Sunn O))) Review
The sorry state of tonight’s weather as people queue outside Coalition appropriately sets the scene for what is to come. It can’t be the first time that punters have had to deal with elements at their worst outside Brighton’s trademark seafront clubs, but this is the first time a certain Sunn O))) have brought their notorious and apocalyptic noise of doom to the city.
Upon entering, we’re confronted by the sight of a few hundred drenched souls; all clad in mostly morbid shades, waiting in front of the ominously towering wall of stacked Sunn O))) amplifiers. Surrounded by these are three Russian figures in black capes and witch-like hats, sitting cross-legged preparing for goodness knows what.
With the incense burning around them, Phurpa begin a performance relating to rituals of the ancient Bon religion, one of the predecessors of Tibetan Buddhism. An hour or so of long sections of low-pitched chanting in between various ethnic instruments creates an audio experience something like hearing Christopher Lee slowly descend into insanity.
Once that’s over with, it’s not long before the room starts to fill with smoke. This is followed by a little more smoke, and then some more for good measure. Suffice to say, it’s smoky. Eventually, the four men in full black capes turn up, and the destruction of eardrums begins. That’s not putting it lightly – heaven help anyone who isn’t wearing earplugs tonight, because, frankly, this is louder than ANYTHING. The bass frequencies resonate alternately with the building and the rib cages of all attendees, giving everything a momentary buzz and an unstoppable shudder.
An hour of this is pretty overwhelming. By now the relentless barrage coming from the smoke machine is making it hard to see two feet in front. Anyone who started out with a sceptical opinion has had two options: carry on with the crushingly uncomfortable ordeal or give in and let the immersive experience wash over them. If the latter were chosen, then they’d join the rest of the roomful of ever-so-slightly swaying bodies, forgetting what it was quite like before the band had started playing, before this new catatonic reality set in, before the absolute bombardment of ear-shattering sound.
Once it’s all over, everyone is tired, shaken, but well and truly blown away. All of this, moments before being herded back out into horizontal rain, wind and the howling gale of the seafront.
The truth is that the sonic capabilities of recorded media just can’t do Sunn O))) justice and they’re worth seeing regardless of whether or not this type of music takes your fancy, but rather for the spectacle and experience. Though if you do, just don’t close your eyes – you might be scared by what you see.
Coalition, Sunday 10th June 2012
Words by James Fox
Photos by Emma Jeffery