Sunn O))) Kannon Southern Lord
Sunn O)))’s most recent, most devastating live iteration has ended each performance with vocalist Attila Cshar coated in glistening, mirrored spikes, shooting refracted peaks of light across the air. It’s a hell of a sight: those spikes, those hard metallic shards dominating the eyeline, extending in all directions; so hard, so unforgiving.
And it’s an outwardly metallic clang – a harsh, aluminium slash – which defines Kannon, Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley’s 7th straight-up full-length, rather than the rich, gluttonous, earthy tO)))nes which have often marked their most torrential work. Absent is the cataclysmic baroque of 2014’s starting Scott Walker collaboration Soused – an album which, more than anything else, left you with this uneasy tingle that nothing has ever sounded like this before – or the chiming symphonies of Alice, the instantly canonical track which saw out last album proper, 2009’s Monoliths and Dimensions, on such an elevating, elegiac note. That’s not to say Kannon is pure, raw and raging: there’s subtlety to be found in the album’s seeping opening and the pattering undulations which make up the closing Kannon 3. But it’s primal hiss and jagged edges which provide the lasting impression here.
Cshar is in fine fettle on two of the album’s three tracks. His ancient croaks and painful exhalations add a burnishing heft. But the third and final piece, despite clocking in at over 11 minutes, fails to fully gestate; as monastic chanting makes way for feedback which growls then abruptly peters, it feels like at least one more of those vast timbral shifts might have seen Kannon out in more satisfying form. If you can be so reductive as to judge this and Monoliths as albums defined by their final, dying embers, then Kannon doesn’t quite match up to its esteemed predecessor.