Anyone familiar with Sunn O))) should know that they are not the band to come to if you want a toe-tapping, riff-based banger. A Sunn O))) record is more about letting the drone textures and ambience flow over you as you are slowly buried alive.
Life Metal, which dropped April 12 through Southern Lord, does see some development from the band, with some collaborative work from Hildur Guðnadóttir, who contributed both her vocal work as well as some electric cello and haldorophone, an experimental, electroacoustic string instrument where the sound generated is fed back through the body from the pickups until the instrument is pure sustain and sympathetic vibration. Interesting stuff.
Like every other Sunn O))) record, the album consists of just a few longwinded, heavy-on-the-texture songs. The album itself is a little bottom-heavy, with the last two of four tracks being the longest as well as the culmination of what seems to have been constructed as a work to be taken as a whole.
While the opening track, “Between Sleipnir’s Breaths,” had some great texture and atmosphere, and “Trouble Air” brought in some pipe organ to add interesting layers to the Sunn O))) sound, “Aurora” is really where things start to come together. The textures are expanding and layering and evolving in a more readily palpable manner. “Novae” features the electric cello in a very prominent way, and the tones and textures achieved with it are beautiful.
Life Metal is beautiful, but it’s a record that will require multiple listenings and rewards active listening the best, as overtones and textures and ambience get picked out fresh each time. Recommended.