Boomkat Product Review:
Greg Anderson & Stephen O’Malley’s Sunn 0))) mark 20 years of shaking our foundations with ‘Life Metal’, their 8th studio album and first all analog recording, engineered by none other than Steve Albini.
Under a title that pricks trve metal seriousness (it’s an inside joke about Norwegian metal “sellouts”), ‘Life Metal’ is offered as the closest possible representation of the band’s staggering live prowess. Recorded specifically and intensely over a period of just 2 weeks with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio after initial sketches made in LA - contrasting with the 2 year process behind 2009’s ‘Monoliths & Dimensions’ - their intent was to capture the sensation of physically standing in front of their amps whilst they play, aiming to better convey the sensation of being drenched in distorted tonal colour and ravaged by gut rumbling subharmonics. And it’s fair to say they’ve nailed it, like. The sense of resonant space and blistering air throughout the album is viscerally clear and present, but also manifest in a newfound sense of depth to their wall of sound, which is now almost more coral/spongiform, porous to a broader set of world views, energies and influences, yet still unmistakably Sunn 0))).
Of course, you’ll need a decent amp and speakers to really feel the lower registers, but this is perhaps one of the first Sunn 0))) albums that’s not so brutally dedicated to the low end. While it’s certainly there, a lot of information is also contained within the mid and even upper ranges of their frequency spectrum, most likely due to the way Albini’s entirely analog signal chain - from mic to tape to vinyl, with no DAT used - truly captures the complexity and shuddering movement of overtones emerging form their claw handed riffs. The appearances of trusted allies such as Hildur Guðnadóttir, who provides eerily absorbing vocals in ‘Between Sleipnir’s Breaths’ and a flooring section on the unruly oddity Haldorophone worthy of comparison with Tony Conrad in closer ‘Novæ’, or Antony Pateras’ pipe organ burning into ’Troubled Air’, also serve vital variables that marble and colour the record, lending an elemental iridescence that highlights the depth of ‘Life Metal’s character.
After following these guys for much of their unique artistic trajectory, and paying dues whenever they’re playing live in our city, it’s ever more rewarding to find new subtleties and aspects to Sunn 0)))’s always the same, ever amorphous sound.