Life Metal preproduction at 606 studios, Northridge June 2018, engineered by John Lousteau. Paintings by Samantha Keely Smith. Manifold (detail) (2015, cover), Pulse (detail) (2016, gatefold left), gatefold right Amplify (detail) (2017, gatefold right) & Beacon (detail) (2014, back cover). Your continual love & support is my life metal. thanks Lester Polsfuss, Conrad Sundholm & Philip K. Dick for inspiration. Published by Ideologic Organ (SACEM) & Sabbath Rehash (BMI).
Life Metal is the eighth studio album by drone metal band Sunn O))). Through Southern Lord Records, the album received a limited release for Record Store Day on April 13, 2019, and a wide release two weeks later on April 26. Life Metal was recorded and mixed by Steve Albini (Nirvana, Neurosis, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) entirely using analog tape.
Life Metal’s easiest sales pitch is the presence of producer Steve Albini, whose ability to make very loud records is fabled. In this partnership that’s as obvious as it is overdue, Albini captures the pair with perfect detail, so that you can practically feel their fingers crawling down their guitars’ necks at the end of Aurora. She also provides a steady cello hum on the colossal 25-minute closer, Novae. But these are all Easter eggs that you’ll find in later listens. Again and again, what’s immediately striking about Life Metal is Anderson and O’Malley’s astonishing grace and dexterity with such heavy decibel loads. Aurora employs a classic Sunn O))) stratagem: cycling through the steps of a riff and webbing together the spaces between notes with rays of decay and feedback. Each note lands as another stomp to the chest, each roaring gap between them like an attempt to massage away the pain.
An all analogue technique was used for Life Metal, as the band recorded and mixed on tape, providing a creative gateway for Sunn O))) to evolve their production methods into stronger, confident, performance based and a more logical executive process, according to a press release. Joining the band on Life Metal is composer and frequent live collaborator Hildur Guðnadóttir, who adds vocals, electric cello, and haldorophone to the track Novae.
According to the official press statement, Life Metal was recorded by the core of co-founders Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, and arranged by the greater constellation Sunn O))). Stephen and Greg are joined by Tim Midyett on bass and guitars, Hildur Guðnadóttir on vocals, electric cello and haldorophone and composer Anthony Pateras, who plays pipe organ on Troubled Air. The statement goes on to say that paintings by visual artist Samantha Keely Smith graciously adorn the sleeve and provide a perfect suitable mask to the proceedings. Photographer Ronald Dick shot them in baths of light colour representing depth of sound pressure in the work. Life Metal will be released in April through Southern Lord. Sunn O))) are heading out on a headline European tour this spring, including their first ever shows in France. Sunn O))) 2019 European tour.
Check out his take on Life Metal on indymetalvault.
There’s the same elemental power, but far less grandiose, making Life Metal one of the most direct and, weirdly, playful records of the Sunn oeuvre. I'm one of those people (I suspect like the vast majority) who generally can't really tell the difference between one method of recording and another, but there's a colossal space around the music throughout. It rips and roars, blisters and hums, yet with a subtlety that leaves you at times wishing that it had been released in tandem with the second "more reflective" Pyroclasts album due to be released later in the year. Yet perhaps that would have puffed this up into an unnecessarily overblown double album. The strength of Life Metal is the sheer breadth that it does cover. The title conjures up images of some muscled bro, screaming straight edge exhortations to better living via 400 push-ups and frat guitar devotion.