Not that I take much notice of these things, but it did seem fitting that a copy of the new Sunn 0))) album arrived just in time for Halloween. Like most of their crushingly slow meditations on doom, “Dømkirke” would probably be interpreted by many listeners as an apt soundtrack for the gates of hell opening at an agonisingly slow pace.
I personally find their music mostly quite restful, in much the same way as those early Earth albums – so critical to the original premise of Sunn 0))), of course – sound like contemplative ambience to me. But for all the abstract pleasures of this music, it’s hard not to be titillated by the concept of “Dømkirke”. This one is a limited edition double vinyl live album, magnificently produced and packaged, recorded last year in Bergen Cathedral, and I imagine probably sold out by now.
According to the sleevenotes, Sunn 0))) were invited to play the cathedral, and commissioned to write a piece which pointed up the affinities between their excruciating metal drones and medieval Gregorian chants which reflected, according to Nicholas H Mellerhaug in those notes, “the despair, the terrors and darkness of the world”. There’s an element of inviting the devil into God’s house here, intriguingly, compounded by the presence of vocalist Attila Csihar contributing ghastly ululations – a man whose background is in the same death metal scene that resulted in various unpleasant activities in and around Bergen some years back.
Sunn 0))) are all about intimations of doom rather than explicit satanic panto, of course, the cowls notwithstanding. And even the opening “Why Dost Thou Hide Thyself In Clouds” is subtle, after a fashion: operatic incantations from Csihar, and Steve Moore playing the reverberant chamber of the cathedral as much as he’s playing the pipe organ.
As usual, Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson are joined by other collaborators, and Lasse Marhaug’s electronics come to prominence on “Cymatics”, a juddering noise jam, with plentiful howls of horror, that gets a bit too close to the industrial scene for my delicate tastes. But “Cannon” is fantastic; 18 minutes of creeping belligerence that’s as graceful and impactful a piece as Sunn 0))) have ever recorded.
Among the brilliant live shots that adorn the package, there are great label shots of the congregation – predominantly bearded men looking very cold and intense. For all their stoic expressions, it must have been a thrilling event.
Now, should I take this home and play it to the trick-or-treaters tonight?