Review – Sunn O))): Kannon

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  • Bio: "A synthesis of diverse: drone, ur, noise, metal, minimalism/maximalism; supported by a cast of collaborators, O))) has two core members: Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson." - Bandcamp
  • Label: Southern Lord Recordings
  • Release Date: December 4th, 2015
  • Genre: Doom Metal, Drone
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Sunn O))) initially formed back in 1996 under the name Mars while the band resided in Seattle, Washington. However, upon moving to Los Angeles, California in 1998, changed their name to what you see now. Since their 2000 debut album ØØ Void, the group has earned the respect of the music world as a whole, and have become of the most easily recognized figures in the doom/drone metal community. On top of that notoriety comes a plethora of recordings over the last fifteen years, including a total of seventy-two live albums earlier this year through a bootleg initiative found on a completely separate band sanctioned Bandcamp account, a feat not original, but rarely ever achieved beyond what Pearl Jam accomplished back in 2000. Obviously there’s been a number of other efforts as well, including their final 2015 release, Kannon, which stands as the eighth studio full-length in total. But is it something well worth the admiration that comes with the Sunn O))) name, or does it show an otherwise inventive entity on the brink of running out of ideas?

Listen to ‘Kannon’ at THIS LOCATION.

Trying to explain a Sunn O))) album to those who have never heard the band before is a fairly daunting task. To sit here and say it sounds dark, ominous, brooding and menacing, all wrapped up into one extensive trip is par for the course, and something most fans of the group have already come to expect by now. However, with Kannon, one can go as far to compare it to their 2005 two song release Solstitium Fulminate, though reliant a little more on vocal effects than anything else to help establish the atmosphere.

“Kannon 1” introduces the group’s signature sound of astral isolation, only giving way to some mechanical synth effects towards the last minute of the song’s existence. However, the echoed words done in a harsh or gargling manner adds an extra air of uneasiness, as if trapped in the catacombs of Paris, the band’s current home country, with some beast lurking in the far distance, aware of your existence. The growling and moaning amplifies the intimidation factor until finally you start to lose control of your very senses and start hallucinating within those very walls. Sadly, this is really the only song that manages to stand out or even stay with the listener beyond that initial spin, as the rest just feel bottom of the barrel as far as progression and presence are concerned.

Sunn O)))

“Kannon 2” shows off some of the influence from the collaboration they did with Ulver in 2014 in that it feels like the frostbitten worlds of mid-career prison day Burzum laced with the ritualism of Inquisition, though with more range in the chanting compared to what the latter’s efforts present. The deep rumbling and random off-sounding notes from the guitar slowly twist and distort the otherwise standard track, but it isn’t really much to escalate it with any sort of genuine progression. Instead, listeners are left spinning their wheels, hoping for traction to what sounds more like a filler composition that elicits little emotional reaction outside of mild boredom about half way through. “Kannon 3” incorporates a little more of a blackened touch through basic sharper guitar distortions in the crawling pace that greatly needs the vocals to really bulk up the sandy, deserted plains that lie ahead. Sadly, it suffers the same stagnant fate, though without the sudden increase come the song’s conclusion, not to mention is a rehash of “Cannon” from the album 2008 release Domkirke. It isn’t bad, just uneventful, which is not something you want to say about an over eleven minute song.

Long time fans of Sunn O))) have been anxiously awaiting a proper follow-up to 2009’s highly successful Monoliths & Dimensions, immediately salivating like Pavlov’s dogs upon the ringing bell that was the announcement of Kannon. However, this long overdue follow-up in no way lives up to the previous outing. “Kannon 1” really stands as the only performance of the three worth any weight in gold, leaving the other two in its dust as just fairly basic representations of the doom and drone worlds, something many bands who came before them have done far better in comparison. In fact, those other two are hindered further by the extensive track lengths that offer no real traction until the final minute, if even that. Perhaps it’s due to their collaboration with Ulver, or perhaps they’re just running out of ideas. Whatever the case may be, Kannon isn’t terrible, but it definitely doesn’t live up to what Sunn O))) have shown themselves capable of, and stands as one of the few major blemishes in their overall discography.

Sunn O)))

Digital review copy of this release provided by Southern Lord Records via Earsplit PR.