Last year, at a time when we were all desperately needing it, we finally got some good news: Sunn O))) were releasing a special live album from their BBC 6Music sessions. 

 The full title of the record is Metta, Benevolence BBC6 Live: on the invitation of Mary Anne Hobbs. Like all things that Sunn O))) do, the theatrics behind the name, the gorgeous art on the cover, and the special collaborations that took place on the record, combined to make something whole and very unique.  

“Mary Anne Hobbs’ radio show is a daytime show, which has something like four million listeners,” explains guitarist and creative mastermind Stephen O’Malley regarding the live show behind the recording. “So, the context is quite strange for an underground, experimental band. But her vision is so great, and she obviously sees the importance of doing projects like this.  We’re very lucky and grateful that people have really paid attention to what we do and created a community around our music.”  

O’Malley expresses that without the feedback from the fans in the audience, Sunn O))) don’t really exist, and for anyone who has been lucky enough to catch a live show of theirs, the sentiment makes a lot of sense. The momentum of the band is driven by the literal feedback from the amps and the live setup, as well as feedback from the crowd, creating a ritual setting, and without that, the sheer power and heaviness of the band doesn’t make as much sense. But they manage to capture that heavy essence on this live record.  

Part of that is thanks to the art, which is one in a series of ongoing collaborations with painter Samantha Keely Smith, who creates large-scale abstracts with realism elements that interpret and break down things like dream states and the subconscious. The art she has created for this piece truly captures the essence of the live performance and the contained chaos of it all.  

The other piece of it is the collaboration that is essential to Sunn O)))’s musical journey. Along the lines of the band metaphorically not existing with an audience, they literally do not exist without collaboration, as the core of the band is O’Malley handling guitar and synth, and Greg Anderson, his main collaborator, doing the same. On this album, Tos Nieuwenhuizen also contributed Moog Rogue synthesizer playing; Stephen Moore played trombone and synth; Tim Midyett played electric bass and synth, and Anna von Hausswolff herself contributed vocals and synth. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]“Our communication and appreciation of the musical constellations that happen when you play together is an extremely important part of the process,” O’Malley says. “It’s a real pleasure to be in that place with those other musicians, getting to listen and also getting to collaborate, and that was certainly the vibe there. I think the piece is very interesting, and it shows that the spirit of the musicians is key in the music.”  

However, through all this positivity, there is still a cloud on the horizon when it comes to the vinyl edition of this album, released January 28 via Southern Lord. While CD and digital versions were available in November of 2021, the band anticipated major delays on the vinyl. 

“At this point, it takes so long to get something pressed that the record might be finished, and then it’s ten months to get copied, and that’s double what it was back in 2018, or longer,” he says. “It has made it complicated and challenging to put out this record in a cohesive way, but we pressed some in the U.S. and some in Europe to help with the logistics of the release.” 

Still, despite the awkward release schedule, the most important thing is that the fans are responding well.  

“The audience has been very excited, and I’ve seen the record on a bunch of people’s favorite albums of the year lists,” O’Malley says. “A lot of fans are posting photos of the records, and I think it’s been really positive. I haven’t really done too much press, so I haven’t gotten a lot of direct feedback from critics, but that’s also never really been my gauge of how the music is received. For me, it’s about the fans, and if they’re embracing it. That’s what means something to me, not being on the cover of a magazine or on TV.” 

And indeed, their cult-like following is definitely happy with this slice of live music, especially during a time when live performances are still tenuous and rare. But as wonderful as this record is, there remains, of course, the million-dollar question: will we actually be able to get what we all crave and see Sunn O))) in a live setting? Tentatively, yes.  

“I think ‘tentative’ is a good word,” says O’Malley about future plans. “We’re talking about things, but even if our plans get confirmed, the attitude is, everything is tentative right now. We don’t want to jump the gun and create expectations that may not be met. We don’t want to create excitement and anticipation and then have to pull stuff because it was announced too early. We just don’t know what’s going to happen in June or October.” 

Regardless of this tentative timeline, Sunn O))) are as eager as ever to connect with fans and audiences, so look out for more tour and music announcements coming soon.  

Check out Sunn O)))’s recent performance of “Troubled Air” on BBC 6Music:

 For more from Sunn O))), find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Bandcamp.

Photo courtesy of Sunn O))) and Ronald Dick


Addison is reviews and online news editor for New Noise. She specializes in metal, queer issues, and dog cuddles.

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