Sunn O (pronounced as just “Sunn”) and Ulver’s drone metal collaboration, Terrestrials, is pristine. There is a perfect combination of the two groups on this album, which was released on February 3. With this collaboration, the two bands have come far from where they first musically started yet strike a good balance with their roots. The initial robe-adorning Sunn O, with a flare for dabbling in the extreme metal genre while keeping their sound inevitably drony, has remained hot tar-slow for Terrestrials, and ever-so-sublimely murky.
Norway’s own Ulver, on the other hand, rang in their sound with their first three albums traditionally black metal before resting their fate in the hands of the ambient gods. With the combination of black metal roots blossoming into drone-ambient, and longest of the three songs on this album stretching close to fifteen minutes, you can imagine the breadth of this album before even hearing it. It’s dark and destitute, it’s cold molasses oozing through neural passages. The evocation of gripping, slow-motion emotions aside, there’s a story here.
The story is different for each creature, for each critically thinking mind. Believe it when it is said that Terrestrials is not for those who seek comfort, ease or pleasure-listening. It’s for those who are ready for a spiritual endeavor, a ritual of their own fabrication, and it starts as soon as the sun rises.
The first track, “Let There Be Light,” is the daybreak that begins the journey; it’s the sun being birthed through the canals of cobalt clouds as horns sound off in the distance, a dusty stretching plain lies before and beckons to footprints. The wavers of deep bass and unbroken guitars epitomize the battle with the psyche, and finally, a war drum rolls as the sun peaks in the sky, and it’s off into territory unknown and potentially deadly.
“Western Horn” descends with lethality upon the listener’s trek. Steady and slow as always, there’s hanging corpses of feedback that serve to alarm and to keep the focus. Flies buzz and encircle the rot that is now a temptation of the listener. There is a nonpareil potency that awakens the true soul within each and every being. Sunn O and Ulver have left no room for weakness with this song, let alone the whole album.
Finishing off this three-track tour-de-force is “Eternal Return.” Here is the tragic violin of an ease back from the destitute, the broken and the sacred. There is familiarity in the external environment but resounding synthy chimes of change are plentiful within. It’s remarkable how well Sunn O and Ulver triumphantly keep a strained, rhythmic calmness as the basis throughout Terrestrials but manage to change the whole emotive response by subtle additions of instruments or the frequent and pleasant rise from zero decibel sound waves.
Memories of ancient tales are put into the fable-esque lyrics that only grace the listening value roughly within the last seven minutes of the final song: “in sinai sin is a/golden nature/a liminal animal/existing in exile/for forty years.” These words reverberate in the ear canals and replay in the nucleus of the eye like afterthoughts of a symbolic dream. Become that animal, make this journey, and embrace the ritual.
Terrestrials can be found at sunnulversl.bandcamp.com and purchased for eight dollars (or more, if generosity strikes).