Naturally, unless you live in a studio, venue, or nuclear test site, you will not be able to play Life Metal at such a volume. But this doesn’t matter, because you can hear the unhealthy level of decibels at which this was recorded resonating deeply through each tectonic note, and the vibe remains very much the same on headphones as when you’re having your head exploded. Despite the addition of soundtrack-y Moog synths courtesy of third member TOS and having something approaching more normal riffs than simple dirges – albeit played at a single-digit BPM – this is not music that will “open that shit up” at any festivals. The hypnotic, meditative drones instead flow into your brain and force your ears to stare at the reverberations until, like looking at a Magic Eye picture, the inner secrets are revealed. But there’s also a definite guitar-worshipping thrill at play. The tones, caught by noisemaster extraordinaire Steve Albini, are heaven for those in search of the ultimate low guitar sound, the sort of thing normally heard in Tony Iommi’s dreams. It actually feels like you’re stood in front of a massive wall of amps, absorbing and worshipping the riffs as they drag through the air like a shire horse pulling Stonehenge along behind it.
In a weird way, Life Metal is also a superb demonstration of just how broad Sunn O)))’s palette actually is. Where on albums like 2005’s Black One they examined the depths of the sonic abyss, Life Metal finds them full of life and energy. Gloriously triumphant, weirdly exhilarating and entirely engrossing, Sunn O))) have created something genuinely brilliant here.