably already know that this is supposed to be a Metallica cover. Sunn o)))’s cover however bears little resemblance to its origins. The track bursts open with a far more fuzzed up and muddier sounding guitar, in my opinion this variation is welcomed after to the albums first two tracks as it does not take from the overall aesthetic of the album, unlike that of the Merzbow assisted tracks. As the into progresses funeral bells begin to ring in the background, one of the few elements of ‘F.W.T.B.T’ that can be linked to Metallica’s ‘For Whom the Bell Toils’. At approx the two minute mark very faint drums begin to be heard, the drums cycle in and out throughout the track, providing an awesome background to the barrage of fuzzed out low end feedback and crushing riffs. Vocals are also introduced, coming across highly distorted, they prove quite menacing, adding to the overall crushing and dark atmosphere.
If ‘O)))BOW ‘ 1 and 2 had been removed, and “Flight Of The Behemoth” had been put out as an EP I would probably have given it a much higher rating, certainly closer to the 100% mark. But it wasn’t, however despite the Merzbow remixed tracks, “Flight...” is an awesome slab of drone, three of my favourite droning monoliths come from this album, and on that I highly recommend it to any fan of the drone.
As most fans know, Sunn O))) enjoy some collaboration, and for the most part it pays off real well. Wrest and Malefic's vocal contributions sounded awesome on Black One, Attila Caesar (Sp?) did some great, spine chilling chants on White 2, and of course you've got Julian Cope's long, weird as hell poem in White 1. Unfortunately, this album, the collaboration goes terribly wrong, which is a pity, as the rest of the songs are possibly the highest quality tunes these guys have ever knocked out.
I'll talk about the good tunes first. If you've heard other Sunn albums, then it's not that different, except this time round Sunn O))) deliver the riffs like never before. Even though each riff still takes a couple of minutes to deliver, they're all really easy to follow, which is a pleasant surprise. FWTBT is probably the best Metallica cover I've ever heard. Just imagine the original getting slowed down heaps and dipped in lava, or rolled around in tar for a while, or some other pretensious bit of imagery, and coming out all blackened and burnt and stuff. The guitars sound particularly ferocious on this track, and with the bells ringing over the guitar sludge, damn, it's so ominous and huge. The insane sub bass on this track is another highlight. Mocking Solemnity and Death becomes You don't quite match the sheer lowness and riffage of FWTBT, but there's still plenty of great riffs and crushing sub bass to be found. All this talk about riffs might deceive some people- to make it clear, this is still drone- real slow and down tuned. But the riffs are definetly there, huge and oh so slow, like a blackened glacier of doom, a lava flow full of disintegrating babies, or whatever metaphor you can think of..
Okay, so there's 3 great, sludgy as hell drone songs here. Now we come up to the suck part. Merzbow's definetly got a lot to answer for here, unfortunately. When Death Becomes You finished up on my computer, the riffing continued, but then some terrible, atonal piano dropped in out of nowhere, ruining the drone and snapping me out of the trance I was in. (Imagine a 6 year old going up to a piano and beating the hell out of it, and that's the piano in these songs.) What the hell was Merzbow thinking? While I was enjoying his use of static and eq'd white noise, the piano sounds incredibly out of place. Then the next Merzbow and Sunn track comes on, and for a while, its great, as the droning guitars clash and break against some furious static discharges. It sounds so huge, so overwhelming, and strangely beautiful. That's until they put the freaking piano back in. Sure, the piano only drops in at certain places, but it's SO ANNOYING!! What would have otherwise been a great track is ruined by this terrible piano.
There are some great songs on this album, no doubt. Unfortunately, there's also 2 fairly terrible songs, which drags down the rating. Despite the inconsistency, I would definetly recommend it for people new to drone, just bear in mind that two of the songs aren't all that great. I will say that FWTBT is probably the best drone track I've ever heard though.
A dramatic sequence suggesting a giant robot pterosaur suddenly coming alive and then gliding off into the skies on a deep scything guitar riff kick-starts this album of drone doom metal soundscapes. The first two tracks "Mocking Solemnity" and "Death Becomes You" form a bloc of slashing guitar riffs, all deep with a crusty texture. The music is repetitive and minimalist with the apparent aim of bludgeoning you into a trance, and well it might if you hear it loudly enough, especially on "Death Becomes You" where the guitar riffs lash again and again in the manner of that mechanical flying beast ripping its prey to pieces: the riffs cut your eardrums repeatedly with that jagged sonic edge and tear your senses apart. Really good minimalist doom drone metal here, this is Sunn0))) at their most stripped-down with just two guitars.
The next block of music is two remixes of Sunn0))) pieces by Japanese noise musician Merzbow aka Masami Akita who announces his presence by bashing on a piano over a prlonged feedback drone and then dives into a squalling buzzing chainsaw storm in search of forests to destroy. (If you don't like the sound of that, how about a pack of airhead teenagers who pick on heavy metal enthusiasts instead of a forest?) The second remix in particular is a synthesis of Sunn0))) feedback drone and grainy Merzbow rain that heaves up and down like some futuristic ziggurat of steel, glass, nanometals and other inorganic materials come to life with deranged elevators zooming from top to bottom and back again. Storms of (possibly) laptop-generated radioactive dust and toxic chemical soot thunder and rage outside. The music gets more maddened (and maddening) with out-of-tune piano pummelling and ear-shredding drones and rumbles eating at your nerves. If you have never heard Merzbow's music before this record is an excellent introduction: Merzbow is more controlled and steady here (!) than on most of his own recordings, of which there are mountains and mountains, and working with Sunn0))) seems to have given his music here an extra spark of creativity otherwise lacking in his recent efforts.
The final track features a relentless feedback drone augmented by distant and slow drumming with the highlight being a series of subterranean fire-breathing guttural vocalisations near the end. Sunn0))) have featured some remarkable vocalists on their records but none so remarkable as Godzilla here; well, it sounds as if Godzilla has been hired as uncredited guest vocalist. (Actually it's Sunn0))) themselves - I should give credit where credit is due.)
No filler to be found here: this is one of the Dynamic Droney Duo's best albums with a sly sense of humour to boot, and recommended to those interested in music with less structure than most genres of heavy metal usually have: concepts like melody and actual songs with lyrics have no place here.
I'm sorry, I just don't get it. I gave this album a listen because I wanted to see what all the hype was about, and frankly, I still don't see it. Maybe I'll get lit up and give it another spin, but somehow I don't even think that'll help.
For the uninitiated, Sunn O))) plays a style of music that is referred to as drone and does exactly that: drones on and on and on. For instance, the first track on this album, as stated by previous reviewers, consists of only 6 chords and yet clocks in at over 9 minutes. There are no vocals, no drums, just bass and guitars tuned ridiculuously low. And the whole album's pretty much like that, except one song has growling and a couple others through in some trippy experimental stuff. Say what you will, this does nothing for me. It's heavy, yes, but it isn't brutal or aggressive or well-written or energetic or catchy or technical or ANYTHING that makes a good metal song.
I give it 15% by the following reasoning: On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being perfect and 0 being Korn, the first four "songs" on this album amout to about a 1, so 10%. Throw in another 15% for the last song, "F.W.T.B.T (I Dream of Lars Ulrich Being Thrown Through the Bus Window Instead of My Mystikal Master Kliff Burton)," a very loose Metallica cover that, in addition to having an incredibly awesome title, also has vocals and comes somewhat close to actually going somewhere musically, and there you have your 25%.
Bottom line: if you're familiar with this kind of music and somehow are able to enjoy it, then ignore me and listen to the other reviewers who seem to see things the way you do. But if this style is foreign to you, and you like your music with any kind of vitality, then steer well clear of this stuff. I, meanwhile, will go back to my thrash and death metal - music that, you know, has a pulse.
This album is just a drone masterpiece.
It starts off with the song "Mocking Solemnity" This is certainly a depressing song. It only uses Six chords each lasting aproximately a minute. To someone just starting to listen to drone this song can give unpleasent headaches and some times a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, this is due to the ultra low bass frequencies used by Sunn O))), An urban legend surrounding Sunn O))) is that when playing live they Hit "Brown Notes" which are notes so low that is extremely painful for a human to hear and can cause bowel movements. Mocking Solemnity then melts into "Death Becomes You" A longer and much more powerful version of the song before it and clocks around 13 minutes in length this is by far my favourite song on the album.
Next Merzbow from japan adds his touch to the next two songs "O))) Bow 1" and "O))) Bow 2" O))) Bow 1 starts off just like any Sunn O))) song but then some very creepy piano noises are added to the mix. The guitars and Bass then become much more distorted and kind of drown out the piano for about a minute you then get another clear sound from the piano before it is completely drowned out by the experimental noises and leave the song completely at around 3:00. The next song (O))) Bow 2) Is quite fast paced for a Sunn O))) song, It starts off pretty much the way O))) Bow 1 ended and then at around 6:20 VERY creepy and distorted piano sounds are added to the mix. F.W.T.B.T (For Whom The Bells Toll) (I Dream Of Lars Ulrich Being Thrown Out Of A Bus Window Instead Of My Master Mystikal Kliff Burton) is by far the most experimental song on the album. It starts off like the first two songs, but then you hear grunts and growls and even the odd drum beat.
An absolute masterpiece by Sunn O)))
I'll admit that to the drone newbie, any band will be a difficult listen. My first drone discovery was Sunn O))), and it took me awhile to properly appreciate and enjoy the uncompromising album that "Flight of the Behemoth" is. If you don't know Sunn O))), just imagine almost absurdly down-tuned guitars churning unfathomably slow-moving and repetitive riffage with minimal variation and the occasional off-kilter suprise. Sounds hard to get into? Like all good drone (Earth and Khanate come to mind, and to a lesser extent Boris). patience here is a virtue.
The first two songs ("Mocking Solemnity and Death Becomes You") are essentially purist drone that isn't overly interesting. In my opinion, good drone has all the hallmarks of regular drone, but a willingness to heavily experiment (see Boris please). These two tracks offer almost glacially-sliding drone that is horribly long and bowel-shaking. It really makes you see some crazy stuff cranked into some headphones at 2 am. Drone like this is what I call "mood drone" as it is only fun to relax or zone out to. On artistic merit, a chord or two repeated endlessly for ten minutes or more isn't too amazing.
Thankfully, the next three songs are grand. Merzbow of Japan adds his delicate touch to "Bow O)))1 and Bow O)))2" which are minimalistic drone with random patches of creepy ambiance and a horrendously eerie piano key progression. This is the kind of thing that made me continue my interest in Sunn O))). "FWTBT" is an excellent drone rocker that (for the album's first time) manages to drone into oblivion a little less and rock people's crap straight from their bodies a little more. Good stuff.
In conclusion, only the open-minded will appreciate "Flight of the Behemoth," due to the fact it is so solid in it's drone base. If you like music to space out to though, few bands can top this (though some of their other albums are better in my opinion). This is a band that sounds like the slow crawl of eternity. If you aren't ready to enter the afterlife, then don't die. But if you are, I promise you'll find an odd and interesting take on drone Heaven...it might be a little flawed, but there's still a lot to love in "Flight of the Behemoth."
Right away, Mocking Solemnity makes you feel sad. Yes it does. The six or so chords used throughout this song are just perfect to make you feel a little bit down. The heavyness of it all helps too. Damn! It's a perfect way to start this album, as it is the most diverse album Sunn O))) has ever done. Case point, O)))Bow1 and O)))Bow2 are sessions in cut and paste music done by the great Merzbow. Then we have FWTBT, which is fast. Fast in Sunn O))) standards. The sounds used as well as the riffing is perfect to remind us why we loved Cliff Burton so much (hell, the song's name is I Dream of Lars Ulrich Being Thrown Out the Bus Window Instead of My Master Mystikall Kliff Burton). I really truly believe Cliff would love this kind of metal, since the bass is such a forefront in every release.
The album is well done, with Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley showing why they are legends in the doom/drone circles with their creativity in making different sounds with their bass guitars. And the idea of bringing Merzbow was pure genius. (Just like bringing Joe Preston and Attila Csihar was for White1/White2 and Xasthur for Black1). Go get it now!