sunn 0))) Altar (with Boris)

[Southern Lord; 2006]

When I listen to bands like sunn 0))) and Boris, I get a distinct feeling of
nostalgia. It's hard to explain, because both are fairly modern and, at their
best, excitingly original acts. On the other hand, the continuity between albums
and the prolific, completely natural recording aesthetic recall a simpler time
for the music industry — a time when labels were as open to experimentation as
Southern Lord and some of the most popular bands were as tripped out and
adventurous as Boris and sunn 0))).

After clearing their own respective paths in the world of independent music, the
two metal behemoths join hands for Altar, leaving us to wonder, why the
fuck didn't this happen before? It's sunn 0))) with fragmented, pummeling drums;
Boris with a pretty much unparalleled low-end rumble, psychotic vocals, and the
occasional guitar squeal. And it's pretty damn good. I initially wondered if the
collaboration might dampen each acts' finer points, but a twisted middle ground
is reached: equal parts sickly ambience and crushing doom that diverge from past
works, but click just enough to result in respective zeniths for each band.

A lot of territory is covered on Altar, but a sense of cluttered
confusion never takes over, as might be expected if, say, Acid Mothers Temple
had been involved in the collaboration. The metal dirges lay down for some
surprisingly gentle (but still creepy) vocal outbreaks on the second half of the
album. And, of course, there's lots of disturbing low-end ambience. Anyone
looking to scare the shit out of neighborhood trick-or-treaters this Halloween,
might I recommend the track "Blood Swamp"? At loud volumes, it takes on the
characteristic of a wailing guitar murdering little children in a padded
basement. Some fans may miss Boris' recent divergence into warped garage rock,
which is most notably absent from Altar, but the varying textural
experiments and absolute appreciation of space more than make up for it.

Of course, after having thrown about all this praise, I still feel as if
could be bettered by a follow-up. If there are indeed future releases
in tow, surely more sonic ground will be covered, more volume will be added, and
more rock will be had because, frankly, bands like sunn 0))) and Boris often
take time evolving a sound. It's the result of making music for the sake of
making music, I suspect. So while Altar may be a one-shot stepping stone
for each band, it's probably more like a scary looking crag lodged in an already
impressive river of releases.

1. Etna
2. N.L.T
3. The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)
4. Akuma No Kuma
5. Fried Eagle Mind
6. Blood Swamp


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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