sunn 0))) Dømkirke

[Southern Lord; 2008]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: drone, metal
Others: Earth, Mayhem, Xasthur

A faceless audience applauds at the onset of the live performance in a Bergen, Norway cathedral that was to become Dømkirke, the limited-run double-LP from the doom-drone masterminds sunn 0))). They’re silent until the very end. Post-production editing, perhaps, but I’d prefer to imagine that the audience was too awestruck, too paralyzed with fear and admiration to provide any more than its eager claps at the introduction and its rush of cathartic applause at the conclusion of the hour-long running time.

The strength of Dømkirke (and, it should be noted, of sunn 0)))’s catalog) is the recognition of the drone not as an end unto itself, but as a foundation from which to build and recede these long-form campaigns of volume, texture, and dynamic. Here, the confluence of ground-rattling bottom end, burbles of feedback skuzz, barrel-chested brass, the mammoth, immovable presence of the cathedral’s God-knows-how-old pipe organ, and the haunting, Gregorian-inflected moans and summonings of Atilla Csihar (of the infamous black metal band Mayhem) becomes a palpable entity — one, which even at moderate volume, was very literally shaking the contents of my countertops. What is captured on Dømkirke is sunn 0))) reaching for something timeless, its medieval hues meeting 21st-century black metal and avant-noise — more akin to black metal for its oppressiveness and fascination with all things old (olde?). This is an evocation, like a soothsayer’s prophesy of doom, despite the intelligible nature of Csihar’s moans and the abstract construction of the four cuts (all of which stretch easily beyond the 13-minute mark).

Although the mood is uniquely ancient and ominous (pre-apocalyptic vs. post-), and Dømkirke’s use of venue as instrument is noteworthy to say the least, little else will sound new to anyone familiar with heavy drone. But that’s not the point, either. The draw here is a subtle fluctuation that, spun over time, becomes as urgent and dynamic as anything can be. Chords plunge and tumble into a rumbling wash of blackened tone as new textures say their piece and plunge, in turn, into the abyss. As the sonic siege reaches its most vicious climax near the end of “Masks The &Aelig;tmospheres,” one couldn’t be blamed for trembling — be it from emotional impact or the sheer density of the tones. Without qualification, the spatial element of Dømkirke is its most impressive. It’s hard not to react physically and audibly, as the audience did, to the subsiding of sunn 0)))’s avalanche of ominous, voluminous sound. It’s an exhausting, albeit exhilarating experience.

1. Why Dost Thou Hide Thyself In Clouds?
2. Cannon
3. Cymatics
4. Masks The &Aelig;tmospheres

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