Sunn O))) – The Libations of Samhain

Sunn O))) - The Libations of Samhain

The Libations of Samhain is a live recording of drone metal group Sunn O))) in London on Halloween of 2003. It follows the Earth-esque down-tuned and extremely extended guitar passages often characterized by a single strum that goes on for a minute or longer. This particular performance incorporates some tendencies from White1 such as spoken-word/vocal samples; for example, the beginning two minutes features a children’s choir singing “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys.

However, this album represents a fundamental flaw with most recordings of Sunn O))), and that is the inability to adequately capture the sheer enormity of their performances. Sunn O))) use an enormous amount1 of amplifiers to create an tangible2 wall of sound that rivals My Bloody Valentine. Try to record that outside of a studio, then compare it to the pristine and multilayered production of their studio albums. The shortcomings should be obvious.

Personally, I find the White series of albums to be the weakest in Sunn O)))’s discography, so the appeal of The Libations of Samhain are even less for me. Sunn O))) treads on a lot of the same territory as Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version as well. It gets a little exciting around the 39-minute mark with some phasing effects, but that’s the only cut section worth recommending. Additionally, the extreme low-fidelity of the recording might click with those who find Sunn O)))’s studio albums too polished.

The final track is an interview between the band and DJs of London radio station Resonance FM 104. It gives a bit of insight into the Sunn O)))’s live performances, but the discussions about the band’s relationship with reviewers and collaborators is difficult to follow sans contextual elements of said live performances and the press. There isn’t much information here that can’t be gleaned from text interviews or other reviews. There are a couple anecdotes about Julian Cope’s and Attila Csihar’s interactions with the band, but again, nothing that can’t be gained from elsewhere. Greg Anderson starts talking about his disinterest in stoner metal, but a DJ interrupts him to steer the conversation toward minimalism, which lost a possibly interesting conversation.

With the glut of live Sunn O))) recordings – not to mention the extant studio albums – The Libations of Samhain is better skipped for all but diehard3 fans and completionists. The glut of Sunn O))) live recordings released at the end of 2015 makes this release even more non-essential, except by the drone metal historian.4

1. The Libations of Samhain – (48:59) – ★★☆☆☆
2. Sunn O))) vs. Diggers – (16:05) – ★★☆☆☆

Overall: ★★☆☆☆

1Quantified by the SI unit “metric shitton.”
2Your bones are gonna vibrate if you see them live. (Kinky?)
3Of which I am most definitely a part.
4… which sounds like a pretty sweet gig.

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