How does one get into a genre comprised of a single distorted note for a stretch of time? It makes sense to pass up something so silly, so outrageous on paper. but trust me, it is a treat to listen to such a thing. Now it has it’s place. Whether it’s for studying, or for personal drug enhancement, fringe genres, as I like to call them, have their audience. Drone-metal began with Earth, a rather interesting band that has formed into a more melodic, clean, transparent sounding group from album to album. Their Subpop label debut, Earth 2: Special Low Frequency, set the underground music world on fire for it’s strange, alienating technique of holding one distorted note for what felt like decades. Critics ate up this polarizing piece of art, but one band decided to put their entire creative energy into becoming the most successful cover band ever.
Although that statement is absurd and false on many levels, it’s true Sunn O))) was originally an Earth cover band (makes sense right?). Teaming up with Black metal veterans, Ulver, this epic release of two distinguished titans of their respective sounds should raise many eyebrows. Recent releases have shown Ulver to stray from their traditional blast-beat infused black metal, and have given a chance to electronics (think Varg Vikerness). Terrestrials forces the two powerhouses to step out of their comfort zone and open play around with different techniques not heard in their own releases.
For starters, It’s unheard of to hear any percussion, let alone melody in Sunn O)))’s music. At 36 minutes, they waver from making a blip of noise until 8 minute mark of the first track. They blast in after a long winded horn section of notes, which play nicely to the timpani’s contrast of timbre. “Let There Be Light” is perfectly fitting for the title of the opener, describing the ultimate blast of noise as soon as Sunn O))) makes their entrance. Ulver ultimately acts the lead for most of this album. It’s a slow, heated mess of strange environments and imagery. Their treatment of electronics cut through like a cold wind in a black forest, leaving the ultimate frosty feel. It’s a nice throwback to the 90’s frostbitten metal out of the Scandinavian north.
It’s a continuous grind, challenging listen with the rewards that are hidden in the dust. I would say it’s comparable to The Seer, which is the god among challenging listens, but Terrestrials sticks to it’s theme of bringing to life one piece of sound and stretching it 2000 miles. “Western Horn” takes a sonic meaning of the billboards in Fahrenheit 451, stretching the sound and noise to a solid atonal 10 minutes without any significant change. Could anymore be expected with a split including Sunn O)))? Yes, thank Ulver for that.
Finishing off the album is “Eternal Return”. Taking a hint from Earth’s recent work, Ulver adds in a tonal guitar (it can be done!) any flourishes with beautiful harmonies of violin, clean guitar, xylophones, etc. Who brought to life the idea of drone wizards working with sound this idea? It’s the albums best piece, saving the greatest for ears that last the wait. Diving into this record requires determination. Not on a level that sits and waits for it to click, but creating a setting that Terrestrials can build off of. A mind cleanse of the ages, clicking with few who open up their brains to the wonders of two sophisticated artists in their own leagues of sound. Obviously Sunn O))) and Ulver are difficult enough for first timers on their own, but surprisingly together they act as an amazing stepping stone into another their own cloudy discographies.