Sunn O))): Pyroclasts (Southern Lord) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 7th, 2023  

Sunn O)))


Southern Lord

Dec 12, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

After plumbing the depths of drone, ambient, and metal genres for 21 years, Sunn O))) are still uncovering new ways to create deep sounds and resonant frequencies. Pyroclasts, the band’s latest album, is one more aural expedition of the band’s proprietary, bass-heavy drones and each track crackles and spits as it rumbles from an endless chamber of shadow.

Sunn O))) might as well be synonymous with these oft-used descriptors: doom sludge, dark metal, ambient drone. Across their myriad albums, the band has stayed true to their blueprint, epitomizing the mantra, “Do one thing and do it well.” But, too often, the adjectives we use to quantify the band’s sound fail because Sunn O))) make sounds that are much more vibrant and alive than we give them credit for. Yes, the volume swells, lengthy drone segments, and distorted guitar and bass rattles are all woven into the fabric of their work, but there are also the ambient, meditative qualities of their music that never seem to be focused upon.

Pyroclasts aims to the focus. A companion record to April 2019’s Life Metal, Pyroclasts was recorded during the same sessions as Life Metal at Electrical Audio, the studio owned and operated by Steve Albini. Sunn O))) don’t need much help capturing their low, snarling sounds on record, but adding Albini as engineer and producer doesn’t hurt their mission. Rather, it’s the perfect complement; so much that it’s a wonder the two parties haven’t paired up before. Albini shapes and sharpens recorded sounds with laser precision and has pulled one-of-a-kind recordings from indie stalwarts like Jawbreaker, The Breeders, and Magnolia Electric Co.—not to mention a little band called Nirvana. But Albini also captures the warm-hum, analog sounds from artists as diverse as Will Oldham, Robbie Fulks, and Scout Niblett. Pyroclasts feels similarly enveloping and just as personal within Albini’s space.

Tracked to two-inch tape and mastered through an all analogue process, Pyroclasts is restrained, hugely saturated with tone, and densely evocative. The first two minutes of opener “Frost (C)” sound like the first light of dawn, while “Kingdoms (G)” pulses back and forth through a haze of mist. Album finale “Ascension (A)” snaps to life in a short burst before ending just as abruptly—as though the album is a cycle that continues despite the arbitrary measurement of time. Pyroclasts deserves a full, non-stop listening session and, at around 45 minutes, the album is terse enough to loop over and over, again and again, enhancing the full breadth of the record’s landscape with each turn.

Alongside Life Metal, Pyroclasts works hand-in-hand. Both records come from the fruit of one lengthy recording session. Both are similar, yet completely unique to each other. Together these two albums are a high-water mark for a wildly inventive band that seeks a deeper, fuller, and more immersive musical experience. Pyroclasts is a sharp reminder that Sunn O))) can go deep but is nowhere near the bottom of their creative well. Just the opposite; Pyroclasts sounds like a new light breaking forth from below. (

Author rating: 8/10

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