You don’t write a report on a Sunn O))) show. You try to write about what is today a unique kind of performance by established musicians who, at one point, decided to do something different, to go further with their art. And further they went…
The famed drone ensemble played at the equally famed and gorgeous old converted cinema in Slovenia, Kino Siska. The place could not have been better selected for a Sunn O))) show. With its hugely high ceilings and massive steps on which you can stand, sit or lie down, it was a framework into which the upcoming performance fit like a missing piece of the puzzle.
As it often goes in a geographical area where there are lots of small countries, many fans came from different parts of this little chunk of Europe. For us, it was a two hour drive to get there, and naturally, during the ride the geeky quartet in the car was having a discussion on when was the first time we had heard Sunn O))) play live, and what that was like. One of us said that Sunn O))) was, in fact, one of the world’s greatest conspiracies against metalheads, because they keep selling us shit and refrigerator sounds and we go bonkers. Ha!
But no. No, friends we aren’t just going bonkers for this band because it seems like the cool thing to do, for there is something else about Sunn O))) that everyone at the car confirmed: the first time you hear it, you just want to leave angrily because you can’t understand how people can buy this crap, but then there’s a click that happens, unwillingly, and you become mesmerized, wanting more of what Sunn O))) creates to “shine upon you.” The click, for me, happened in Czech Republic when I heard (and saw) them play for the first time. It was an open-air and they performed on a massive stage where they could display their speakers and drone-producing tools in all of its glory. I remember forgetting where I was, surpassing the small issues of the time-space continuum, and the “Sunn O))) thing” teleported me wherever they willed it.
Once at the venue, we eagerly awaited for the show to start, and I have to tell you, It’s a strange thing to see how seriously people take seeing Sunn O))). There was a quiet in the air you don’t ever feel before going to a metal show, a nervous calm before the storm. As people were slowly starting to crowd the room and ear-plugs were being handed out at the entrance, the smoke started to come out of the stage. With the smoke, came the hooded ensemble, the first tone started resonating. The huge old cinema started to vibrate.
Once a Sunn O))) shows starts, everything else stops.
Clouds of smoke make it hard for you to see who and how many are on stage, but you can hear a continuous flow of tone and drone. Attila Csihar comes out of the smoke, a hooded massive presence, and your stare is glued to him as his deep, unearthly voice starts to cut through the smoke.
The floor is vibrating, my teeth are vibrating. I can’t stop staring at the stage, at the wall of amplifiers, at the hooded ensemble, at Attila who sings, shrieks, talks, whispers, chants. He raises his hands as communicating with something, he’s looking up and getting lost in the thick smoke. Lights change from yellow to brown, from green to blue. The space-time continuum is irrelevant again. Mundane life goes out the fucking door. The continuous low, never-ending drone has its purpose, its logic. It moves as a being, with a life of its own. At glances, you see the rest of the ensemble, Greg Anderson, Stephen O’Malley, turned towards the amplifiers, heads down, cloaked in sound, smoke and ritual wear.
Attila disappears only to reappear in a mirror-covered robe, with lasers coming out of his hands. If I ever were to see The Shrike of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion brought to life, he would look something like this. From here, the entire composition of the performance gains new dimensions: from the ritual-like setting, with Attila as the hooded center, and the rest of the band members as the ritual circle, to the not-of-this earth mirrored and crowned figure lying on the stage. The transformation is mesmerizing and even hard to grasp. Bigger than that stage, expanding your concept of what a concert can look like.
Sunn O)))’s performance lasted for almost two hours. Two fucking hours of you being transmuted from everything. For lack of more words, I’m giving you pictures and video.
Go see Sunn O))). On repeat. Every chance you get.
All images and video by Mire Travar and property of Last Rites.