Sunn O))) / Boris - Altar - 2006 - Southern Lord Records
1. Etna 2. N.L.T. 3. The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep) 4. Akuma No Kuma 5. Fried Eagle Mind 6. Blood Swamp
So what is it about drone metal that has earned it a spot in the notorious metal underground? It could be a number of things that include the epic song lengths, no compromise drawn-out guitar riffs, or the occasional evil vocals thrown in the mix to change things up a bit. Whatever the case may be, there is no denying that Sunn O))) are at the top of the throne of the drone scene. Although firmly rooted in the drone metal genre, they have instituted many different elements of noise, instruments and guest vocalists to create a sound all of its own. Altar is no exception to the rule as they bill it as a collaboration with the Japanese Doom/Pop band Boris. One may wonder at first the direction of this project and may be concerned if it compares to the previous material in the Sunn O))) catalog. Don't worry because Altar is a masterpiece that properly showcases the talents of both bands as well as the guest musicians involved.
The album opener, Etna, is a heavily Sunn O))) influenced song as the droned material hits you in a matter of seconds. At first, it sounds like it focuses on the same direction as Black One without the vokills but then levels off to a typical Sunn O))) outing. Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, Etna finishes off with a round house of drum rolls and finishing patterns, giving Boris a proper introduction to the album. The next track, N.L.T. is a short ambient piece consisting of harsh and evil noises, and just when the tune has you on edge and ready for destruction, the next track, The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep), boldly comes along in a very melodramatic fashion. Like a page taken out of the mid to late 70's Pink Floyd song book, The Sinking Belle is a slow, melodic song featuring eerie female vocals. In a strange but calming way, the song sucks you in and leaves you wanting more. The next song, Akuma No Kuma is another ambient piece that features synthed vocals, and improved drum patterns over more Pink Floyd-ish synthed out noise. Next comes Fried Eagle Mind. At nearly 10 minutes long, it takes the listener on a strange but exotic musical journey into another soundscaped dimension with clean guitar fills that are remenescent of "Wish You Were Here" era David Gilmour. However, it is the soft female whispers that set the mood for this track. Although it is hard to determine the lyrical direction of the song, it is very soothing, yet deceptive at the same time. The albums closer, Blood Swamp, is a 15 minute opus that roots in ambient drone noise with that features minimalistic guitar work of Kim Thayil (ex-Soundgarden). The song slowly meshes into your typical Sunn O))) track as Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley sabotages the track with some intense drone work.
All in all, this is another Sunn O))) masterpiece. There collaboration with Boris has proven to be an effective blend several musical directions, all working together to create the perfect drone atmosphere. I highly recommend Altar to current fans of Sunn O))) and Boris, as well as those willing to expand their musical horizons into the metal unknown!
--Grim Gaijin 03.23.07
About this Writer: David Loveless // Dave's early introduction to Metal was listening to records by Black Sabbath and Kiss. Discovering Metallica's Master of Puppets on record at the local public library turned his world upside down. After spending nearly 24 years in Japan and expanding his love for the International underground metal scene, Dave (and family) now resides in the US. The savage brutality of Extreme Metal brings out the "Grim Gaijin" in him.
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