sat 14/12/2019

Sunn O))), The Crossing, Birmingham review – ambient metallists bring the noise | reviews, news & interviews

Sunn O))), The Crossing, Birmingham review – ambient metallists bring the noise

Sunn O))), The Crossing, Birmingham review – ambient metallists bring the noise

Slow and low improvisation sets ears ringing

O'Malley and Anderson: Sunn worship

Sunn O))) must have been on stage at The Crossing for a fair few minutes before anyone from the capacity audience realised they were there. Bathed in a thick fog of dry ice, initially all that could be seen were the power-on lights of the band’s impressive mountain of amplifiers and speakers. However, as the first chord was struck and the red and blue stage lights ignited, Stephen O’Malley, Greg Anderson and their crew made themselves very much known with a burst of volume to wake the dead.

Dressed in their trademark black cowls and with guitars held aloft to greet the crowd, Sunn O))) proceeded to set to with an hour and half masterclass in volume and sonic texture that had ears ringing for hours. Slow and low, their beatless ambient metal even had the audience’s clothes vibrating to the band’s deep tones as plumes of dry ice belched forth every time the fog looked in danger of dissipating in this most dramatic of performances.

Having already released two albums in 2019, the Steve Albini-produced Life Metal and Pyroclasts, it might have been expected that O’Malley and Anderson would have guided their set through these impressive tunes. I had even wondered if they might have invited their support act, the diminutive Anna von Hausswolff, on stage for a shot at the magnificent “Between Sleipnir’s Breaths”, given their appetite for musical collaboration. However, it was not to be and even their usual touring vocalist Attila Csihar was absent. Instead, Halloween came early to the West Midlands as Birmingham was treated to a very slow tempo and purely instrumental improvisation featuring reverb, sustain and monstrous volume, as the band threw slow-motion guitar hero poses in their ghoulish, monkish garb.

About an hour into the performance, an impressively bearded Gandalf the Grey-looking character stepped forward into a yellow spotlight and delivered a stirring 15-minute trombone solo. Sounding like a call to the ancestors in Valhalla, it brought to mind Sunn O)))’s previous symphonic collaboration with Norwegian experimentalists Ulver on the Terrestrials album. Considered and majestic, it brought even more depth to a powerful show that was as much about ritual as it was about rock’n’roll.

As the performance drew to a halt, O’Malley and Anderson unstrapped their guitars and rested them on top of the amplifier stacks, leaving them to feedback with an almost meditative drone. Collecting themselves at the front of the stage with their musical confederates, Sunn O)))’s duo acknowledged and motioned to thank the crowd before disappearing back into the fog. There were no encores and no words – which seemed appropriate to this monolithic performance. And with that, a suitably stunned audience, who had largely spent the show standing spellbound and entranced, stole off into the night with ears ringing like church bells.

The band threw slow-motion guitar hero poses in their ghoulish, monkish garb

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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