Sunn O))) sustain their black arts on session album Metta, Benevolence

Live from the BBC: The Metta, Benevolence studio sessions by avant-metallurgists Sunn O))) develops on their previous album recordings

Sunn O))): Metta, Benevolence cover art
(Image: © Southern Lord)

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Every rock fan, as if visiting Mecca, should see Stephen O’Malley’s Sunn O))) at least once in their life. They understand the ‘meaningless’ sense of portent and ritual in metal, celebrate it as a physical, formal thing in its own right, make it the basis for sustained, juddering explorations of the genre’s core density. 

There is an art to sustaining their black, solemn cascades, these relentless, low-end incursions, and, of course, a beauty in contemplating their slow flow. On the three tracks here they employ a battery of instruments alongside their guitars, including multiple synthesisers and a trombone. 

Anna von Hausswolff supplies vocals on Pyroclast F and Pyroclast C#. Both operate at different notional angles, low and high end, the latter building to an incandescent grandiosity. 

The 30-plus-minute Troubled Air commences with Sunn O)))’s signature guitar fanfare, hangs in the air infinitely, brings its vast weight airborne, before slowly crashing to earth.

Sunn O))) are metal’s avant-garde, proof – not adequately acknowledged – of its evolution.

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.