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Monoliths And Dimensions

4.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 26, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

2009 release, the seventh studio album in their 10 year career. The album showcases the core guitar duo - Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson - incorporating influences from a plethora of guest musicians, bringing the SUNN O))) sound to epic new levels. The band collaborated with composer Eyvind Kang on various acoustic ensembles, in addition to the Helios fueled electric guitars and basses. Key players on the album include Australian guitar genius Oren Ambarchi, enigmatic Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar and slow music godfather Dylan Carlson (Earth), as well as Julian Priester and new-music horn player Stuart Dempster. There's also an upright bass trio, French & English horns, harp & flute duo, piano, brass, reed & strings ensembles, and a Viennese woman's choir led by Persian vocal savant Jessika Kenney.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 26, 2009)
  • Original Release Date: May 26, 2009
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Southern Lord
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,857 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
If you already know what this band is about, here's the short version of the review: You will be surprised, you will be transported, you will be lifted and you will not be disappointed. For those of you still uninitiated (or those of the initiated who still aren't sure what to expect), read on.

First off, this album still has the churning, heavy, droning, all-encompassing bass violence we've come to expect from Sunn O))). The downtuned chords still drone ad infinitum. Maximum volume still yields maximum results. But what we get here is an even greater expanded sense of dynamic contrast that was alluded to on their most recent live effort, Dømkirke. Guest vocalist (and frequent Sunn O))) collaborator) Attila Csihar's monologues come off like a Hungarian Vincent Price at his most dark and unsettling.

Some of the most remarkable moments on this album though come not from O'Malley and Anderson or their core collaborators, but from the arrangements by composer Eyvind Kang. The band expressed early on prior to the release that the goal was to allude to "the timbre of feedback," and Kang's arrangements capture this perfectly. The line is often blurred between real feedback coming from the Guitars and Basses and the illusory feedback provided by the strings, horns and women's chamber choir. Of course, this expanded instrumentation does more than just that. The orchestral arrangements can be breathtaking, particularly in the album's closing piece, "Alice," where the chamber group and legendary trombonist Julian Priester swirl around one another to dazzling effect. It brings to mind what might happen if Aaron Copland's "prairie nationalism" were slowed down to a crawl and successfully combined with American Free Jazz.

This album is a masterpiece of experimental composition and a testament to the beauty that is possible in the "drone metal" genre. Get this, crank it up and lose yourself.
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Format: Audio CD
Sunn has always been more than just the drone of their guitars. Their early works might have represented just those simple elements in their purest form, however, it's clear to me they've had higher artistic aspiration with every release of theirs. From working with Japanese noise legend Merzbow, recording abstracted covers of black metal standards and incorporating spoken word passages, what I find remarkable about the band is their ability to grab your attention with the ideas they employ within the stark framework of their compositions. 2005's "Black One" took their progression a couple steps further, with less emphasis on guitars and more on constructing a bleak atmosphere out of minimalist electronics and wind effects. The result was, in my opinion, their best work.

Until now. My first reaction was more invitational than off-putting. Not that this is alienating music by any right but there was a newfound warmth and vibrancy to the sounds here. The band themselves have stated that this album isn't just "Sunn with strings" and they couldn't be more right. The first piece has to be heard to be believed. It doesn't get more visceral than that. I just started imagining ancient buildings, dilapidation, stinging cold and malicious men in dark robes. The second piece (I hesitate calling these "songs" in any traditional sense) hit me right in the gut. Sprawling chords fused with the most haunting of minor key vocal choirs makes its ten minute run-time feel too brief. By this time I'm convinced this is their finest work to date and by the time the album is over when the guitars have faded into a lulling sonic sphere of brass, bells and even a harp and it's the most serene moment to be found on just about anything I've heard in the last few years I just have to say, this is amazing. It takes a certain measure of talent to fill you with dread one moment and peace the next. Sunn O ))) have this talent. I need to see them live!
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Format: Audio CD
The black robe wearing kings of drone Greg Anderson and Stephen O' Malley who are Sunn O))) have set the bar so highly on "Monoliths and Dimensions" that no other doom metal album will be able to compare this year. Needless to say, you won't find many of the tracks in heavy rotation on radio due to their length and genre limitations. "Monoliths and Dimensions" is a massive album that consists of four songs with an approximate playtime of 53 minutes. Fresh from their recent outing "Domkirke" where they used the ancient cathedral as an instrument, Sunn O))) return with guest-star heavy songs intermixed with their drones. Whereas Sunn O))) previously had limited involvement with others such as Japanese noise rockers Boris and Oren Ambarchi, "Monoliths and Dimensions" is bursting full of musicians. Ambarchi returns as does Attila Csihar, Earth's Dylan Carson, trombonist Julian Priester and multi-instrumentalist Steve Moore.

"Monoliths and Dimensions" could have easily collapsed under the weight of all this collaboration but the change brings out the best in the band. Opener "Aghartha" is a plodding 17-minute epic that ominously oozes into the listener's brain as Attila Csihar intones about the creation of a new Earth. "Big Church" follows and feels like a ghostly soundtrack to a forgotten Italian horror film. Choirs envelope the surrounding drone while a chant begins another invocation. A guitar breaks the invocation like a scythe before the choir returns ratcheting up the tension to almost unbearable levels. "Hunting & Gathering" offers all the drama of good black metal. Crunchy guitars mesh next to heavy keys and bells. The most unexpected song on here is "Alice" an almost ambient piece resolved by the jazzy tones of Julian Priester's trombones. As "Monoliths and Dimensions" closes, it becomes obvious that Sunn O))) are standing at the precipice of a new form of unsympathetically heavy and intelligent metal. Somewhere, something is smiling from the abyss.
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