The second coolest thing about this release is that it breaks open any imposed genre boundaries still restraining Southern Lord Records; at this point they can now be rightly seen as a haven for all manifestations of drone, be it a grinding guitar or buzzing waves of unfettered noise and inspiration. Heaviness may not even involve the tools of metal anymore. The first coolest thing about this release is the epic reach and intent behind this monolith of black static and mystic incantation.
How could it not be a distorto death trip when the core duo behind Sunn O))) bring along fellow travelers like Joey (Thrones) Preston and fuckin’ Julian Cope to help realize their visions? I wonder if Joey was having serious Earth flashbacks during the no-doubt fuzzy sessions for this record. There’s a good deal of Earth invocation on this record, as well as sun, moon, water and stars. All the elements are present, presided over by mad priest Julian Cope on “My Wall.” I love it when Cope namechecks Steven O’Malley and Greg Anderson throughout the song, hip hop style. And besides, when a mad sage like Cope refers to mainman Greg Anderson as “purveyor of sonic doom” in that booming rasp, who am I to doubt him?
The instrumentation/sound blitz is eerily restrained and almost minimal, considering the ungodly noise this collective could unleash at any given moment. But they hold back to a randomly strummed clean guitar meandering far away, and deep, foreboding sub bass rumbles, which rise and crest in slow waves, like plate tectonics or faraway earthquakes. About halfway through, there’s some downtuned distorted guitar that’s sawed up and down verrrry slowly, the same notes, for maximum feedback and rumblefish; it’s like a gigantic drill digging down to the pits of hell. And then there’s Cope, half eternal sage, half jibbering madman. He goes from dirty limericks, to tales of legend and religion, to impressionistic descriptions of the very music that he is shepherding along with his druidic invocations. It’s disorienting and wonderful.
Second movement, “The Gates of Ballard” begins with Thorr’s Hammer singer Runhild Gannelsaeter singing/chanting what sounds like a Norse drinking song, as feedback and waves of white noise gather around her sharp voice like low-flying storm clouds. And then it effortlessly metamorphs into what sounds like a stripped-down Melvins number being played underwater. The drums sound like little toothpicks being ticked against a wall, and the guitar is muffled, muted to where the chords are obscured like smears of chiaroscuro paint and echo drone is the dominant sound. Then it’s like someone clicks a switch, and all that is left is claustrophobic feedback that sounds like airplanes preparing to take off or heavy machinery idling. The switch is clicked again, and the whole affair goes back underwater. Maddening.
“A Shaving Of The Horn That Speared You” is also painfully restrained, but there is so much low-end power that it almost blew out my speakers. It comes in ominous subsonic waves, underneath the twisted-up random guitar noodling, and schizoid feedback blips. It works because you can actually FEEL the music deep in your stomach and lungs and intestines, the waves physically push you and drive you back, invade you. It’s a masterpiece of atmosphere and ambient body music. Just might be the heaviest record of the year.
Like the man said, maximum volume yields maximum results. Tattoo that on your forehead.
Southern Lord: http://www.southernlord.com/