SUNN O))) (1998–PRESENT). Stephen O’ Malley (guitars/other instruments), Greg Anderson (bass/guitar/other instruments).
Words cannot describe the low-end intensity of Sunn O))), who are among the most powerful and mysterious new metal bands around. Instead of concentrating on traditional songs, Sunn O))) play soundscapes of noise and feedback. This is while dressed in monastic robes, where the audience can only peek at the grim, heavily bearded two members, Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, both previously of legendary underground bands such as Burning Witch, Khanate, Thor’s Hammer, and Goatsnake.
After the demise of their previous bands, the two guitarists were ready to start a new band, but they were unsure of the more mainstream (for black metal) approach that many of their contemporaries took. Instead the two founded the now extremely influential Southern Lord Records (think about it for a second…) and started to release their own material, staring with the 1999 The Grimm Robe Demos featuring some of the slowest and most brutal metal then released. Sadly, the original release did not sell many copies, and Sunn O))) had to build their success as slowly as their music. Soon fans were starting to pick up their releases just for the notoriety the band was making with their radical musical statements.
Sunn O))) are one of the most fascinating new metal bands out there and one that is constantly challenging and redefining the boundaries of what is considered metal and what is considered heavy. Despite the fact that they are a heavy metal band, Sunn O))) do not play metal, or sometimes not even music as it is commonly known, but rely on deep trancelike drones. Their influences are not only from the metal community but also from minimalist composers and musicians such as Steve Reich, Tony Conrad, and LaMonte Young. (Also in the mix are bits of Philip Glass, Sun Ra, the Melvins, Celtic Frost, and Dissection.) Sunn O))) play metal that is extreme, but a brand of metal that lacks traditional parts of metal songs, such as bass melody, harmony, and even structures to their songs. Instead a typical Sunn O))) record or concert might start with the band playing an A or C sharp chord held sometimes for minutes with endless waves of feedback, and of course, usually no drums, and only occasionally vocals. An example of this is when Malefic Guest starred on The Black One, in which he (according to legend) recorded his vocal tracks locked in a coffin. Julian Cope of Teardrop Explodes and Attila Csihar of Mayhem have also made guest appearances.
The formula was altered on Altar, which was a full collaboration with Japanese noise metal punks Boris, where the drums, bass, and guitar of Boris combined with the seemingly endless held chords of Sunn O))) to create a blinding and brilliant wall of sustained and often painful noise. Some trivia: The band was named after a rare brand of vintage amplifier and for novices, the pronunciation of the band’s name is simply “sun.”
Discography: The Grimm Robe Demos (Southern Lord, 1999); 0/0 Void (Southern Lord, 2000); Flight of the Behemoth (Southern Lord, 2002); White 1 (Southern Lord, 2003); The Libations of Samhain (Bastet, 2003); Veils It White (Thin the Herd, 2003); White 2 (Southern Lord, 2004); Cro-monolithic Mixes for an Iron Age (Southern Lord, 2004); Live White (Archive, 2004); Black One (Southern Lord, 2005); Altar [with Boris] (Southern Lord, 2006).