PICK OF THE WEEK: Sunn O))) surge with ‘Life Metal’s’ darkly pensive companion release ‘Pyroclasts’

Photo by A.F. Cortes

One thing about music that infinitely interests me is how a record gets made. What was the process like? Who did what? Were things planned out or spontaneous? It’s a question I commonly ask bands when I do interviews, and I always worry it’s going to be the most boring of all the things I pose to my subject. But sometimes it leads to a really interesting answer.

When it comes to Sunn 0)))’s new piece “Pyroclasts,” the band details in the bio materials for the record that they would begin and end each day in a 12-minute drone session, a way to align creatively where they would time pull together their creative energies. The music you hear here is what was captured alongside the work that made up their last album ”Life Metal,” released this past spring, and both records are conjoined in that way. They share a pathos in another way in that the songs are spiritually and creatively aligned, with “Pyroclasts” working as a sort of companion piece or sibling to “Life Metal,” something that becomes apparent with numerous listens to both. Joining the primary hooded figures Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley are Tim Midyett, Tos Nieuwenhuizen, and Hildur Guðnadóttir, and together, along with producer Steve Albini, they conjure four passages that bring energy and immersive power but also pull back and let you explore mentally.

“Frost (C)” begins with noises quivering as the guitars initiate their reign, and drone rumbles into swirling winds. The track keeps moving and subtly building parts to the whole, while the ambiance chills you to the bone. As the music begins to permeate your cell structure, there’s a slight rise and fall in tone, while the music vibrates, shimmering before subsiding. “Kingdoms (G)” leans in with lighter noise before the drone awakens and peeks over the horizon, with threatening guitars just behind it. Sharp notes jolt while the heat picks up, churning its way to more warmth, while a strange melody lurks beneath the surface. The track then feels like an engine, charging one last time before fading out.

“Ampliphædies (E)” has an immediate surge, with notes crushing, the guitars haze hovering, and the volume rising and promising more friction is coming. Again, a melody line is present, though you have to clear the weeds in the waters some to hear it, and there’s a vibe that weirdly reminds of Soundgarden. Sounds power and pierce any sense of calm while fuzz murmurs, and the track slips into stardust. “Ascension (A)” ends the record by introducing burly guitars, reverberations deep in the ear canals, and a long, trance-inducing stretch that generates heat. The tones cause the floors to shake, eating away at the psyche before a buzzing glimmer leads to an abrupt ending.

The end of the “Life Metal” cycle gets an immersive, reflective jolt with “Pyroclasts,” which is one of Sunn 0)))’s most calming records in their entire catalog. Don’t take that as meaning it’s not pulverizing when it needs to be, because they still carry the iron. It’s a strong piece to compliment “Life Metal” as well as a trance-heavy creation that can more than stand on its own in the band’s mighty catalog.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/SUNNthebandOfficial/

To buy the album, go here: https://southernlord.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://southernlord.com/