When we last left SunnO)))’s Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley they were peering into the deepest pits of eternal darkness with 2005’s Black One. Not that they haven’t been busy since then. Quite the contrary, they’ve worked on collaborations, live albums, and side projects for the better part of the last four years since delivering the last proper SunnO))) studio full-length. While each album has produced maximum results through sheer volume and careful attention to each granular detail of the band’s monolithic (no pun intended) riffage, it is here on the new album Monoliths & Dimensions that the project fulfills the promises that prior releases have been hinting at. While early press releases were careful to point out that this would not simply be “SunnO))) with strings,” it wasn’t as if anyone familiar with the band’s work would have ever expected such a base level attempt at landing SunnO))) in the classical realm.
If anything, Monoliths & Dimensions sounds very much like the SunnO))) we all know and love but somehow more massive and texturally sound. If further evidence is needed, I suggest a first listen to “Big Church,” which sounds in parts very similar to the choral work of Arvo Part but for the majority of its ten minute run time is flush with deep, abstract riffing meant to rattle speakers and minds. The album’s opener, “Aghartha,” features Mayhem vocalist and frequent SunnO))) collaborator Atthila Csihar laying down some haunting bellows. His contributions to this SunnO))) album stand in stark contrast to the screeching vocals provided on Black One. Final track, “Alice” finally gives out underneath the oppressive low end to reveal a denouement of jazz oriented horns supplied by Julian Priester who will be well known to some through his contributions to the albums of legends like Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, and John Coltrane. It’s the kind of thing that should make sense to long-time SunnO))) fans familiar with the group’s penchant for continually pushing the limits, although no one could have seen this coming as far back as Flight of the Behemoth or OO Void. As for others involved this time out, look for Australian drone guitarist Oren Ambarchi and Eyvind Kang playing viola, both providing texture throughout the entirety of the album on nearly every track.
Oddly, it’s easier to draw a map from albums like White 1 and White 2 to Monoliths & Dimensions than from Black One. Looking back now it seems like an obvious entry point to the SunnO))) catalog with its easier to swallow track times, multiple pieces, and black metal influences. This album sees Anderson & O’Malley steering the music back into the kind of long-winded compositions that require far more of the average listener’s attention span to appreciate. Hopefully those that came to SunnO))) through Black One will find much to love here. If they don’t they will be seriously missing out as Monoliths & Dimensions is devastatingly epic.