By: Ralka Skjerseth |
The titanic drone metal duo that consists of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, Sunn O))), has just released an impeccable new studio album titled Life Metal. It was released on April 26, 2019 under Southern Lord Records, and recorded and mixed by Steve Albini using analog tape, which makes it exceptional. Having had the likes of Boris, Scott Walker, Ulver, and Attila Csihar of Mayhem as the featured artists on their previous records, now, in Life Metal, they are ready and kicking with another set of ever-talented guest contributors as well— they are Tim Midyett (of Silkworm fame) with his mesmerizing droning using an aluminum-neck bass, Tos Nieuwenhuizen with his ambient-sounding synth lines, Anthony Pateras with his luminous sounds of pipe organ on the track “Troubled Air”, and Hildur Guðnadóttir (of Múm fame) with her vibrant impressionistic vocals on the first track “Between Sleipnir’s Breaths” where her voice converges altogether with the drone, and colossal-nuanced use of the electro-acoustic feedback cello, halldorophone, on the 25-minute closing track “Novæ”. I personally think that all guest contributors did well on their parts as they presented each their diverse and unique characteristics.
The album title “Life Metal” is a humorous-sounding term that is supposed to be an inside joke among band members and collaborators. The term refers to a contrast towards the genre death metal, because the music’s tone and the mindset of band members during the creative process of their songwriting matches the title, which refers to the antithesis of anything “doom-and-gloom”. Even the album artwork is intentionally in bright and diverse colours because it wants to contrast their previous album artworks that had a lot of darker tones. The way the term “life metal” is invented and then used by the band, has caused some dispute as well, with the Norwegian black metal community considering the term as an insult, according to an interview with Greg Anderson on this album.
“Between Sleipnir’s Breaths” is an opener track that is striking and menacing, with its own distinct ambience. It features verses from ancient Aztec poets by Hildur Guðnadóttir. The opening chords sound mystical that it literally takes the eight-legged Norse mythology horse Sleipnir’s breath away, and that mystical element is just the quintessential thing we can find from Sunn O))).“Troubled Air” is a radiant-colored kind of track with the use of keys and organ. The track’s ending comes with an explosive nuance and a whirling resonance. “Aurora” has the most iconic rumbling drone out of the whole album, even though the track doesn’t come off too captivating for me. “Novæ” is the longest track in the album, a 25-minute colossal closer. It is the most surreal track in the album, in my opinion, with the layers and textures of the halldorophone steadily creating atmospheric vibes to the song. This album is a dynamic and memorable one, with its wide range of sounds. The mixing is diverse and enthralling, as it provides otherworldly sounds nothing can compare. I give 8/10 for this.