Sunn O))) – Kannon

Sunn O))) - Kannon

There’s a problem if there becomes such a thing as a “safe” Sunn O))) album. For nigh on two decades, the drone metal group gained fame for recording progressively more challenging, enchanting, and experimenting albums that featured spoken word (White1), black metal (Black One), Coltrane jazz (Monoliths & Dimensions), amplifier worship à la Earth (The Grimmrobe Demos), and operatic doom metal (Soused, with Scott Walker). Kannon is the duo’s seventh full-length studio album – not including collaborations – and the first in six years; and it is Sunn O)))’s most conventional release.

It’s also the group’s shortest. At three tracks and just over thirty minutes in runtime, Kannon‘s point of interest in Sunn O)))’s discography of punishing heavy metal experiments just might be brevity. The tracks are standard drone metal length of ten to thirteen minutes; but again, there’s that word that implies conventionality and sameness in Kannon.

And let’s be real, that’s the name of the game here. Kannon features repeated chord structures with maximum delay spread over the length of an entire song. Kannon has low-register, black-metal influenced throat-singing by Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar. Kannon has throbbing bass frequencies dominating middle portions of songs. Kannon has reverbed vocals that sound as from a warped – even demonic – liturgy to light and darkness. This release is “safe;” yes, it sounds like a Sunn O))) drone metal album – and for that, we should be thankful – but what fan of this band is overly grateful to have an album that isn’t challenging even to fans of one of the most challenging genres of music? A Sunn O))) album should piss off someone because it introduces some concept into the heaviest of heavy metal genres; here, however, I am not hearing much that is new.

Kannon is a cool idea. Whereas most of Sunn O)))’s work deals with darkness, decay, and existential dread; Kannon is the group’s “light” release – taking inspiration from the Buddhist cosmological personification of mercy, Kan’on/Quan Yin. She is said to embody the cries and suffering of the world in an attempt to instill compassion into the hearts of men and women so that they may do good works. It is a beautiful concept, and one that with a bit more impressive fleshing out of ideas, could’ve created something on the scale of Black One‘s black metal deconstruction or Monoliths & Dimensions‘ brilliant synthesis of jazz elements.

Unfortunately, the listener is left with a drone-doom album with too few realizations of its grand idea. After coming off the striking collaborations with Norwegian genre-busters Ulver on Terrestrials and demented art-rocker Scott Walker on Soused, Kannon is far too typical – words that, once again, should never be uttered when describing a band of such sonic and subcultural magnitude as these earth-shakers and movers.

1. Kannon 1 – (12:50) – ★★★★☆
2. Kannon 2 – (9:09) – ★★★☆☆
3. Kannon 3 – (11:26) – ★★★☆☆

Overall: ★★★☆☆

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