AMN Reviews: Sunn O))) – Pyroclasts (2019; Southern Lord)

Pyroclasts is the second Sunn O))) release of 2019. Life Metal came out earlier this year and served as a high point in the band’s long, strange career. During the recording of Life Metal, Sunn O))) founders Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson would perform a daily, rigidly-timed, 11-minute improvised drones with their collaborators (Tim Midyett on bass, Tos Nieuwenhuizen on Moog, and Hildur Guðnadóttir on cello). Four of these became Pyroclasts.

As expected, in the forefront are massive, grinding riffs and screaming feedback. The contributions of Midyett, Nieuwenhuizen, and Guðnadóttir are subtle and might not be apparent on the first or second listen. But when heard with enough volume – which, let’s face it, is a requirement for anything of Sunn O))) – their accentuations and textures come into focus. Despite its aggressive stance, Pyroclasts has a meditative nature of sorts, and can lull the listener into a relaxed state of awareness. Nonetheless, even with the album’s tightly-aimed context, it is awash with shifting details and textures.

Not an afterthought or a set of outtakes, Pyroclasts is a legitimate release on its own as well as a companion to Life Metal. It is a strong and compelling listen, especially if your thing includes distorted sound walls.

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