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Music / Sunn O)))

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Sunn O))) (pronounced "sun") is an American experimental band formed in 1998 as a tribute to the Drone Metal band Earth, known to many for being Nightmare Fuel in band form.

The band has two core members, Stephen O'Malley (also a member of Sludge Metal bands Khanate and Burning Witch, two bands that are near-equal to Sunn O))) in terms of nightmarishness) and Greg Anderson (of Stoner Metal band Goatsnake). The band is named after the Sunn amplifier brand; in fact, the band's logo is near-identical to the Sunn amplifier logo.

The band's genre is known as "drone doom", a subgenre of Doom Metal that fuses the genre with ambient, drone and minimalist music akin to Brian Eno. Their songs are extremely long, slow, and heavy, and use droning guitars accompanied by feedback and other sound effects to create their soundscapes. There is very little drumming (and a lack of any discernible beat, in fact), although their collaborative album with Japanese band Boris features drumming from the band's drummer Atsuo. When performing live, the band members wear "grim robes", fill the air with fog, and play at an extremely high volume.note 


  • Stephen O'Malley (guitars)
  • Greg Anderson (guitars)
  • Attila Csihar (vocals)


  • The Grimmrobe Demos (demo, 1998)
  • ØØ VOID (2000)
  • Flight of the Behemoth (2001)
  • White 1 (2003)
  • White 2 (2004)
  • Black One (2005)
  • Altar (2006, collaboration with Boris)
  • Monoliths and Dimensions (2009)
  • Oracle (EP, 2009)
  • The Iron Soul of Nothing (2011, collaboration with Nurse with Wound)
  • Terrestrials (2014, collaboration with Ulver)
  • Soused (2014, collaboration with Scott Walker)
  • Kannon (2015)
  • Life Metal (2019)
  • Pyroclasts (2019)

Basically, they're one of the strangest bands ever. And you should never listen to them while stoned.

TRO)))PES that apply to this band:

  • Album Intro Track: "Sin Nanna" for Black One.
  • And I Must Scream: Described in the lyrics to "Báthory Erszébet." Also invoked for real on that track as in order to achieve an authentic sense of claustrophobia they had vocalist Scott "Malefic" Connors, who is very tall and very claustrophobic, actually sealed into a coffin from which they recorded his vocals. Apparently Connors was yelling to be let out by the time the tracking was completed!
  • Arc Words: "Maximum volume yields maximum results."
  • Beneath the Earth: The lyrics of "Aghartha" (which is often given as the name of the land purported to exist by the Hollow Earth Theory) are about this.
  • Bilingual Bonus: They sometimes have lyrics in foreign languages, particularly Norwegian and Hungarian (the native languages of vocalists Runhild Gammelsæter and Attila Csihar, respectively). Every single song on the Gravetemple record Impassable Fears is written in Hungarian, for instance. They also do this with other releases, like the Russian live record НЕЖИТЬ: Живьём в России (roughly translates to UNDEAD: Live in Russia), and on the track "Decay 2 (Nihil's Maw)" whose lyrics are taken from the Srimad Bhagavatam and are thus in Sanskrit.
  • Black Cloak: Their signature outfits when playing live.
  • Black Speech: Almost all of Attila's vocals end up sounding like this, especially when he's singing in Hungarian (or Sanskrit).
  • Brown Note: Seeing them live. Due to the absolutely ludicrous volumes they play at combined with incredibly low frequencies, it is not uncommon for people to report any or all of the following symptoms during their concerts, even if they wear ear protection: nausea, dizziness, light headedness, physical discomfort, trancelike states, and occasionally, fainting. One person reported a painful vibrating feeling in his teeth that took nearly a week to go away.
    • As we've said earlier, it's disastrous to listen to Sunn O))) and smoke weed at the same time.
  • Careful with That Axe: Most of Wrest and Malefic's vocals on Black One. Attila also loves doing this live. A good example comes about 53 minutes into this performance.
  • Concept Album: Kannon is based around the East Asian goddess Kannon/Kwannon/Guan Yin, who embodies restoration and mercy.
  • Credits Gag: Lots of them on Black One. Among other things, the band credit themselves under names like "Mystik Fogg Invokator" and "Drone Slut", refer to their guitars as "axes", and credit Malefic with "Calls from beyond the grave" instead of vocals.
  • Creepy Cathedral: Invoked. They'll take any opportunity to play inside cathedrals while touring. Domkirke was actually recorded inside a medieval church in Norway.
  • Crossover: With Earth, Boris, KTL, Merzbow, Attila Csihar, Nurse with Wound, and Ulver.
  • Distinct Double Album: Life Metal and Pyroclasts were recorded during the same sessions using the same personnel and are intended to be listened to in tandem with each other.
  • Doom Metal: Trope Codifier for drone metal.
  • Drone of Dread: Nearly everything they've put out.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: For the most part, Monoliths and Dimensions is an extremely dark and heavy album. However, the last song, "Alice", while starting off fairly ominously, slowly grows brighter in tone, until by the end it's outright Sweet Dreams Fuel.
  • Eldritch Location: "Aghartha" describes the eponymous underground land as one.
  • Epic Rocking: It depends on what you consider to be "epic" or "rocking", but their songs are indeed very long. A couple of them even last for forty minutes.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: A recurring theme, prevalent in such pieces as "Báthory Erzsébet" and "Big Church (Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért)." There is also a loud one around one and a half minutes into "Cry for the Weeper".
  • Genre Roulette: A rather strange case: the band is firmly rooted in drone metal, but the band has experimented with many different influences including:
    • Musical contributions from Japanese noise artist Merzbow on Flight of the Behemoth.
    • Spoken word, Norwegian folk singing, drum machines, samples, and keyboards on White1.
    • Bass effects and Sanskrit vocals courtesy of Attila Csihar on White2.
    • Black Metal influences (in terms of music, vocals, and atmosphere) on Black One.
    • A collaboration with Boris and various guest musicians, touching on many different styles, on Altar.
    • Choirs, orchestra (yet still not sounding much like Symphonic Metal), jazz influences, and more Attila Csihar on Monoliths & Dimensions.
    • A very jazzy, electronic twist a la Terrestrials, their collaboration with Ulver.
    • A collaboration with Avant-Garde Music pioneer Scott Walker on Soused.
    • A slightly lighter, more riff driven approach with more Attila on Kannon.
  • Harsh Vocals: They don't use this as often as you would expect, but Black One uses these exclusively. "Hunting and Gathering (Cydonia)" also has some pretty bestial vocals.
  • Heavy Mithril: A lot of their songs that have lyrics are centered around mythology and occultism.
  • Iconic Item: Their black cloaks and walls of amplifiers.
  • In Name Only: Inverted with their side projects Gravetemple and Burial Chamber Trio, which are Sunn O))) in all but name. Specifically, Gravetemple is Sunn O))) minus Greg Anderson, while Burial Chamber Trio is Sunn O))) minus Stephen O'Malley (both bands include Attila Csihar and Oren Ambarchi, so they're not solo projects).
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Quite common among their songs, at least the ones that have lyrics. Even with the lyric sheets, you sometimes still can't understand what's being said.
  • Irony: One of the most terrifying musical acts ever has band members that are scared of their own fans.
  • Jump Scare: After several minutes of subdued, hypnotic ambient noises, "Báthory Erszébet" suddenly explodes into the band's signature suffocating drone doom, complete with Malefic's tortured shrieks. Even if you know it's coming it can still catch you off guard. "Cry For The Weeper" also does this, albeit with a much shorter intro section.
    • "Ash on the Trees", from their collaboration with Nurse with Wound, is punctuated with random, jarring noises like breaking glass or the sound of an industrial drill.
  • Large Ham: Attila Csihar, especially in live performances where he regularly makes some of the most fucked up noises ever produced by human vocal cords. Julian Cope also qualifies with his very enthusiastic spoken word on "My Wall."
  • Last Note Nightmare: Several songs from Black One.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: The end of "Báthory Erszébet."
  • Lighter and Softer: Terrestrials, in comparison to the rest of their work. It's not even a metal album. Kannon is slightly this compared to earlier albums, but is still pretty dark and inaccessible.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: It's just been Stephen and Greg since the beginning, though they've had a number of collaborators.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: White 2 ends with "Decay 2 (Nihil's Maw)" (25:19), Black One ends with "Bathory Erszebet" (16:00), Altar ends with either "Blood Swamp" (14:45) on the CD and digital version or "Her Lips Were Wet With Venom" (28:21) on the vinyl version, Oracle ends with "Helio)))sophist" (46:17), Terrestrials ends with "Eternal Return" (14:10), and Life Metal ends with "Novae" (25:24).
  • Loudness War: Averted (!) with more recent work (e.g., Monoliths and Dimensions, Terrestrials to name a few). Played straight with earlier records, though Flight of the Behemoth is mixed as loud as possible with almost no clipping, save for the Merzbow collaborations.
    • Soused (a collaboration with Scott Walker), is a borderline case, which is unusual since neither artist is known for brickwalling their albums.
  • Mind Screw: The occult poem read by Julian Cope on "My Wall."
  • Multinational Team: The band's current lineup consists of the Americans Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, the Hungarian Attila Csihar, the Australian Oren Ambarchi, and Tos Nieuwenhuizen of the Netherlands. In addition, they've collaborated with artists from England, Japan, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland among other places.
  • New Sound Album: They do something different on every album.
    • ØØ VOID and The Grimmrobe Demos are more or less pure drone doom.
    • Flight of the Behemoth incorporates noise elements courtesy of Merzbow.
    • White 1 experiments with spoken word, programmed drums, and Norwegian folk singing. White 2 introduces throat singing on the final track.
    • Black One is heavily influenced by black metal, and features guest appearances from black metal vocalists Wrest and Malefic.
    • Altar goes for Genre Roulette, featuring pure drone doom, dark ambient, tranquil balladry, and electronic experimentation.
    • Monoliths and Dimensions adds horns, strings, and choirs to the band's formula in order to achieve a bigger sound.
    • Soused features Scott Walker's deranged singing on every track.
    • Terrestrials is a fairly quiet, gentle ambient album which doesn't even qualify as metal.
    • Life Metal is somewhat of a return to traditional drone doom, but contains slightly more melodic elements as well as female vocals on the first track.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: On what occasions have they not been?
  • Ominous Fog: Their live shows use fog machines to achieve this effect. There have been a couple instances where the fog was so thick it accidentally set the smoke detectors in the venue off.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: On "Big Church." "Decay" features Ominous Sanskrit Chanting courtesy of Attila Csihar.
  • Punny Name: The name of the band itself. It's a reference to both Sunn amplifiers and the band Earth.
  • Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Inverted. They make some of the most terrifying music ever put to tape, but they're shy, reserved people who are actually afraid of their fans.
  • Shout-Out: Stephen O'Malley has stated that the name was also chosen as a play on the name of the band Earth, the band that created drone-doom, whom Sunn O))) were formed as a tribute to. This is also the rationale behind the song titles of "Defeating: Earth's Gravity" and "Dylan Carlson" (the latter is the founding member of Earth).
    • "Alice" is a tribute to Alice Coltrane.
    • "My Wall" repeatedly mentions Johnny Guitar.
    • The full title of "FWTBT" is both a shout-out to Metallica's Cliff Burton and a Take That! to the same band's Lars Ulrich.
    • The title of "Sin Nanna" is one to Striborg, as it's the pseudonym used by sole member Russell Menzies note . "Báthory Erszébet" is also a probable reference to Bathory, as Sunn O))) are avowed fans and the song is based very loosely on a riff from "A Fine Day to Die."
    • "Between Sleipnir's Breaths" starts with the same sample of horses that is heard on "Oden's Ride Over Nordland" by Bathory.
  • Shrinking Violet: They're actually very shy and have said in interviews they are scared of their fans.
  • Spoken Word in Music: "My Wall" and "Aghartha" both use this.
  • Softer and Slower Cover: They've covered "For Whom The Bell Tolls" by Metallica and "Cursed Realms of the Winterdemons" by Immortal. They're defintely slower, at least.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "The Sinking Belle" and "Alice."
  • Talkative Loon: Julian Cope on "My Wall".
  • Take That!: The full title of "FWTBT" is "FWTBT (I Dream of Lars Ulrich Being Thrown Through the Bus Window Instead of My Mystikal Master Kliff Burton)".
  • Textless Album Cover: Most of them, barring Kannon, Soused, and the reissued version of Monoliths and Dimensions. White 1 and White 2 originally had the band name printed on their covers, but reissues have removed this.
  • Trope Codifier: Of drone metal.
  • True Companions: Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley. They've been playing music together for over 20 years.
  • Word Salad Title: Averted bizarrely with "Big Church (Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért)", the subtitle of which is one of the longest words in the Hungarian language and translates to "due to your continuous pretending to be indesecratable." Which, considering the main title, makes a surprising amount of sense.