Coming off of the organic miasma that enchanted Life Metal, Sunn O))), the cloaked and bespoke lords of doom and drone, have entered another strata with Pyroclasts. Born from what is essentially an intense warm-up session that was captured on tape, this album is effectively tethered to the spirit of Life Metal. The same organic amplifier sounds, crushing warmth, and coveted colors of reverb are all still present. What separates this work ultimately from Life Metal is a preoccupation with spontaneity and details that fuel the imaginative ambition of the work.
The album opens with “Frost,” a crushing drone meditation that eventually opens into swelling grit and elongated passages of psychedelic-tinged reverb walls. There is without a doubt a still, tranquil effect to what is occurring here. Nuance is the spine of the track, fixation on spatial relations between each musician becomes a necessity, a living codex of Sunn O)))’s experiential and unique approach to music up to this point. A warm-up session that sounds this good and manages to eclipse most other artists is a testament to their capacity to transport through careful rhythm and pace their listeners and perhaps themselves.
“Kingdoms” follows, heavier on the low end with frequencies that flirt between delicate and scathing, with more wobble and interesting peaks of guitar shamanism with depth and texture that flutters and breaks in tiny little accents of sound. It feels deliberate in some ways, a doom-tinged guitar warping along a hall of reverb where every cue feels intentional. This experimentation has a confidence behind it that can’t be made up, only earned through time.
The third track, “Ampliphaedies” is a monstrous grimacing overture (albeit accidental) with a deeper, plumbing guitar that provides a current of eldritch harmony above a grimacing feedback affair. “Ascension A” rounds out the album with a far more repetitive affair, it rides wave after wave of sonic escalation, burning at its center with a wealth of elongated loops that conceal a menace beneath.
Pyroclasts wouldn’t have made sense as a mere addition to Life Metal. Its identity is too stark, possessed of a certain experimentation that results in soundscapes that just don’t match the focus of the prior LP. What is here, however, stands on its feet in an impressive aesthetic victory. Perhaps more startling of all is just how proficient and talented Sunn O))) has become as an outfit, when even their rehearsals sound nearly as awe inspiring as their standard output.