One thing that defines a band like Sunn 0))) is the ability to remain indefinable. Most people know Sunn 0))) as that really, really, really loud band, or that weird drone metal band. But over the course of its career, the band has produced varied projects with different intentions and outcomes. Its last release, the aptly titled Monoliths and Dimensions (2009) created doom soundscapes punctuated by rolling symphonies, conch shell blasts and gurgley vocals produced by Hungarian black metal vocalist Attila Csihar, probably best known for his work on Mayhem’s 1994 debut album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Since then, Sunn 0))) has worked on several collaborative projects, including an album with Norwegian experimental group Ulver and a perhaps surprising collaboration with Scott Walker (yes, that) Scott Walker.

Sunn 0)))’s first full-length album in years is incredibly short for their standards. At just over a half hour, Kannon feels like a complete symphony of noise.

In a lot of ways, Kannon finds the group getting back to its roots, returning to a formula that has made it one of the most innovative drone/metal/experimental/noise… bands working today. The three-part album was mixed with their close colleague Randall Dunn in Seattle, and includes performances by long-time members and collaborators Attila Csihar, Oren Ambarchi, Rex Ritter and Steve Moore.

In Buddhist tradition, Kannon is as an aspect of Buddha known as “goddess of mercy” or “Perceiving the Sounds (or Cries) of the World.” But this album has no mercy. It’s the most metal album from them in in some time. “Kannon 1,” the album’s longest track, drones in perfect intensity with Csihar’s vocals creeping around the acoustic space. Sunn 0))) lets amps and distortion play the music; it’s a sound they inherited from doom metal band Earth, and one they have perfected over the years.

“Kannon 2” begins with a singular guitar riff. It’s the blackest black metal beginning to a song ever. A wave of distortion washes throughout the chords until creepy, high-pitched organs and a vocal chorus come pouring in like nightly vespers from Hell. It’s a far richer and layered track than the opener and completes an auditory space that has no room for anything but doom and destruction. Rounding out the triad is the album’s most droning track, “Kannon 3.”

Ultimately, words can’t truly convey what listening to Sunn 0))) is really like. What makes such experimental, drone metal bands so special is that they can’t be defined outside of their own terms, their work so expansive it cannot be contained in a mere review. This music conveys a very subjective sense of darkness, and words can only attempt to look at such music through a dirty mirror. This is a band to listen to intensely, an album to physically absorb and feel. And more than anything, it’s an album that must be listened to with headphones as loudly as possible to achieve the desired effect.

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