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Sunn 0))) - Thee Grimm Robe Demos

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Artist: Sunn 0)))

Album: Thee Grimm Robe Demos

Label: Southern Lord

Review date: Mar. 2, 2005

From the start, metal stalwarts Greg Anderson and Steve O’Malley claimed Sunn 0))) to be a tribute to Earth. For the uninitiated, Earth was – and now continues to be – the bottom-heavy and droney Seattle conglomerate fronted by Dylan Carlson. That group’s second album, released on Sub Pop in 1992, plumbed new depths of sonic sludge and still sounds menacingly hypnotic today.

Sunn 0))) followed suit on the long-awaited and much anticipated reissue of their 1999 debut, Thee Grimm Robe Demos. The Earth miasma is certainly the overriding aesthetic – low-end extremely slow power-chord riffage – and while the second track is titled “Defeating Earth’s Gravity,” a surface listen shows nothing of the sort. With the addition of a 16-minute bonus track, fans and foes alike are now presented with around 70 minutes of stomach-rumbling intensity whose power stands up favorably to the latest work of Esoteric and other doomers of a similar ilk.

A few closer listens, four additional albums and almost six years of retrospective speculation demonstrate some slight deviations from the Earth template; in the cracks between the first two epic tracks, shallow electronic swoopings and swirlings manifest themselves just at the edge of drone-altered consciousness. They occur again, pitched down two octaves, magnified and slowed to a quarter speed, at the transition to “Dylan Carlson.” Similarly “Comcrete” interjections recur throughout the long unfolding of each glacial structure whose molasses developments exist beyond any conventional description.

These telling moments amidst the relentless but oh-so-satisfying chant-like guitar scum speak to an as-yet nascent infatuation with timbres outside Earth’s atmosphere. They constitute a taste of things to come, a precursor of those elements that make Sunn’s more recent work (White2, for example) so beautifully rewarding. Sunn has blossomed into a full-on pan-frequency sonic assault, still able to blind with intensity or deafen with volume while willing to explore the more subtle charms offered by higher frequencies. The darkness has become more diverse if somewhat obviously anthemic. Grimm Robe now seems as much transition as manifesto, a bit too uniform to stand confidently on its own in hindsight. Unlike Earth, whose return to form was a long journey fraught with delays and missteps, Sunn 0))) has grown substantially with each release, and their early efforts should be heard and relished in that light.

By Marc Medwin

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