Sunn0))) / Boris CD review [Southern Lord]

Music Reviews
Sunn0))) / Boris CD review [Southern Lord]
Jan 10, 2007, 06:28


SUNN O))) / BORIS Altar CD

This collaboration between feedback soakers Sunn O))) and Japanese doomsters, Boris was highly anticipated by a group of freaks who obsess over these bands, which is basically a slightly smaller subset of the tiny group of people who have actually heard of either. As a follower myself (with a marked preference for Boris), I too was interested to hear the outcome of this experiment, but my enthusiasm was tempered by the fact that when two good bands come together, 2 + 2 rarely = 4. Given that Sunn O))) is nothing if not monolithic both in sound and taste, while Boris seems to reinvent itself with each disc, I assumed this would sound like a Sunn O))) record with just a smidgen of Boris thrown in the mix. My guess was not totally off the mark, but Boris's presence is visible and works to dampen some of Sunn O)))'s worst excesses.

Since there are only six tracks on the disc (with a bonus track on a limited edition CD and the vinyl), let's take them one by one:

The first track “Etna” is a nice piece of work, with a slow feedback build leading to a satisfying pay off. It's the best example of the positive effect of Boris's involvement, as the song's vague hint of structure makes it that much more effective than most of Sunn O)))'s work. “N.L.T.,” a relatively short track at about 4-minutes, is a moody piece of dark ambient noise. It's not bad, but it never really goes anywhere. The next song “The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)” is a bit of a revelation. Soft and pretty with female vocals, it's the antithesis of what you would expect from either band, but it's done very well, and is all the more enjoyable for being so out of character. “Akuma No Kuma” doesn't fare as well, with Joe Preston's mutated robot guest vocals feeling somewhat forced and out of place. The fifth track, “Fried Eagle Mind” is a fairly languid affair, sounding something like the muddled dreams of an afternoon nap—not bad…. but again, still a bit dull. “Blood Swamp,” featuring Kim Thayil of Soundgarden finishes things with a bang (or, in this case, a slow, repeating thud). It's a mean 14-minute monster, the sonic equivalent of engaging in a staring contest with an 800-pound gorilla.

To sum up (and let me pause here while I position myself squarely on the fence), Altar didn't live up to my expectations and I'm not certain it will manage snaring the adulation of the faithful; it clears the lowered bar I had set for it in my mind and still neither aimed high enough nor hit any mark worth recommended it by. I wouldn't list it as my favorite Boris or Sunn O))) release, and being I found it hit or miss, you may consider this an obligatory caveat emptor. [Southern Lord]

-Brett Horn

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