Sunn 0))) | 06.06.16

The music, consisting of one symphony of the damned, it moved through time, space, and consciousness for almost two hours.


Ready Room, St. Louis

Tuesday night’s “show” in the fog-drenched and darkened Ready Room was nothing like an ordinary rock concert—or even an edgy, hardcore metal concert. Seattle’s drone, metal, ambient doom masters, trio Sunn 0))), summoned the demons and performed an ear-splitting set of doomed sounds to a capacity crowd of primarily male, hardcore, metal adherents.

As the initiated already know, Sunn 0))) is beyond the shock value of a Slipknot, Lamb of God, or even Gwar. In fact, compared to those “heavy” bands, Sunn 0))) is even more radical. There were no songs, lyrics, or any kind of structure to their sound sculptures. Instead, vocals were replaced with guttural, ancient invocations and garbled, demonic Gregorian tones. The guitars were tuned well below even the lowest depths of the most brutal of metal-dropped tunings; there was no percussion, no riffs, and no joy. The music, consisting of one symphony of the damned, it moved through time, space, and consciousness for almost two hours.

At certain points during the set, the sound was so loud that it seemed to rearrange the molecules of human existence and stop the heart. Sunn 0)))’s intent is not to entertain; it’s to disturb, disorientate, and transport into weird head spaces and parallel universes. Sound sculptors Soma (Stephen O’Malley) and Greg Anderson created an unholy cacophony exorcised from stacks of Sunn Amps (the inspiration for their name) and an arsenal of effects pedals. Throat Attila Csihar was a demonic sorcerer and dark priest, evoking the ages of torment, pestilence, and barbarism of primitive man. After spending half the set in near darkness behind a wall of fog, he reemerged in a glass spiked suit and crown of mirrored thorns.

Visually, the lighting was otherworldly, the monk’s outfits were sinister, and the poses struck by Cshiar were ripped straight out of the 1973 horror classic The Exorcist, the insane ghouls depicted in a Breughel or Bosch Hades, or a scene from Clive Barker’s Hell Raiser franchise. The layers of thick fog made it difficult to see your own hand in front of your face, or other members of the audience. It was eerie and unsettling—and that was part of the thrill.

Openers Hissing, a death metal trio, played a frenetic, disjointed, discordant set that primed the audience for the second supporting act, Big Brave, a Montreal three-piece. Hissing played a set of tunes that oscillated between noise and fury, to gentle spaces and kinder, gentler sounds. Both opening bands sought to avoid any easy classifications or anything approaching commercial appeal. It’s safe to say that you will never hear any of the night’s bands on the radio—unless it’s some underground, pirate death metal station moored off some ancient sea.

If you plan on seeing Sunn 0))) when they visit your town, eat your Wheaties, fortify your spirits, and bring industrial-grade ear plugs. Even with hearing protection and comfortable shoes, you will still feel like you were pummeled and violated. A day of recovery is highly recommended. | Doug Tull

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