Sunn O))) - Monoliths and Dimensions
Charon’s finger beckons. It’s time for me to traverse the River Styx into the underworld. I know this is true as the sounds I hear can only be from Hades, nothing from the realm of man could ever sound of such desolation and malevolence.
The concerning thing is that whilst it’s clear I’m en route to eternal torment I’m also trying to reverse my car into a really tight space to drop my 4 year old off at nursery. Sunn O)))) are blaring from the wound down window as I grind the clutch and curse the parents with people carriers that are making getting into the last space in the car park a living hell. An elderly gentlemen strolls past me and as he gets closer it’s clear by the look on his face that he’s also heard the choir of hell and knows they are coming for him too. Either that or he’s wondering what that racket is and over his tea tonight will be telling his loving wife about the sounds he heard today whilst making a face like he's sucking a lemon.
Monoliths & Dimensions is the seventh album by Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley under their moniker as Sunn O))) and it’s the pinnacle of their achievements. It takes the finest elements from their previous releases and distils them into the pure form served here and then sticks an umbrella in the glass. It’s a black umbrella with skull on it but it’s an umbrella nonetheless. It’s not just that they’ve managed to capture what to do so well, they’ve managed to build upon it and move in new directions with extraordinary results.
Opener 'Aghartha' begins as the Sunn O))) we know and love, but as it approaches the second half, a more orchestral backdrop descends as Hungarian black metal vocalist Attila Csihar’s voice opens the doorway into hopelessness and pulls us through. The guitar's evil drone rings out on 'Big Church' as the Viennese women’s choir led by Jessika Kenney offer chinks of light through the darkness but Attila Csihar returns and makes it very clear our fate is sealed. You would struggle to find material as captivating and intense as this anywhere else in your record collection. The aural bleakness continues into 'Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)', which has sonic architect Daniel Menche on hand to add to the menace which is akin to bringing a water pistol to Niagara Falls to assist with general wetness.
But as we approach 'Alice', the final track on this album, actual notes can be heard. Is there an end to the austerity? Horns ring out and a harp is plucked. This is as light as Sunn O))) have ever been. It’s not Katy Perry but for these two gentlemen it might as well be. This is utterly beautiful and when listened to on headphones - and not whilst trying to reverse a Vauxhall Corsa into a space into which it is clearly not going to fit - is one of the most rewarding musical experiences this year.
I often want to type the words 'sonic cathedral of noise' but few albums allow such pretentious and lofty statements. But today I can type it and be clear in the knowledge that the statement is both accurate and wholly descriptive of the contents within.