Sunn O))) & Boris present Altar at Brooklyn Masonic Temple, | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Boris, Sunn O)))

Sunn O))) & Boris present Altar at Brooklyn Masonic Temple,, September 7th, 2010

Sep 11, 2010 Boris Photography by Robert Kidd Bookmark and Share

One riff is all it took to destroy the venue’s power.

How fucking metal is that?

A single deafening chord to close “Etna,” the opening track of Altar, the 2006 collaborative effort by Sunn O))) and Boris, threatened to cut short their performance at Brooklyn’s cavernous Masonic Temple on Tuesday night. It’s almost too easy to pin the blame on the dozen-plus speaker cabinets that made up the group’s live rig, but it’s just as likely the extra strain on the century-old building’s electrical system can be attributed to any number of red or green lights, stompboxes, synthesizers or fans working hard to keep the robed performers conscious in the sweltering room.

So what if the second song was postponed for almost an hour while technicians scrambled to jury-rig a power set-up that’ll juice the band’s sound system? That’s just rock ‘n’ roll, baby.

Opener BXI was a surprising high point of the evening. For this project, Boris rejoins with Rainbow collaborator Michio Kurihara to back vocalist Ian Astbury, formerly of The Cult. This Brooklyn Masonic Temple show was the unit’s debut performance, following up an impressive four-song EP released on Southern Lord last month. Astbury looks a bit worse for wear after three decades of hard rock (you could say he looked beat to shit, actually) but, man, he can still sing as well as he ever could. He crooned, belted, groaned and roared his way through BXI’s hitherto discography, working in a cover of The Doors’ “The End”—gorgeously rendered, though tragically brought to an early end when power was cut to Wata’s amplifier.

Boris is capable of some real magic when they take on a complementary role (see: Altar, which I’ll get to shortly) and Astbury’s vocal work on this short set is some of his best since Sonic Temple. Sure to say, it was one hell of an arresting debut show. Here’s to hoping we see more from BXI in the future.

The gods of the six-strip must have smiled kindly on Jesse Sykes, whose band was the only act spared any sort of interruption due to electrical problems. Warming up the show with The Sweet Hereafter, Sykes’ brand of southwestern rock with its psych-folk influences was a far different style than the Southern Lord class of metal on display that evening, but her gothic country-tinged lullabies soothed the audience perfectly in time to have their marrow shaken loose by the bands to come.

And there were her heavenly vocals on “The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)” during Sunn O))) and Boris’ set. Back to our feature presentation…

The venue was able to get the power back online for the Altar performance to resume in just under an hour at the cost of about half the PA system and all of the stage lighting, throwing the venue into near complete darkness. Fortunately, Sunn O)))’s droning, heavy metal lends itself to total darkness—who’d have thought?

For the Altar performance, the members Boris and The Sweet Hereafter joined Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson in their customary stage countenance—suiting up in full hooded robes and decked out like Benedictine monks. It’s usually foreboding enough to see these guys back-lit red through fog machines, but to only catch fleeting glimpses of these monastic wraiths peeking out from the shadows… it was particularly chilling. The doom metal tag this band wears is never more appropriate than during their live shows.

The emotional crux of both the show and album, to me, is the haunting third track, “The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)” in which Sykes takes lead. The song is cinematic, spectral; here, the album rises from the long, subterranean tones that carry it through its first quarter, lifting it temporarily into some mist-filled otherworld. The lyrics, its title, the tone of Sykes’ voice—they all conjure images of a fog-covered lake, hint at the shipwreck deep below the water’s surface.

This transcendental moment alone should have been enough to satisfy the record’s fans, technical difficulties be damned. The show was over all too soon—isn’t the album supposed to be longer? Is that it just wishful thinking? Did noise complaints shut them down early, as some sources have allegated? Don’t know, don’t really care. I came, was rocked, I left sated. With as much that was dished out, I’d feel almost greedy expecting more. (


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