Sunn O))) - _Black One_
(Southern Lord, 2005)
by: T. DePalma (6.5 out of 10)
The sixth chapter from the genre's foremost collaborative duo presents a softened, more diluted tone that helps in evening out the abstract drone to riff ratio. Featuring appearances by experimental guitarist Oren Ambarchi, Leviathan's Wrest, and Malefic of Xasthur, _Black One_ capitalizes on black metal's increasing accessibility by engaging in a more overt atmosphere of ritualistic, eldritch sound within relaxed drone parameters.

The move toward incorporating a more occult vibe into things isn't necessarily detrimental to the strength and momentum of the album. The increased dimensions that each track shapes and reshapes from provide for some of the most effective Sunn O))) material to date when carried out with characteristic subtlety. But it's the dependence on vocals and consequent structuring around them that sees the end result sometimes marred by a clinging hokey-ness and presents a conflict between the art of minimalism and flashy go-nowhere gimmicks, serving up some irony in the process.

Beginning with the first three tracks, _Black One_ leans toward a "ghost in the machine" / EVP ambience that distances itself from earlier Sunn O))) material by experimenting with more keyboards, reflexive loops and multi-tracked vocal sections (particularly a cover of Immortal's "Curse Realms of the Winterdemons"), before the album hits its stride returning to their trademark sound with exsiccating, coarse hums stretched out into a landscape of peeled skulls and scalded ruins.

Things become dodgy when the instrumentation is halted to usher intrusive screams, in an effort that forces the atmosphere through the speakers, losing it in the process. Take for instance the closing track, "Bathory Erzsebet", which features Malefic performing while locked inside a hearse; a novelty that could be forgiven if it actually contributed to the tension of the song's sabbatical aura (masterfully articulated by bell chimes and low electronic shivers) -- but instead yields a caricature intruding with a displaced roar that's probably mixed too high to suspend any disbelief. Contrast this with the chilling, near subliminal, creaking casket lid that materializes 1:10 into "Cry of the Weeper", and the line where pretension overrides quality becomes clearer.

Closer to black metal after all; but in the end, the album is redeemed by a consistent flair and painterly imagination that brings about a palpable meeting with darkness.


(article published 19/10/2005)

6/16/2004 X Hoose 6 Sunn O))) - The Libations of Samhain
3/13/2001 P Schwarz 9 Sunn O))) - OO Void
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