Drone metal. Cats love it, and probably unborn children, too, hearing it buzzed through the womb wall. Me, I failed my drone-metal initiation. “Darwinian, isn’t it?” grinned Sunburned Hand of the Man’s John Moloney as I wobbled clear of the SunnO))) show at the Middle East last December, feeling my way gingerly along the wall and blinking to check that my eyeballs were still in position. Yes, Darwinian . . . and I’d been weeded out. SunnO)))’s blacker-than-black soundwave had knocked me back among Nature’s non-survivors, the discontinued species and cowering spermatozoa. Still inside and soaking it up were the real futurists, the young men whose shaved skulls and big beards made it look as if their heads were on upside down. Hardcore!
THE ONLIEST MONKS: Catastrophic, grimly mounting their huge oppressions, Sun O))) are the current quintessence of drone metal.
SunnO))) — the “O)))” is silent, a purely graphic statement — are two dudes with guitars, robed and bearded and looming through dry ice, who produce ogre-ish exhalations of decelerated noise. Catastrophic, grimly mounting their huge oppressions, these cheerless monks are the current quintessence of drone metal, and last month they made it into the pages of the New York Times Magazine, in a feature called “Heady Metal.” Having sieved his first SunnO))) show through the NYT in-house priss filter, writer John Wray found that “the overall experience was not unlike listening to an Indian raga in the middle of an earthquake.” Or to a vat of tar being stirred with a dragon’s femur. Or to a biker band in the Marianas Trench. Etc. Not mentioned by Wray — inexplicably, because they provide a most elegant writerly dichotomy — was the Brooklyn-based drone duo Growing, two more dudes with guitars, connoisseurs of volume and crawl, but with a lighter, more musical touch: the blissed-out yang, if you will, to SunnO)))’s Satanic yin.
“We do get compared with SunnO))),” says Growing’s Joe DeNardo before their show at the Middle East back on June 1, “because of the drone element. Which is something we definitely have, but only as an element. One part of many parts. Them, I think they’re more focused on that, and on the exploration of volume.”
“We’re not that dark,” adds Kevin Doria. Indeed they are not: over several drumless, excitement-resistant albums, Growing have developed their very own heavy-metal chillout music: warm swathes of distortion, gentle chanting, Arcadian interludes, watery strummings, even — on the new CD The Color Wheel (Megablade) — the beginnings of rhythm. The Orb for headbangers? “We’re totally unfamiliar with the Orb,” Doria says. “People are always telling me I should check them out but I always kind of forget.”
“I’ve heard that it’s similar,’ DeNardo adds, “but for whatever reason we seem to have come to things from a different angle.”
“We get a lot of comparisons to [Robert] Fripp and [Brian] Eno as well,” says Doria, “but I’m super-unfamiliar with that stuff, too. It was funny, ’cos on the last tour we actually bought some Fripp and Eno tapes, we just happened to come across them, but the tapes were so old that when we played them you couldn’t hear what was going on over the noise of the van. So we were just like, ‘Whatever.’ Perhaps we’re not meant to hear it.”