Concert Reviews

Last night: Sunn O))) at the Bluebird

SunnO))), Eagle Twin and The Accüsed
Bluebird Theater
Thursday, August 13th, 2009
Better Than:

Some commentators on SunnO))) would have you believe.

The two-piece Eagle Twin kicked off the show in high spirits. Although mining similar artistic territory as Isis, Twin brought its own take on experimental metal. With the sometimes staggered, sometimes storming percussion and the sculpted guitar distortion channeled into elastic rhythms coupled with the gravelly, histrionic vocals, the band's songs sounded to me like rock and roll for werewolves or at least the berserkers of Viking legend. Up until the end I was impressed with how these two guys were able to traverse passages of hypnotic tranquility and escalate to a heightened state of sonic brutality seemingly effortlessly.

Seattle's longest standing, and perhaps best, thrash band The Accüsed played an extended set of rapid fire ragers. Tommy Niemeyer laid down impressive swathes of jagged riffing that ran the gamut of technique without ever sounding or looking like he was showing off. The rhythm section of Dorando Hodous on bass and Mike Peterson on drums was flawless. Brad Mowen prowled the stage and rocked out like some grindcore frontman. Someone from the audience tried to heckle the band but Mowen called the fool out with a deeply sarcastic riposte. It was an incredibly energetic performance and overall the band sounded to me like what might have happened had early Slayer been a lot more punk or if the Bad Brains had gone metallic earlier on.

Prior to SunnO)))'s set, the entire venue was filled with fog. But before the band could take the stage, the fog was starting to thin out though moments before the main members of the band could walk to their respective instruments, a bank of billowing fog flooded the stage. Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson were dressed in ominous black robes and looked like Ringwraiths obscured amid the drift of smoke and green lights. Immediately O'Malley and Anderson executed a drone that sounded like it had to be well below drop D.

The great Attila Csihar strolled on to stage dressed in dark, torn robes that looked like he'd slept in them for millennia but had dusted himself off for this performance. Like the instrumentation, Csihar's voice used incredibly low and cavernous tones. As the singer for Mayhem, Csihar voice embodies an unfettered, pagan, chthonic mysticism, with SunnO))) his role was no less ceremonial in character and similarly spiritually liberating, to the extent dark, abrasive, slow and abrasive music can be. After some guttural incantations, Attila left the stage for several moments and came back to finish the set dressed in his classic tree spirit costume and treated us to operatic vocals and animalistic noises to accompany the inspirationally sludgy, doomy melodies and surely left everyone in attendance feeling as though they'd seen something majestic and special.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias:
Kind of a fan of drone and experimental metal.
Random Detail: Ran into the guys from Action Friend at the show.
By the Way: Spraying beer all over the crowd and splattering the electronic equipment on the stage because you're cutting loose is stupid.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.