Sunn O))) Kannon

Sunn O))) Kannon
After going off the deep end with Scott Walker on 2014's bleak and experimental Soused, long-running drone metal project Sunn O))) have scaled back the ghoulishness a bit on their new album, Kannon. That's not to say the amp-cranked washes of slow-mo guitar that have marked Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson's back catalogue are any less gloomy this time around, but there's a transcendence threaded into the record that brings a special kind of calmness to Kannon.

As always, O'Malley and Anderson's distorted string work is delivered in the red, but the cyclical melody of "Kannon 1" is never quite ear-piercing enough to aggravate. Instead, it's given plenty of space to breathe, its repeated measures landing like a mantra. After an extended instrumental passage, long-time collaborator Attila Csihar hops on the track with a mix of reptilian death rattles, harsh textured screams and assorted gravelly tones. Having not performed on Soused, it's great to finally hear the metal vocalist back on a Sunn studio effort.

Equally transformative is "Kannon 2," a piece melding rumbled bass with sci-fi synth tones and graceful Gregorian chanting, but "Kannon 3" is the standout of the triad. A melancholy crush of guitar steers the bulk of the 12-minute arrangement, and only occasionally does it divert from its root melody. There's a haunted, hypnotic quality humming through the track that lingers long after its soft fade-finale.

Kannon is Sunn O)))'s most sparse offering in years, but the experiment in meditative metal minimalism is more than capable of shooting listeners towards a higher plane of consciousness. (Southern Lord)