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Scott Walker & Sunn 0))) — Soused

Sixties idol turned avant-garde icon meets modern drone metal merchants

What we learned from Soused, the new collaborative album between veteran cult crooner Scott Walker and thunderous drone-metal duo Sunn O)))

Walker has a long memory and a keen ear for extreme music.

Sunn O))) first approached Walker in 2008 suggesting a one-track collaboration on their Monoliths & Dimensions album. The singer declined, but made contact with the duo again in 2013 to pitch a full-length joint venture. He would bring the cryptic, disjointed, dense lyrical screeds if Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson provide the Wagnerian backdrop of mountainous doom chords and slow-motion sonic torture. Formal dinner dress optional.

**The musical kinship between a cult 71-year-old art-pop legend and two 40-ish post-metal headbangers is less bizarre than it first sounds. **

Some genre-blurring, pan-generational collaborations feel contrived and gimmicky, but the mutual chemistry between Walker and Sunn O))) makes sense. The Seattle duo have been drifting deeper into avant-garde noise-rock waters for the last decade, while their sludge-metal heaviosity sits easily with Walker’s restless thirst for abrasive and challenging backdrops to frame his stream-of-conscious lyrics.

**Walker can still turn on that magnificent operatic voice in unlikely circumstances. **

Check out the mighty Brando, which features Walker at full matinee-idol blast, channelling the widescreen grandeur of his Walker Brothers prime. But pretty soon the seismic guitar shudders, cracking bullwhip percussion and doomy electro-mechanical convulsions begin as the singer descends into a punishment dungeon of his own making: “I am down on my knees / a beating would do me a world of good.”

Soused puts clear musical distance between Walker and his previous excursion into ear-pummelling post-rock, Bish Bosch from 2012.

Walker’s second album in two years marks a striking progression from Bish Bosch, with its complex meshes of twisted swing-jazz rhythms and gleaming machete-blade percussion. Inevitably, Soused sounds much more guitar-heavy and monumental, but without sacrificing Walker’s love for intricate sonic textures. Perhaps the closest link between the two albums is Fetish, which opens with mangled boogie-woogie piano and metallic scything effects before erupting into an apocalyptic firestorm of orchestral-metal obliteration.

He may have left from his pop-star past behind, but Walker seems happy to revisit his more recent back catalogue.

Soused’s surprisingly delicate closing track, Lullaby, started life as a gleaming cabaret ballad with Brechtian overtones penned by Walker for German chanteuse Ute Lemper. His Sunn O))) remake beefs up the song’s atonal drones and churning horror-movie chorus, with a darkly funny final line that sounds like the ultimate nightmare scenario for a notoriously reclusive singer: “the most intimate personal choices and requests central to your personal dignity will be sung.” Ouch.

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.