Sunn O))) is named after the Sunn amplifier brand, whose logo includes a circle next to the "SUNN" banner with waves heading off to the right (the band use this logo in the cover art of many releases); a literal interpretation of the logo produces "Sunn O)))". In interviews Stephen O'Malley has stated the name was also chosen as a play on the name of the band Earth, pioneers of drone music throughout the 1990s, reasoning that Sunn O))) "revolved around Earth." However, before the band members moved to Los Angeles the duo briefly used the moniker Mars, in a primordial formation.
Their sound image is extremely slow and heavy, using electric guitars, in low tunings such as drop A, enriched by resonant feedback creating their soundscapes. There is very little drumming and a lack of any discernible beat. When performing live the band wear 'grim robes', fill the air with fog, and play at a high volume.
The band release the majority of their music through the label they founded in 1998, Southern Lord Records. However, they released ØØ Void, their second album initially on Rise Above Records & Hydra Head Records, and Dirter Productions, with the latter pressing the album as a double vinyl. The Grimmrobe Demos was first released also on Hydra Head Records. It was later issued as a double picture record set by Outlaw Recordings and finally reissued by Southern Lord in 2004.
Sunn O))) experiments with a variety of styles and sounds, progressing the primarily guitar and bass style of The Grimmrobe Demos and ØØ Void. On White1 and White2, Sunn O))) noticeably expanded on conceptualization by inviting several guests (see collaborations below), resulting in everything from quiet meditative ambient sounds ("A Shaving of the Horn that Speared You" from White1) to a bizarre bass experiment track ("bassAliens" from White2). Black One continued this direction, utilizing far more electronics, synthesis and other instrumentation than earlier Sunn O))) material, yet still marking a significant return to their traditional sound.
Unlike related artists in the "drone metal" and "dark ambient" fields, they have received a higher level of popularity from fans, and are widely regarded as leaders in the genre; they have had the recognition of newspapers such as the edition of The New York Times Magazine of May 28, 2006, when Sunn O))) was featured in an article called "Heady Metal". They were mentioned in an issue of Wonkavision, an independent music magazine, being praised as one of the greatest modern metal acts along with Lamb of God and other contemporaries. Sunn O))) was also shown in the August 2007 issue of Q Magazine (the "loud issue"), with their album White1 being named the 18th heaviest album of all time, just above AC/DCs Back in Black and below Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced?.
In 2008, Sunn O))) released their live album Dømkirke, and also announced that they would do a mini-tour consisting of four concerts to commemorate the 10th anniversary for the release of The Grimmrobe Demos.
The band's seventh studio album, Monoliths & Dimensions, was released on May 18, 2009, and has been critically acclaimed by both press and public alike..
Collaborations with other artists
The band has notably and often collaborated with a wide variety of artists.
- Author/musician/occultist Julian Cope provided the spoken word 'vocals' for the 25-minute song "My Wall" on White1, telling a Wodenist death tale that takes place upon England's medieval 46-mile land barrier Wandsdyke, Cope integrating Messrs O'Malley and Anderson into the fabric of the text.
- Attila Csihar, best known for his vocal work on Mayhem's classic black metal album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, performed vocals for the songs "Decay [The Symptoms of Kali Yuga]" and "Decay2 [Nihils' Maw]" on the album White2, quoting directly from the Srimad Bhagavatam. Recently he has also been performing live with the band, and additionally contributed to the 2007 EP Oracle as well as their 2009 full-length Monoliths & Dimensions.
- Joe Preston known for his work in Earth, Thrones, The Melvins and High on Fire contributed to the recordings of both the White1 & White2 albums, the EP 'Oracle', 'Altar', and 'Monoliths and Dimensions' .
- Runhild Gammelsæter from Thorr's Hammer contributed with vocals on the song "The Gates of Ballard", from White 1.
- G. Stuart Dahlquist of Asva and Burning Witch contributed to the recording of The Grimmrobe Demos, ØØ Void, and the track "FWTBT" on Flight of the Behemoth.
- Peter Stahl and Petra Haden contributed to the recording of ØØ Void.
- Japanese noise master Merzbow worked with the band on the tracks 'O)))Bow1' and 'O)))Bow2' on Flight of the Behemoth.
- Rex Ritter of Jessamine and Fontanelle contributed live and on the production of both White1 & White2.
- Dawn Smithson of Jessamine contributed live and on the recording of White2.
- Anthony Sylvester and Savage Pencil contributed to the recording of Candlewolf of the Golden Chalice.
- Malefic from Xasthur and Wrest from Leviathan provided vocals on Black One.
- Oren Ambarchi and John Wiese contributed to the creation of Black One, providing experimental guitar and electronic elements and other instrumentation. John Wiese toured with the band across Australia, Europe and Scandinavia in 2005. Oren Ambarchi has since become a regular live performer with the band.
- Malefic from Xasthur and John Wiese contributed on the track "Coma Mirror" on AngelComa.
- Ulver provided production and contributions to the track "CUT WOODeD" on WHITEbox.
- Thomas Nieuwenhuizen from Beaver, God, 35007 and Jesus and the Gospel Fuckers has appeared on Solistitium Fulminate, AngelComa on Micromoog, Moog Taurus and Moog Rogue, and continues to perform with the group as an integral live member.
- Collaborated with Boris on Altar.
- Guitarist Justin Broadrick, formerly of Napalm Death and Godflesh, currently playing with Final and Jesu, has played live with the band in their late 2006 tour of the UK and Ireland, as well as in a few west coast dates in 2007.
- Other live collaborators have included Peter Rehberg, Kevin Drumm, Daniel O'Sullivan, Lasse Marhaug, Bill Herzog, Holy McGrail, Steven Stapleton and Robin Fox.
Sunn O))) occasionally covers songs by other bands, reinterpreting them to fit their style.
- "Rabbit's Revenge" from ØØ Void (cover of The Melvins' "Hung Bunny")
- "FWTBT" from Flight of the Behemoth (cover of Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" - the full title is "F.W.T.B.T (I Dream of Lars Ulrich Being Thrown Through the Bus Window instead of My Master Mystikall Kliff Burton)")
- "Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine" from Cro-Monolithic Remixes for an Iron Age (Earth cover)
- "Catch-22 (Surrender or Die)" from Cro-Monolithic Remixes for an Iron Age (Merzbow cover)
- "Cursed Realms (Of the Winterdemons)" from Black One (Immortal cover), although only the lyrics are used.
- "Báthory Erzsébet" from Black One can be said to be a loose (even by Sunn standards) cover of "A Fine Day to Die" by Bathory.
- "CandleGoat" from Black One also quotes the lyrics from "Freezing Moon" by Mayhem.
- The Grimmrobe Demos (demo 1998, CD 2000, 2xPLP 2003, 2xLP 2004)
- Veils It White (12" 2003)
- Cro-Monolithic Remixes for an Iron Age (12" 2004)
- Candlewolf of the Golden Chalice (12" 2005)
- Oracle (12", CD & 2XCD 2007)
CDs and LPs
- ØØ Void (CD 2000, 2xLP 2003)
- Flight of the Behemoth (CD & 2xLP 2002)
- White1 (CD & 2xLP 2003)
- White2 (CD & 2xLP 2004)
- Black One & Solstitium Fulminate (2xCD 2005, ltd. 2000 copies)
- Black One (CD 2005, 2xLP 2006)
- Monoliths & Dimensions (CD & 2xLP 2009)
- The Libations of Samhain (live CD 2003)
- Live White (live 2xCD 2004)
- Live Action Sampler (promotional mix 2xCD 2004)
- La Mort Noir dans Esch/Alzette (Live CD limited to 1000 machine-numbered copies, sold on 2006 tour) (2006)
- Dømkirke (live 2xLP 2008)
Split albums and collaborations
- Angel Coma (limited edition split LP single with Earth) (LP 2006)
- Altar (collaboration with Boris, CD 2006, 2×CD ltd. 5000 2006, 3×LP 2007)
- The Horn And The Spear (EMS Remix) (Digital 2004)
- "Che" (with Pan Sonic) (2008)
- WHITEbox (4xLP boxed set reissue of White albums, ltd. 450 w/ both versions of the song "DECAY" and bonus track "CUT WOODeD") (2006)
Biography from Wikipedia