A trip to Slovenia for the Sunn O))) drone circus

SUNN O))) + Big Brave (07/09/2016 @ Kino Šiška, Ljubljana)

Event: Sunn O))) + Big Brave
Date: 07/09/2016
Location: Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, Slovenia

The announcement of the monolithic Sunn O))) embarking on a tour is something destined to cause chatter among those who had something to do with this entity: on one side the haters, who think they’re just noise and nothing more; on the other side the fans, who try to explain the sense of the physical suffering provided by the American drone ensemble, often without any results.

Me and a group of friends chose the Slovenian date at Kino Šiška, in the beautiful Slovenian capital city, due to logistic problems as the Italian one was too far: we set out in the afternoon and arrived in Ljubljana around 2 o’clock, not entirely conscious of what was expecting us at the venue.

Big Brave

The opening act is Big Brave: a Canadian trio that gives us our first doses of discomfort under the form of a slow and rhythmically precise doom metal.

Two things capture our attention as we look at the stage: the fact that there isn’t a bass guitar (the wall of sound is generated only by two guitars) and the presence of a frontwoman, Robin Wattie. She looks extremely at ease passing from gently whispered words to loud screams filled with desperation, everything built upon dilated musical structures. These are, however, characterized by Louis-Alexandre Beauregard’s sharp work on drums, who experiments with the kit in unusual ways.

The chords flow slowly, without apparent logic, but they succeed in holding the audience captive (though it’s not so numerous during their performance), who shows anyway its appreciation for the three musicians signed by Southern Lord Records.

The two little Orange amplifiers, placed upon the huge wall of black ones, are then shut off after a brief but heartfelt thanks, and the band leaves the stage among general applause.

Sunn O)))

The atmosphere inside the Kino Šiška starts to get heavier. The band takes all the time needed and maybe more to get ready, as the public is flooded with smoke under an oriental-ish melody coming out of the speakers. The soundcheck looks like a mantra, with the musicians coming out one at a time to check if everything’s in order, turning on the famous speakers that inspired their name.

With a fortyfive-minute delay, the lights go out and Attila Csihar comes on stage, clad in black drapes and showing his theatricality along with his voice that demonstrates his undeniable expressiveness. The other musicians join him after some minutes, when the evilness gets real in the hall: Anderson and O’Malley’s guitars create a huge and thick wall of sound, submerged in their own feedbacks. Steve Moore and Tos Nieuwenhuizen’s keyboards contribute to the general, unhealthy mood generated by low frequencies and extremely high volumes, which keep causing problems despite the ear plugs.

The concert flows without interruption for two hours straight, with the five hooded figures exiting and re-entering the stage, leaving the spotlights to just the guitarists or Attila and the infernal Moogs. The show is obviously all-round: the lights are perfectly matched to the alienating effect caused by the soundwaves which physically attack the audience. Looking around, we can even see people going away or sitting on the floor with heads between their hands.

The last twenty minutes are even more overwhelming, with Attila wearing a cape adourned with glasses and a crown made of spikes. He performs a demonic dance before lying still on the floor, until the amplifiers are turned off. After the sound torture, it’s time for the artists to show their humane side, showing their gratitude and bowing to the audience still in awe.

After seeing O’Malley and his mates last year, in an open-air venue and for just some minutes, the curiosity and expectations for this event were definitely high. The trip back home is filled with suffering too, with a constant earache, but also with the awareness of having witnessed an event probably unequaled in extreme music.