Sunn O)))
Monoliths and Dimensions


4.0
excellent

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
June 18th, 2009 | 628 replies | 40,681 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Listen closer.

Sunn O))) are big. They are not big in the sense of popularity (though they have gained quite a loyal fanbase), but just…big. That is an objective fact. Only a band that wears black cloaks at their concerts and punctuate their name with three parentheses could create an album with four songs, some of which reach above fifteen minutes, and one of which is subtitled “Megszentségtelen*thetetlenségeskedéseiteké rt”. They create thundering epics that sometimes consist of only a few chords, fed through machinery and effects so numerous that the resulting sound is something that seems it is not from this world. They read from obscure poems in voices that are harrowingly deep and gravelly. There is no doubt that Sunn O))) are out to change the path of music, for better or for worse. Besides that, though, opinions on the band as a whole are extremely divided. Does their being “big” lead to pretense and obnoxiousness, or is it that trait that gives them their breathtaking and bleak epic symphonies of drone? Many skeptical listeners (including me) would sit right in the middle, simultaneously intrigued by the wall of sonic power built by these drone rockers, but also wondering “am I really enjoying this?”

From the beginning of their new album, Monoliths & Dimensions, anyone who has already formulated an opinion on Sunn O))) is unlikely to have changed it: the deep and bleak drones that introduce the 17-minute epic “Aghartha” are familiar stuff for fans and detractors alike. The dark, unrelenting guitar chords buzz and whirr and thrum like machinery for about five and a half minutes until a low voice comes in, intoning a poem about the creation of the Earth. The whole song, once analyzed, could seem ridiculous, but Sunn O))) create a believable atmosphere, their music like a soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic Earth where the sky is black and everything that isn’t already dead is in the process of dying. It sounds ridiculous, but it works. This is, of course, before the bloodcurdling high-pitched strings and arrhythmic clicks and clatters of random percussion both enter, adding a whole new chilling aspect to the music. It becomes clear: this is not music you listen to because you enjoy it. This is music you listen to because you want to experience something otherworldly.

“Big Church” (the one with the ridiculous subtitle) starts very differently, but no less thematically: a beautiful chorus of female voices sing a twenty-second group of harmonies, with each individual harmony having an intense crescendo and then suddenly dropping off, all within about a second or two. Then commence the drones (which are later paired up with those same female voices, for a striking balance of beauty and grotesque bleakness, delicateness and roughness). The admitted utter bizarreness of it all may have some listeners throwing both their hands up and pleading to the band members: “spare me the theatrics!” However, those who enjoy a little flair with their doom will embrace Sunn O)))’s willingness to look a little ridiculous in order to further the enjoyment of the listener.

Doesn’t sound appealing? Stay away from this album. The album’s four songs are in the same vein, albeit taking smaller steps toward a less doom-filled world of noise. “Hunting and Gathering (Cydonia)” introduces a muffled horn part (and later, a synthesizer) to brighten up things slightly (but not much, the band’s signature drones and growling vocals still taking the front lines). The song ends on a screeching guitar note. And then silence.

Despite all of the treasures shown throughout this sprawling album, it is “Alice”, the thematic 16-minute closer, which is the album’s crowning achievement. While still dark, the song shows a change in pace for the band, with crescendos of blaring horns taking the lead along with a tremolo-y guitar. The song lets itself build, the guitar and horns sometimes responding to each other’s calls, sometimes playing simultaneously. The song shows a lighter side of Sunn O)))’s music, especially during the end, when the guitar is all but gone, and the band lets the strings and horns wander. But they wander beautifully. The procession of instruments manages to be, by far, the most singularly pleasant and alluring thing on the album, while also somehow still making sense: this is still the same band, just flipped over so you can see a different side of them.

Anyone who enjoys any of Sunn O)))’s music will without a doubt enjoy this album as well, and anyone who is turned off by the band will probably not change their mind. However, this does not mean the album is the same as the rest. Far from it. The album is a revelation for the band, showing their many faces. They are not just a doom band. They are a band of spirituality, a band of wishing and daydreaming. Monoliths & Dimensions flashes glimmers of hope among all the doom, like a distant light at the end of the tunnel.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 18th 2009



15004 Comments


what the fuck spacing

BallsToTheWall
June 18th 2009



44164 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Honestly, i'm quite shocked to see how this is rated so low. Soild review, I guess I will acquire this after all. Although Terrorizer gave what appeared to be a solid rating yet left a 0. Maybe a glitch I suppose.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 18th 2009



15004 Comments


it's pretty damn solid if you like this stuff haha

BallsToTheWall
June 18th 2009



44164 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Some of the soundsoffs are a bit discouraging but have enough faith in the band to give this a trial.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 18th 2009



15004 Comments


i'm not sure i was totally like 'oh god the last part of this is going to sound like someone farting' but no it doesn't sound like that at all

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 18th 2009



15004 Comments


that is, aghartha. *makes 2 many replies*

joshuatree
Emeritus
June 18th 2009



3743 Comments


i like stuff like this, but this just sucks

also spacing's weird cause that one song has a gayass title

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 18th 2009



15004 Comments


i was about to say that i'll probably edit that in da tracklist. to each his own on the matter on the album.

YouAreMySilence
June 18th 2009



3727 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

i'm not sure i was totally like 'oh god the last part of this is going to sound like someone farting' but no it doesn't sound like that at all

It kind of does.

I find this to be pointless and pretentious trash. Not the review but the album haha. If I get really bored, after Exams I'll probably give this another listen.


OllieS
June 19th 2009



2030 Comments


Great review, probably won't check this out though.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
June 19th 2009



7022 Comments


Alice is great, haven't heard the rest yet

Digging: FKA twigs - LP1

Prometherion
June 19th 2009



208 Comments


How is it compared to Domkirke? I liked that one.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
June 19th 2009



7022 Comments


i'm not sure i was totally like 'oh god the last part of this is going to sound like someone farting' but no it doesn't sound like that at all


yeah i expected it to be funnier

Mendigo
June 19th 2009



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

haven't heard Domkirke yet, but so far this is my favorite Sunn O))) album (together with Black One). a lot more ... ergh ... "music" ... going on than on their earlier albums (not saying they aren't also good every now and then). also people thinking a band that calls one of its songs Big Church [megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért] takes itself too seriously - well, I can't take those people too seriously.

unbelievable live band as well.

Mendigo
June 19th 2009



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review, btw.

MassiveAttack
July 8th 2009



2688 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I'll comment on this when I listen dj (won't be for a few weeks though).

Wizard
July 8th 2009



19308 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I find this to be pointless and pretentious trash.

Precisely . This is awful.

Digging: Downer - Downer

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2009



15004 Comments


all music is 'pointless' rofl

whatever


i can see why someone would hate this

Wizard
July 8th 2009



19308 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

ALL MUSIC IS NOT POINTLESS!! TAKE IT BACK hahahaha

I usually like stuff like this, but this goes absolutely nowhere. I followed the entire album through a bunch of times and it never lifted me from boredom once.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2009



15004 Comments


you gotta love the end of 'alice'.



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