Sunn O))) – White 1 (Southern Lord) 2003


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I have so much new music at the moment that it is doing my head in. Fucking Merzbow, Fire Engines, Black Dice, Zelienople, Ashtray Navigations, Peter Wright and Sandoz Lab Technicians (yay more NZ experimental noise) all have demanded my attention. I have decided to have a break (but let me tell you that Peter Wright CD I bought on my Sydney trip is un-fucking-believable) and find comfort in an old friend.

White 1 was my introduction to Sunn o))). I’d read all of the reviews and the thought of some vaguely black-metalish, doom record didn’t have me reaching for my wallet. The main reason is that I really didn’t understand doom or what it sounded like and the samples I’d listened to online were of such bad quality that it was hard to tell what this doom stuff was all about. I decided to start with this one because of the comforting presence of Julian Cope. I was a big Cope fan in the 1980’s and I flogged his Saint Julian record to death.

Things kick of with My Wall. This track is all big monster riffs one after the other and massive helpings of subsonic bass. It’s the kind of thing that you feel rather than hear. Cope basically talks gibberish over the top of it all. Here’s some choice snippets Doom and gloom is to each a splendid pair and another For I am death …. and yet another Here in the bloodless deepest scar/ here be the wall of Johnny guitar. Absolute nonsense all of it. There seems to be a basic theme of pagan gods and ancient battles. It’s ever so slightly absurd but is the most accessible thing Sunn have done. It’s great and even at 25+ minutes it’s up there with my most played tracks on Mr Boo. The second track is The Gates of Ballard. This track starts with a strange nordic folk song (or part of the black mass. I’m not sure to tell you the truth) sung by the vocalist from Thor’s Hammer (actually I’m going with my first guess) before morphing into the most Melvin’s (Bullhead era) like sludge/doom thing I’ve heard them do. It’s an absolute joy, all 15 minutes of it. Things are rounded out by A Shaving of the Horn that Speared You. This is strangest track on the album. It’s a pointer to where they’d head to on Black One. The creep factor is all here just without the oppressive darkness. It’s basically an exercise in subsonics. There are no monster riffs. The vocalist from Thor’s Hammer is back where she contributes whispered, breathless vocals from time to time. It’s not my favorite thing Sunn have ever done but it shows a band willing to try new things while staying within the doom sphere. I think White 2 is a more cohesive record, but White 1 is a pretty good place to jump on if you’ve ever thought about buying a Sunn record.

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