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A slow river of pain and desolation starts flowing as the first track takes off. The low-tuned guitar riffs have a double function: it creates an immediate atmosphere of darkness and it also constructs a general potentiality which caused me to listen intensively. The ringing effect that is created by the slow riffs is very unnerving and contributes to a general atmosphere of horror. After awhile the vocalist starts reciting some dark thoughts. His voice is brilliant and is well in league with the uncanny aura of the music. Some pieces of piano are also mixed with the music and fits in very well with the guitars.
As the first track dies off in silence, the chains of desolation is picked up once again as the harmonious voices of a church choir can be heard. Once again the guitars provide a brilliant atmosphere with low-tuned riffs. It doesn’t get any scarier than this as meditative chants of a choir of monks are also thrown into the mix along with the deep voice of the vocalist. Every now and then the music dies off just to be picked up again and devoured by the gaping wounds of the abyss. The guitarist switches from low-tuned riffs to a higher-pitched picking that also contributes very well to the general atmosphere. The meditative state that is constructed is so deep that it is very unsettling – it felt to me like I was falling backwards into a state of unconsciousness wherein I was forced to dwell within the jaws of a subconscious hell.
As the slow river of pain continues to flow steadily, the meditative state of the album is deconstructed and very suddenly reconstructed as a more trance-like ritualistic concept. The vocals become scarier by the minute. Certain elements of the music are altered and it can now be heard as a mixture of low-tuned guitar riffs along with some kind of snare drum and synth effects. The choirs die off every now and then just to be resurrected and forced to chew on the bitterness of the abysmal journey.
The album ends with a track titled “Alice”. Where the previous tracks were more straight-up drone doom, this track is much more experimental and dark ambient. Not only does this experimentation prove that the music is not stagnant, but it also finishes the album on a high note in the sense that the ritualistic state is now drenched in chaos. The wide variety of instruments on this one is very interesting with a wide variety of synth, trumpet, and something that almost sounds like a harp.
Overall, I can just say that this is one of the most creative and interesting drone doom albums that I’ve listened to and I can recommend this album to anybody who is into drone doom, dark ambient, experimental metal, and even people who like dark Gregorian music and who want to open themselves to more experimental alternatives.
"Monoliths & Dimensions" was the album that finally stamped Dynamic Drone Duo Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley as more than an experimental droning doom metal band and garnered them front-cover recognition on the UK experimental music magazine The Wire even though by then Anderson and SOMA had been very frequent flyers in that rag for several years. For this album, the Sunn men called on several past collaborators including Attila Csihar who performs vocals on all tracks except the last, Oren Ambarchi on guitars and percussion, Jessika Kenney (choir, strings and brass), Dylan Carlson (Earth), Steve Moore, Rex Ritter and Joe Preston, plus various other musical notables who appear for the first time on a Sunn0))) album: the composer and multi-instrumentalist Eyvind Kang, noisician Daniel Menche and trombonists Julian Priester and Stuart Dempster among others. Such an ambitious undertaking that involved no fewer than 30 people working together could have been massive, crowded and bombastic, yet this album manages to sound at once majestic, spacious and lush in parts, and surprisingly intimate and even beautifully elegant and soulful. Each track takes Sunn0))) into very new musical territory (for them) and carves within a distinctive niche for the band that combines the best of their style with whatever Anderson and SOMA find, be it blues, an elegy for Alice Coltrane, choral music, Tibetan Buddhist droning meditation or Csihar's philosophical musings.
The album begins as might be expected for a Sunn0))) with cavernous carve-outs of crusty guitar drone against a surprisingly blank space. The guitars are soon echoed by other droning noises in the distance, not all of which might be guitar-generated. Csihar enters with the solemnity of a seer blessed / cursed with unerring second sight, uttering incomprehensible lyrics in a deathly robotic trance. His dry rattling voice is complemented by creaking-door effects, conch-shell blowings and environmental field recordings suggestive of a forest under rain or a waterfall. The second track mixes slashing guitar drones as sharp as knives with gentle snippets of female-voice choirs led by Kinney and lone male chorister Menche, not normally known for singing. Csihar rattles off like a possessed preacher of the New Age sect Church Universal and Triumphant. The angel-voiced women haltingly sing in the spaces left by the trembling drones and there is a call-and-response narrative followed by Csihar and the choir reminiscent of a satanic litany.
"Hunting and Gathering (Cydonia)" is a strange twangy blues-tinged dronerama of chompy-chuggy guitar-concrete riffing with Csihar in full bare-fanged flight (or fight as the case may be) and trombones blaring triumphantly. Majesty of the sort that might have existed in the pyramid-construction times of Nebuchadnezzar and Rameses II rises in parts as Csihar channels his lunar fruitbat avatar and a cast of thousands below him at the foot of the stone ziggurat follow and praise his every utterance. But the best comes with Sunn0)))'s homage to Alice Coltrane, simply titled "Alice", a very different piece from the rest of the album. There is a desert-blues ambience surrounding the track which might be Dylan Carlson's making or under his steady influence. Moments of horror when brass instruments pick up the trail left by electric guitar and take it to near-screeching Bernard-Hermann-"Psycho" heights occur repeatedly. Yet there is a restrained beauty and majesty about this track with the smooth horns contrasting with the steely, slightly bleached-sounding guitars. The riffing may be repetitive but this is not noticeable under the brass instruments, other acoustic instruments and other effects. What initially began as a dark, perhaps menacing piece of music gradually grows light and in the last few moments "Alice" becomes bright, even happy and filled with warm sunshine: a fitting send-off for a musician the Sunn men respect.
The album is highly atmospheric and has a strong feel of other worlds, beings and strange cultures that pulls on the listener to join in. Soloing mournful jazz and harp trilling in the last minutes of "Alice" recall a walk through a cemetery on a bright summer day, seeing one's loved ones at peace. "Hunting and Gathering ..." might capture the exotic tone of life under the rule of pharaohs and the first couple of tracks might be straight from the days of Jesus wandering 40 days and nights in the desert or Mohammed receiving revelations from the angel Gabriel in a desert cave where he meditates. Music can be quite intense and savage one moment; soft, appeasing and sunshine-warm the next. The album is sure to please diehard Sunn0))) fans and win new fans without trying very hard: Sunn0))) stick to their monotone drone-guitar looping routine and other musicians work around them and all parties blend their sounds together. There's hardly anything to fault here though perhaps the very long tracks could have been edited a little for length and Csihar might need restraining sometimes in his speaking-in-tongues routines.
Where Sunn0))) will travel next is hard to tell as Anderson and SOMA are not people to repeat the same thing twice. It is difficult to imagine the duo improving upon this album; the one sure thing we can say about it is that it will be another collaborative effort based around the drone doom metal essentials (and Csihar will be back with more homespun philosophy). True, the band released another full-length after "Monoliths & Dimensions" but that was a reissue and some people might have been lucky enough to get a bonus disc "The Iron Soul of Nothing" with the reissue.
The brilliant collective mind of Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson is already a well-established fact in the world of Metal and experimental music. Together they have done the unthinkable, through hard work and fearless experimentation they have managed to make SUNN O))) a household name. Due to the inaccessible and esoteric nature of Drone-music, this is quite a feat, cementing this duo as the pioneers of an entire genre. For their 2009 full-length, "Monoliths & Dimensions", they have once more recruited the unique voice-talent of Attila Csihar, and a small legion of other contributors. With that being said, let us stare into the void that is SUNN O)))'s inferno.
The journey through "Monoliths & Dimensions" is far from a pleasant one, with a strong sense of dread lurking around every corner and in every crevice. In addition to the trademark vibrating bass and down-tuned guitars, opening track "Agartha" sees Attila delivering a spoken word performance that is unsettling to say the least. This herald of doom is accompanied by a myriad of ambient sounds and textures that suffocates the listener, with an atmosphere so rich that you can almost reach out and touch it. There are horribly dark horn-sections and eerie sound effects, all coming together to form some of the darkest sonic experiences you will ever have. No horror film has ever been able to stir up such a strong feeling of aversion and paranoia, as the fabric of reality is torn up and the walls crack, allowing the beast to surface.
Does this seem horrifying enough for you yet? The journey is only just beginning, and "Big Church" brings in an angelic choir as a new ingredient to this palette of horror. Far from bringing any form of sanctuary, this church only takes us deeper into the void. It's a chapel of apprehension, with walls that keep closing in to crush you. The repeated chanting and whispers seem to merge with the riffs, and the result is one big melting pot of bleak nightmare-fodder.
On "Cydonia", the riffs really start rearing their ugly heads. With a intro that is remarkably catchy for a SUNN O))) piece, this track also brings out their Doom Metal roots. The orchestration is taken up another notch, and the pure ambition of this project really starts shining through. SUNN O))) are not merely musicians, they are like film-directors, bringing out visual elements through their work. The picture they paint is like a Gustave Doré depiction of Milton's "Paradise Lost", in which the epic grandeur and horror mend and become one. The song reaches its peak with a majestic horn-section, and then trails off into static ambiance and more darkness.
The final track of "Monoliths & Dimensions" stands out as the true highlight of the release. Beginning with a subtle soundscape that is right out of the EARTH-gospel (courtesy of the mastermind Dylan Carson), then throwing off its dark mantle and taking a brighter shape. Like ASVA's "A Game In Hell, Hard Work In Heaven" did on their brilliant "What You Don't Know Is Frontier" last year, "Alice" also stands out as a thing of beauty on a album overloaded with grit and ugliness. We have transcended the levels of their hell, and the reward is one final glance at the sun, before O'Malley and Anderson revokes it forever. This is also the only track not featuring Attila's gritty vocals, and instead the horns are allowed to bring us towards the light. If SUNN O))) were to call it quits after this release (which would be a tragedy in itself), "Alice" would be the perfect ending to a truly unique band, with its tenderness standing as the perfect companionpiece to their usual sound.
When the time comes to recall the highlights of 2009, there is no doubt in my mind that "Monoliths & Dimensions" will be dominating the Metal and experimental charts. With an album that goes beyond the realm of music, pushing into cinematic territories while invoking both dread and consolation simultaneously, it's hard to imagine how SUNN O))) can ever top this. If anyone out there is still doubting the genius of this duo, "Monoliths & Dimensions" should convert you into a faithful disciple.
(Online August 1, 2009)
Written for the Metal Observer
Review originally published at http://www.teethofthedivine.com by Erik Thomas
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been a drone fan and despite being seven albums into their career the apparent pinnacle of the genre, this is my first exposure to the duo of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’ Malley.
However, what intrigued me about this release and prompted me to check Sunn O))) out for the first time was reading that this release included a plethora of guest musicians which have introduced some new elements to Sunn O)))’s sound. Composer and violinist Eyvind Kang contributes a number of string and choral arrangements, Attila Csihar provides some haunting whispers and spoken words guitar virtuoso and Oren Ambarchi as well as Earths’ Dylan Carlson, trombone legend Julian Priester and horn player Stuart Dempster contribute in conjunction with the addition of French horns, harps, flutes, a piano and a Viennese choir led by Jessika Kenney.
The end result? Nothing less than a brilliant, pure, sensory and musical experience.
I can’t obviously compare Monoliths & Dimensions to the band’s previous six works, but I’ve been told that they are more pure drone compared to this far more adventurous and bold exercise in tectonic shifting experimentation and hypnotic, droning beauty.
Starting with the 17 and ½ minute “Agartha” which is a four note, droning exercise in cavernous, down tuned lethargy layered with discordant orchestration and Csihar’s twisted chanting, the album simply commands your attention as it drags you into a drone filled stupor littered with avant-garde, experimentation, which elevates the drone into more powerful, transcendental, dare I say artistic realms. However, the next track, and personal favorite “Big Church” scatters the mountainous riffs with truly amazing female choirs and more of Csihar’s crazed whispers and chanting. It’s more like an aural ritual than a song. Unfortunately, at a shade under 10 minutes, it’s the albums shortest track. The horns and choirs that appear about two minutes and a ½ into “Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)” take the monolithic droning into regal and epic territory unlike anything you’ve heard and then there’s the vast instrumental “Alice” which initially seems almost barren and desolate compared to the prior three tracks. However, around 7 minutes in, the horns and strings kick in, making the chord progression and shimmering, trombone flocked climax sound triumphant, beautiful and radiant. Just gorgeous.
It should also be noted that I had both the CD and 2 disc vinyl versions of this record, and listening to the vinyl version (the first vinyl I have listened to in over a decade), truly made me appreciate the natural, organic hues that gloss the knee wilting heaviness and how this record was meant to be truly experienced.
Sunn O)))'s reputation precedes the band, most certainly. The dynamic droning duo of Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson have made quite a name for themselves in the musical underground under their defunct amplifier moniker, offering up molten slabs of Earth-drone, often taking the concept even further than anything Carlson and co. did. Although controversial in nature for their minimalist approach, the boys in Sunn O))) have an abvious willingness to experiment (if Black One and the hundreds of side-projects didn’t already make this clear). Their latest effort, and easily their best, is Monoliths & Dimensions, another boundary-pushing lurch from the bowls of hell.
The spine of this album is classic slower-than-a-crippled-snail, heavy-as-fuck guitar drones. But what is the true genius of the album is the introduction of complex soundscapes wrought from a horrific misuse of elegant brass and string sections and beautiful female choral arrangements, as well as some of the usual elements )that are still unusual for bands of this style). Monoliths & Dimensions is wrought with a cavernous atmosphere that seems like it was recorded in a cathedral, and the methodic unraveling of the meticulous soundscapes brings to mind a foreboding, slow, satanic sermon.
Attila Csihar seems to assume the role of preacher on this album, and "Aghartha" stands out as being the opening of some dark mass. Warped violin textures crawl like roaches and surge like a plague behind Csihar’s inching recitation. A foul wind blows through the half-broken windows of the cathedral, rattling the loose odds and ends of the far-off chandeliers and the wooden pews below them, flipping pages of scorched Bibles and the black shirts and skirts of receptive minions reveling in the word. To most, the sound alone would be disgusting, a message to any wayward Christians to turn back at once.
The opening choral passage of "Big Church" resembles a creed sung by once-heavenly female voices, fallen angels chanting The Lord’s Prayer in reverse. The preacher spouts curses against God, his words echoing off the arches and stained-glass of the forsaken cathedral in which he preaches. The congregation joins in with these ghastly melodies as if in confirmation of what they know they must do: to wage war on God. This gentle malice segues into ‘Hunting & Gathering”, a heavy and more doomy piece that carries a steady and easily-followed pace, in contrast to the first two tracks which take on a more ambient approach. The pace here is methodical and ritualistic, like Satan himself is being summoned. His dark soldiers of Earth prepare for battle, and a martial meter complete with warrior’s chants is kept.
"Alice", the finale to this behemoth, is a sort of white light in the night. It's strange, surging glimmers of sonic sun-rays pierce the darkened stained-glass windows of the cathedral and a quiet battle of light and dark ensues, with the trumpets of angels sounding valiantly against the wavering drones of demonic guitars. Soon, strings come subtly in to join the battle of angels and demons. The guitars soon become disoriented, fighting against themselves as the string and wind orchestra overpower all that was left of the mighty church of the king serpent of the furnace. The cathedral is beautifully ravished and life returns to the barren grounds tainted by the presence of the House of Hell as it lies in a heap of rubble. The song ends as if a new day is beginning: a harp flutters over a stern cello like a butterfly dancing in the air above a regiment of holy knights, before a horn stands alone atop a hill mourning the losses suffered in the battle and those lost to the dark lord, yet embracing victory of good over evil as the sun rises behind the player.
With this release, it’s apparent Sunn O))) are done with the boring, ultra-minimal, indecipherable guitar slaughter, and ready for a more mature career (if it continues from here). The experimentation with classical elements to create these black and cavernous soundscapes is incredible to say the least, and it makes me anticipate what these gents will come up with next, for rarely is a drone release so very enthralling.
Ever imagine what hell sounds like? If you’re thinking of a death metal band, then your way off. Sunn O))), the Beatles of Drone, are back with yet another bleak adventure into the boundaries of hell. So what makes Monoliths & Dimensions so great? Well a bunch of things…
Attila Csihar of Mayhem lends his creepy vocals to 3 out of 4 songs on this album. His thick accent adds a hint of mystery to M & D. Quite frankly his performance on this album is just short of amazing. He does a better job with Sunn O))) than anything he has ever done with Mayhem.
As for the guitars and bass, the same old drone feedback….not much has changed. What has changed is the addition of brass instruments, which makes this the soundtrack to hell. Basically the horns sound like Satan himself is about to enter the room. This new element is what makes this album standout, and what makes this quite possibly the best Sunn O))) album.
Big Church, contains some very eerie female vocals that you would except in a Japanese horror movie. Aghartha, has some random noise far off in the background, which I suspect might be the boys scrapping their guitar picks up and down the neck, that or some type of drum pattern…which is fun part of this album, finding out what sounds are coming out of your speakers. The final song Alice contains a bit of light at the end of this dark tunnel. The brass instruments almost sound like the listener is about to overcome this horrific nightmare. Is this Sunn O))) selling out? Are we going to have some acoustic guitars next album…..hell no! Monoliths & Dimensions finds Sunn O))) exploring some much needed new ground yet keeping true to the bands formula.
Monoliths & Dimensions is recommended for newbie’s as well as the fanboys across the world. Please buy this album for its excellent artwork, band promo shots that make every single black metal band look like Celine Dion.
Sunn 0))) have often been criticized for being a mere Earth copycat band. In their more recent releases they have proven that they have their own unique and interesting ideas to add to the template laid down by their forerunners. Utilizing horns, strings and choral singing, along with the more familiar down-tuned, heavily distorted guitars and raspy, atonal vocals, Sunn 0)) have produced one impressive album. Monoliths and Dimensions marks the apex of the evolution of these unorthodox cavemen.
As is par for the course for these fellows, the album has just a few, very long tracks. The four songs here can be categorized in two different flavors: the thick and heavy, and the soft and ethereal.
Aghartha and Alice, the first and last tracks, are on the softer side. I prefer the harder songs on the album, but listening to these two would be a great way to rest and relax. At times, they have a formless quality that can be quite magical and soothing.
Big Church and Hunting & Gathering are much more robust. The low, distorted guitars are much more prevalent in these songs. I find the latter of the two to be the best of the album, if not their greatest song period. It features some mesmerizing and hypnotic counter-play without sounding too busy. This is, after all, minimalist music! Guitars with both distorted and clean tones mesh with horns seamlessly on this track.
Throughout this album, traditional instruments and heavy guitars compliment one another. This is a nice change from most heavy music, which goes with the cliché of juxtaposition. Sunn 0))) makes these instruments sound as if they were meant to naturally go together, like peanut butter and chocolate. This is a majestic work of art.
Wow. What Sunn O))) has achieved here is something truly remarkable. Never before, after all the preceding years of collaborations and experiments with a large number of different musicians, had they reached the level of mastery attained on ‘Monoliths and Dimensions’, the newest addition to the ever-growing Sunn O))) discography.
The album starts out with what Sunn O))) are best known for; low-end, sludgy mammoth riffing played at a snails pace, the trait that seems to be the make-it-or-break-it factor for those who hear the band for the first time. Some like it and can listen to those riffs for hours, but others can hardly stand five minutes. Well, this album has enough doom-laden, droning riffing to satisfy the older Sunn O))) fans who still worship the mightiness of ‘ØØ Void’ and ‘The GrimmRobe Demos’, as well as well as other, less conventional, elements to satisfy those who want more to their drone other then just downtuned, sludging mayhem. Lingering above the guitar and bass in the first part of “Aghartha” is Attila Csihar’s croaking murmurs, which adds a substantial amount of eeriness to the atmosphere. While all this is happening, something is dwelling beneath, inching its way up in the mix as it builds in intensity. At first, you start to think its some piercing synth effect, as it is after all a Sunn O))) album, but no...it’s a fucking STRING ORCHRESTRA!! How sweet is that? But of course it would be totally out of place if it were playing some nice, gentle harmonies, and it would ruin the atmosphere completely, but Sunn know better. Instead, the strings create a screeching, cacophonous wall of sound in a very atonal, Vibracathedral Orchestra-esque manner (all fans of drone need to check that band out, ASAP). Eventually the guitars and bass are replaced with a barrage of bellowing trombones and various horns, creating a very overwhelming swell of endless drooooones.
I’m typically not one to do song-by-song reviews, but I simply cannot help myself in this case, as each songs on ‘Monoliths and Dimensions’ differ greatly from one another. The second song on here is “Big Church”, which begins with none other then a female church choir, until they are quickly obliterated by the crushing downtuned guitar and bass onslaught that follows. But this does not last long, as the choir appears again a short while later, coinciding with the droning extremely well, and actually gives the song a very doomed, epic feeling, as if something really, really terrible is about to happen. This builds and builds until *DING*, a giant church bell breaks the ruckus with a single hit, until the sludge frenzy begins again with more low-end dirges. This continues until the choir subdues them yet again, until all of a sudden, Attila comes into the mix with multiple layers of Gregorian chant-like throat singing. And as the droning rumbles on, layer upon layer builds up and up until *DING*, yet another silence created by a sole church bell. This formula repeats itself one more time before the song ends in an abrupt, dizzying manner.
My favorite song on the album would have to be “Hunting and Gathering (Cydonia)”. It starts out with the song’s main riff played through an effect that makes it sound as if it were being played on a shitty radio and the reception keeps going in and out, creating lots of static. Then the actual riffing barges in with more bass-heavy lunacy that Sunn just do so fucking well. Once the riff burns its place into your brain, which shouldn’t take long, as it is a pretty damn memorable riff, Attila greets us yet again with more chant-like vocals, but this time more in the vein of his work on ‘De Mysteriis’, but with more power. And as if one brass bombardment wasn’t enough, another comes in to demolish anything that may have been left behind the first time it came about. But instead of being there to add a wall of swelling drones, they are actually placed carefully to enhance the chords being played by the guitars, giving the whole sound a glorious sheen to it, something that had not been achieved (or really attempted) on past recordings. This is a clear indication that Sunn really went all out on this one. Once the brass fades out, Attila is back with his signature chant growls, and holy fucking shit do they rule. Really, each time they come back in they sound even better then the last. And this time, following them comes a monstrous keyboard layering, accompanied once again by the brass. This is the song’s climax, where the droning low-end, brass bamboozlement, growling chants and keyboard layers all mesh together and create a colossal tidal wave of pure sonic mayhem. And once again, this is done in a manner only the mighty Sunn could achieve, and anyone who attempted would surely fail.
I’d say “Alice” is the most melodic thing Sunn has ever done (other then “The Sinking Belle”, but that was a collaboration), and actually it worked out quite well. It starts out with some lightly distorted guitar strums and gentle washes of feedback, as well as a slowly but surely pulsing bass guitar. As this builds, other instruments and sounds come into the mix including even more brass, the signature heavy drones, some synths and other atmosphere-inducing textures. This remains the groundwork for the song, but each one of these elements builds throughout, slowly intensifying the enveloping effect that each one of these factors contributes to. And much like “Hunting and Gathering”, the horns here are used to enhance the chords being played by the guitar and bass, as opposed to just being there for the sake of dissonance and discordance, something this song obviously is not after. But that is not to say that this song is a missy prissy ballad. “Alice” is just as heavy as anything else on the album. In fact, the way it builds and builds throughout leads me to the conclusion that it is one of the heaviest pieces this band has ever recorded, sonically, compositionally, and emotionally. The way they mix low-end heaviness with beauty is just incredible.
So I wouldn’t say this is my favorite Sunn O))) release, as that title belongs to ‘ØØ Void’ for its pure sludgy mayhem, but this is definitely up there, and is without a doubt one of their finer studio albums. This album is really a milestone in the drone genre, and I am pretty god damn sure that no other band will be able to top it as the best drone album of 2009.
I've been a drone fan for a long time. I love music that creates a bleak atmosphere and that's exactly what drone does. However, even I can admit that pretty much all drone sounds the same. That is, until now.
This is by far Sunn's most accomplished album. They experimented with chamber music and ethereal vocal melodies and it seamlessly meshes with their typical sound. Things really get started on the second track. It reminds me a bit of Fantomas or Mare. The last track features a trumpet that reminds me of Ennio Morricone. The last track is also the reason this album doesn't get a 100% from me. The trumpet player hits this really sour, out of key note that is blatantly obvious because it's drone and there's no way to cover it up.
Another thing you may notice about this album; riffs. You can actually hear what they're playing now because it isn't being played at .5BPM. The production is crystal clear, and their musicianship has really taken a leap forward with this release. Fortunately, it's a leap in the right direction. For once, it's not just about a brooding, heavy drone sound that makes you feel uncomfortable. This album is actually very relaxing, very catchy, and very upbeat.
I hope Sunn release more albums like this one because it's definitely their best album.
I'm sure Sunn O))) falls into the category if "love em or hate em" for most people just based on their style. I mean the drone genre is definitely not for everyone. Some would go as far to say that Sunn O))) sounds like when you leave the fridge open for a long time. While others think the band is one of the most ambient, dark, and eerie bands on the planet. I am one of those who fall into the latter category.
Now, I would consider myself to be a noob when it comes to Sunn O))) because I didn't start listening to them until Black One was released. However, in that time I have become fond of their style because of the atmosphere their music provides and simply because it is such a unique style of music.
With the release of Monoliths & Dimensions we hear the trademark Sunn O))) sound from their previous records. There is a heavy bass overtone, you can hear some guitar, little if any drumming of course, and something that I am fond of, the use of eerie keyboards which make the album sound absolutely bleak! Towards the end of the album as well the band seems to drift into something that sounds like jazz which I found really unexpected.
As in a lot of Sunn O)))'s recordings many guests are featured on this album which provides each song with a slightly different feel. One of the most notable guests is Attila Csihar of Mayhem and his vocals fit this album perfectly. With this amount of diversity if any first timers are considering giving Sunn O))) a listen this would be the album I would suggest to listen to before all others!
2009 has been a great year for music: we've gotten new maudlin of the Well, Mono, Wolves in the Throne Room, nadja, Minsk, Fen, ISIS, Altar of Plagues, and so on, meaning that there is much competition as to who will reign as the best artist of 2009. After today, I can safely say that Sunn O)))'s much anticipated "Monoliths & Dimensions" rightfully takes this throne, and only in May. We are five months into 2009 and I am convinced that no one will top this monolithic album.
Over the past few years, Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley's dense creation has evolved many a time, dabbling in ambient, noise, and even some shoegaze-like elements whilst keeping the central "huge drone" aspect a constant, and now, in 2009, this creation as jumped in a fashion that screams "punctuated equilibrium." Enlisting the help of composer Eyvind Kang, drone guitar masters Oren Ambarchi and Dylan Carlson, vocalist extraordinaire Attila Csihar, along with Stuart Dempster and Jessika Kinney, Sunn O))) has transcended what once was; breaking the shackles of the "noisy drone band" title and creating a masterpiece.
In this album we see a more melodic side to Sunn O))), with large, expansive chords and guitar/bass harmony, low, almost gurgling spoken word, throat singing, and even surprises including a choir, a brass band, and what appears to be a full orchestra. Yes, a full orchestra, but not in the symphonic sense -- instead a texture collective, painting vast, lush scenes and dark, void-filled, cavernous sanctuaries.
The highlight of the album is the 16 and-a-half minute closer, "Alice," featuring all of the above collaborators, sans Attila. This sweeping, expansive piece has to be one of the most impressive, if not THE most impressive pieces of music I have ever heard. Dylan Carlson and Oren Ambarchi semi-battle each other with low bass clicks and sparse guitar lines over slowly pulsating strings and brass instruments, all the while the (now slightly) distorted guitars drone on. I am reminded of ambient and minimalist masters William Basinski and Steve Reich throughout this track.
Overall, this album is amazing; I feel crushed and elated simultaneously. Honestly, if they only released "Alice" as an EP, I would still be more than happy with the release.